An Inuit community settled in Kulusuk, East Greenland in around 1909. This tiny island is now home to approximately 250 people and is home to the main airport for East Greenland, a school, one shop, a small privately owned museum – all artefacts have been collected by one family over generations. If you have the opportunity to go, you will hear fascinating stories, learning about their culture and personal history. There is a hotel situated near the airport for a brief stay and Nanoq Lodge, owned by qualified mountain leaders and guides who offer skiing, mountaineering and dog sled adventure tours in and around the area and of course warm hearty meals at the end of each day.
During winter months the village can become completely isolated as the only way off the island to the mainland is by helicopter. If the weather holds up and you are feeling lucky, you can also try by boat. There are just two nurses looking after the whole community with a multitude of medical problems, so you need to listen to the advice of the locals, especially when heading out. There isn’t an ambulance ready to pick you up and take you to a hospital, and it could be a few days wait during stormy weather.
The culture of the village has changed only very slightly over the years. The tradition of hunting is still very much part of life for men, with a lot of hunters owning dogs, they will go out regularly fishing to feed their families and the community. Polar bears do wander into town from time to time across the sea ice, and will be scared off unless they are a threat and will be killed, there is a cap on the cull of up to 25 polar bears per year to ensure these numbers stay to a minimum. A lot of people may get upset by the thought of killing polar bears, seal and whales, but unlike us in western society, every single part of an animal is used, there is no waste, they work with nature and only take what they need. The sledge dogs, native only to Greenland live outside all year round, they are extremely hardy, resilient and earn their keep, and I can hand on heart say, they really do love their job.
I came here for the first time in 2017 and loved every minute of it. If you decide to visit, your life, when you arrive will slow down completely, unless of course you are looking after tourists every day. If you want to have a completely authentic and cultural adventure, you will receive the warmest welcome from everyone you meet. You may also come to realise that not everything in life is within your control. So just stop and go with the flow of life, you won’t miss your phone - only to take pictures of the stunning, vast landscape and icebergs floating past.
The community have noticed a lot of changes to the climate and weather. This has been impacting the glaciers for many years now as local resident and hunter, Peter mentioned to me that when his grandfather was a boy, the glacier covered the area which is now just sea ice. They believe within the next decade it will have retreated completely. Storms this year are disrupting the start of the season for tourism, and keeping locals from venturing outside, it took me 5 days waiting to get there, they hope it won’t put people off visiting the area in future.
A final word of advice if you decide to venture over. Whilst out walking, don’t wander out of sight of a house, unless you’re with a local who has a gun, just in case a polar bear decides to visit. Be careful as you will realise how very insignificant we are and may be inspired to work with nature and want to preserve this incredibly wild and beautiful environment.