A Svalbard guide offers her best tips

Charlotte Sandmo (28) loves taking tourists and students on nature tours and field trips on Svalbard. Here are her recommendations for anyone keen to learn more about Svalbard’s magical landscape and amazing wildlife.

Sandmo came to Svalbard from Bodø as a ten year old. While most people who come to Svalbard, only stay for a short period, Sandmo chose to remain.
“Svalbard now feels like home for me,” says Sandmo.

She works as a guide here and takes both tourists and students on nature and field trips. 

– What’s the best thing about Svalbard?
“I’ve got my own pack of dogs. It's magical to go dog-sledding in winter, in late February and early March, when daylight returns. Or going out on a boat in the fjords in summer and seeing the wildlife, the cliff nesting birds and the terminus of a glacier, is also wonderful. Blue whales have started to come here in recent years and they're an absolutely amazing sight. There are also other whale species here.”

About Charlotte Sandmo

Age: 28
Family: 6 huskies
Lives: Svalbard
Job: Guide
Follow Charlotte on Instagram: @sjarlies

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– It's dark here in winter, are there any bright points during the Polar Nights?
“Everything is a bit more still and things go quite slowly during the Polar Nights. It's great, as the rest of the year goes fast. When it's dark, you can see the Northern Lights. It's dark round the clock in December, but in January and February, the light starts to come back. Then you can see both light and the Northern Lights.”

– Everyone wants to see a polar bear, can you see them on a trip here?
“It's a possibility, but people get disappointed if they don't see one. But you should focus on seeing all the other things. The nature is so beautiful here it feels as though you're on a different planet. There are loads of birds in spring and, as I mentioned, blue whales.”

– Can or should you go out in nature on your own on Svalbard?
 “No, you need to be qualified to do this. You need to know what you are doing. It's best to go as a group. Don't forget, it's close to the North Pole here, and it's by no means certain you could get help if you need it. You need to be humble and respect nature.”

– What should you bring with you?
“Wool. Warm and comfortable clothes. You should leave your finest clothes at home. And swimwear. Many visitors discover how great it is to have a swim in the sea, it's so invigorating. There's a swimming club here.”

– What should you think about before coming here?
“Many people think a couple of days is enough, but you can risk getting two days of bad weather. You can’t control nature. You should allow a bit more time for your first trip here, as there's so much to see and experience. Not flying straight here and back is also wise from a climate perspective.”


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