Our Northern Lights guide in Tromsø, Dan Steinbakk, has come in for some pretty serious praise from several Inntravellers.
One said: "Do you fully realise what an amazing Lights guide Dan is? Such a brilliant, brilliant choice by Inntravel. I hope you shower him with love because he's just phenomenally kind, funny, dedicated and passionate... [This was] quite simply the most joyous, thrilling and generally fabulous short break of my life."
So we thought we ought to catch up with Dan and find out the secret to his success...
Do you realise how happy you seem to make our Inntravel customers?
Wow – I’m speechless! I’m so glad they enjoy the service I provide, and I’m happy to be able to show them my passion and love for the Aurora. It’s this that keeps me going, and that inspires me to do an even better job in future!
Where did you first ‘learn’ about the Northern Lights?
It started when I was a kid, with all the legends and local myths my grandparents and parents would tell me; and when I got older I started reading up on everything from the physics to the folklore. I have taken courses about the Northern Lights, and I always read up on the new discoveries and science that researchers around the world are publishing.
How did you end up becoming a Northern Lights guide?
I’ve always loved the outdoors and the nature in Northern Norway. I spent five years in the army, took officer training and taught soldiers about Arctic survival and cold-weather warfare. I'm also a qualified sea kayak instructor, and when I discovered that I could make a living out of doing the things I love (being outside and enjoying nature and the Northern Lights with people from all over the world), the choice was easy.
What makes searching for the Aurora so special?
To mis-quote a famous film character: "The Northern Lights are like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get!" Sometimes we have to ‘hunt’ through bad weather, swapping expert tips and checking weather forecasts – basically using all the local knowledge I have built up as a native north Norwegian. The reward could be an awesome display of Lights. So it's not just the beauty of the Aurora itself; it's also the thrill of the chase.
When is the best time to see the Lights?
I normally say “between September and April", since all you really need is darkness, clear skies and some solar activity. But people have different preferences: some come early in the autumn, because the temperature is warmer; some come in winter, in order to combine the trip up here with other snow-based activities; and some come in the early spring to see nature as it comes back to life.
What do you do in the summer?
Good question... mainly wandering around restlessly, waiting for enough darkness to see the Northern Lights again! I also do a lot of sea kayaking, and I also love to hike alone in the wilderness, fishing and living off the land. I'm an avid fly fisher, and the trout is never safe when I’m around! As a photographer, I also enjoy capturing the beautiful landscape we have up here in the Arctic, and I like to combine this with my trips ‘into the wild’.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
Making people happy, and helping them fulfil a lifelong dream. How many people can honestly say they do that as part of their job?