I have been thinking about writing my experience of travelling to Tromso from February 2013 for a while. Sadly other things took priority but better late than never.
This is my thanks to the experts in this forum and also people like Ponaire, AylesburyDuck, Smudge,Charlie Cornwal and many other fellow travellers who helped me immensely. But hats off to Guide Gunnar for his sheer infectious enthusiasm about the Aurora and ever willingness to provide sound advice . I'd consider my effort worthwhile if even a single person finds the report helpful.
I am a classic type A personality who loves independent travel and doing plenty of research beforehand to organise things as much as possible. I really believe half the fun of travelling is in planning and knowing the place beforehand.
Long before lovely Joanna Lumley popularised Northern Lights in UK, and pushed the cost up significantly :-), I had seen a programme on top ten natural wonders/phenomena . I had ticked off many of those and needless to say the number one was Northern lights and I was keen to experience that. My desire was also fuelled by regular e-mails with photos of aurora attached from a friend who worked in Calgary, Canada.
I did wonder about travelling to Yellowknife/Fairbanks in Canada but eventually decided on Tromso. Some people say being closer to coast Tromso has more problem with cloud cover and Yellowknife would be better but I won't go into that debate as Fairbanks also has many snowy nights in winter.
I watched the evolution of Tromso forum in Tripadvisor over several years, where from a quiet forum ( in 2006 it had about 12 topics in whole year) it became more and more popular. I remember Oslo Viking from those days. Wonder what happened to MetteS?
Specially I was impressed with the explosion of number of operators offering NL tours in 2013 at the time of my trip compared to previous years and felt there was a slight undercurrent of tension between established operators and new comers.
Then came the NASA prediction that the sun was reaching its peak of solar cycle in 2012-2013 and like many others I also jumped into the bandwagon and decided to visit Tromso during our children's half-term break in February, probably the most expensive time to visit Tromso. Now I'll come to NASA prediction later in my TR !!
I could have come earlier in the season but found that often there was not much snow in Tromso early in the winter and February would have better chance of having snow. But also note that travelling inland from Tromso would guarantee snow and other snow-activities most of the winter. Also February gave me more daylight hours and our stay coincided with the Sami Festival.
As soon as I had decided on the dates I got in touch with Marcus from Arctic Fishing, Gunnar and Kjetil Skogli. This was in April 2012. All of them replied to me promptly. Kjetil had limited availability and I eventually booked one night each with Marcus and Gunnar. Subsequent communications also went smoothly. Marcus' replies were brief whereas Gunnars' were in details. As you know anyone planning to Visit Tromso must start their journey at Visit Tromso( pun intended) website which has very useful info.
I have read millions of comments about lack of toilets in small group tours which has been discussed here ad nauseum. It was never an issue for me. I have used public toilets in rail stations in India and had no problem responding to nature's call in knee deep snow if needed. At least there were no cockroaches to tickle my rear or go up my trousers. Being in dark also helps !!
To be continued...