If you are travelling to Tromso, Norway, one of the most unique experiences you could try is feeding a herd of reindeer underneath Aurora Borealis. Tromso Arctic Reindeer offer these experiences and I'm going to share with you our adventure from 27th February 2019.
We booked the Reindeer Camp Dinner with Chance of Northern Lights for 1450 NOK per person ($250 AUD pp). It was a big bite to our European budget but we were only staying in the arctic area for two nights and didn't want to miss out on any opportunity of seeing the lights (more on Aurora Borealis hunting HERE).
17:00: Landed in Tromso. Caught a taxi to our hotel. Checked in at 17:30 and walked 10 minutes to Radisson Blu Hotel, the meeting spot
18:00: Met up with our tour guide. There was approximately 30 people hopping on to our tour bus. It was a 30 minute ride to the camp site.
18:30: The camp site had two wooden huts, surrounded by hills of snow, icy pathways and darkness. The huts were round and connected at the entrance, like the figure 8. The inside of the huts were rustic, lit by fire and super warm in comparison to the icy winds hitting our cheeks. The fireplace was in the middle, fuelled by wood. There were six tables against the wall, where 4-6 people could sit at one comfortably.
19:00: After introductions and a round of hot chocolate, coffee and tea, we were invited to go outside and feed the wild reindeers.
We were told to let the reindeers feed out of the buckets because throwing the pellets on the ground meant the reindeers had to work harder to eat. Since it was winter, it was important for the reindeers to preserve as much energy as possible because they might be travelling across the Scandinavia (as far as 400 km to Finland). This meant there was a lot of reindeers who were starving and practically jumping on us to eat.
Berge, a member of the Sami people of one of the Norwegian tribe, explained that it was their job to herd the reindeers across the borders. It was quite fascinating listening to his tales, especially of his close encounters with wild bears and wolves. Imagine travelling alone on a snow mobile, herding reindeer like a modern day Santa Claus.
Another thing he said was that -40°C temperature felt like nothing to him, but the night we were there, with extreme winds and temperature of -10°C, Berge said it felt too cold for his liking. This was the main reason why the reindeers were so easily spooked and kept running away by loud sounds.
As you can see, it was pitch dark outside. Mick gave it a try however his efficient ass decided to hold two buckets, causing more reindeers to jump on him HAHAHA!
Another thing to note is that it's definitely worth investing in a proper winter jacket. Mick was wearing his Northface coat, retailed at $400 AUD, but it kept him warm and dry in the fierce cold. I was cheap and in my haste, purchased a Zara coat for $140 AUD in London. I was wearing 4 tops, 3 pants, a scarf and the jacket and I could still feel a slight breeze pass through me. I was surprised I didn't catch a cold. Or die 😂😂😂 Regretsssss
19:45: People started heading back inside for dinner. The tour organisers were cooking us a reindeer stew. I still find it hilarious that we just fed reindeer to eat a reindeer 😂 It reminded me of the Simpsons episode where Monty Burns was picking out a cow to eat. "Mmmm, I want this reindeer, let's fatten him up".
To start off, we had a simple salad with no dressing, museli bars, some cold smoked salmon and some chocolate chip cookies. Tea, coffee and hot chocolate was unlimited.
Bidos, a traditional Sami stew, is often eaten with bread and comprises of carrots, potatoes and reindeer meat. To be honest, it tasted a lot like a beef stew, with the meat tasting like veal? The taste had a strong gamey stench - in the same way goat cheese is overpowering. The broth was thin and flavourful. It was quite nice and comforting in the freezing cold but we don't know if we would eat it often.
Lastly, we were served chocolate cake and blueberry. This was simple.
21:00: After dinner, we were invited to the other gamme (Sami hut). It was really cosy, with two rows of seats circling the middle where a fireplace sat. It felt too hot to be sitting at the front with our winter gear on.
In here, Berge performed a joik (pic below). This is when a Sami person yodels a traditional Sami folk song or a personal song to them that they have created. The Sami people sing joiks during celebrations or during herding.
After his performance, Berge explained the history of the Sami people and their roles in herding reindeers. For example, most Norwegian people could have Sami heritage but not all of these people would continue the difficult lifestyle of reindeer herding - which does sound fascinating and tiring. The reason a herder is necessary is because reindeers need guidance during the dark winter nights to prevent extinction, especially when their predators are wild bears and wolves.
Berge went on to explain how it was his job to go out across the borders to Sweden or Finland or further, and find his 200-300 reindeers and herd them home. He explained that he uses a snow mobile and there were a lot of gamme located along the way where he can stop by and stay the night.
Afterwards, he showcased the gear the Sami people wear, which were hand stitched and made from reindeer too.
The most fascinating story Berge told us was how he had discovered dead reindeers (more frequently than usual), with their meat still attached, and realised there was a lone wolf hunting for sport. This was dangerous because it meant this wolf was following an abnormal trail to nature and unpredictable. It amazed us that he was brave enough to keep heading back out in to the blizzard, by himself, to find his reindeers with this wolf on the loose.
Around 22:15 we headed back to the main hut to hop on the bus back to the hotel. Unfortunately, the weather was really bad and we did not see any glimpse of Aurora Borealis.
Overall, the tour was an amazing experience and definitely worth the buck. It was great learning about another culture and it really brought back the meaning of traveling, which isn't "do it for the gram", but seeing and learning the way others live on the other side of the world! We had a lovely time with Tromso Arctic Reindeer and have been recommending them to our friends and family.
Tip: If you plan to go light hunting, bring a camera that can handle the arctic. Consider a tripod. As you can see, some of our photos were slightly blurry haha.
Thanks for reading!