We speak with Thomas Lennartz, VP Sales and Client Experience at Quark Expeditions on the most adventurous and showstopping journeys from the rugged beauty of the tundra in the Canadian Arctic and the alpine regions of Greenland.
Could you tell us about the founding of Quark Expeditions. Who started the company and what was their inspiration? Quark Expeditions was founded in a spirit of innovation. In 1991, co-founders Lars Wikander and Mike McDowell took the first group of commercial travellers to the North Pole. No other polar operator had ever achieved this feat. That spirit of innovation is embedded in our DNA and it’s inspired a legacy of polar firsts for Quark Expeditions. We were the first to bring commercial passengers on a circumnavigation of Antarctica. We were the first tour operator to successfully offer passengers hot-air ballooning at the North Pole. Quark Expeditions passengers became the first humans to witness a Total Solar Eclipse in Antarctica. And today, we’ve launched the game-changing vessel Ultramarine, which is equipped with two twin-engine helicopters and 20 quick-deploy Zodiacs—totally transforming the way we explore the Polar Regions.
Images: NICKY SOUNESS
What types of expeditions do you offer and how are these personalised for discerning travellers? Our expeditions—to the Arctic and Antarctic—are designed to be intimate and immersive polar adventures. Our voyages are not traditional cruises whereby you watch passing scenery from a window. Our expedition team will get guests off the ship and out onto the polar landscapes as often as possible. We offer the most robust portfolio of off-ship adventures including kayaking, hiking, heli-hiking, helicopter-supported mountain biking and alpine kayaking, and a lot more. Our diverse fleet of small polar vessels—which carry between 128 and 199 passengers—allows guests to customise the type of polar adventure they wish. Guests can also personalise their polar voyage by choosing the itinerary that matches their interests. Do you wish to see polar bears? Penguins? Muskoxen? Do you wish to see icebergs, glaciers, snow-covered mountains or ice-laden fjords? We have created itineraries for wildlife enthusiasts, birders, polar history fans and for people who are intrigued with penguins. Our expedition team will do everything possible to ensure you have the polar trip of your dreams!
Do you wish to see polar bears? Penguins? Muskoxen? Do you wish to see icebergs, glaciers, snow-covered mountains or ice-laden fjords? We have created itineraries for wildlife enthusiasts, birders, polar history fans and for people who are intrigued with penguins.
What does a typical itinerary look like at Quark Expeditions?
No two itineraries are the same. While we have a desired route in mind as we set out, we are guided by the weather, ice and wildlife. If we know where polar bears and whales are most likely to be spotted, that’s where we’ll take you. Some itineraries enable guests to see incredible glaciers and icebergs in Antarctica, while others introduce you to the rugged beauty of the tundra in the Canadian Arctic and the alpine regions of Greenland. The elements that are typical are our expedition team, who are all polar experts in their own right. What’s constant is our determination to get you off the ship and out experiencing the wonders of the Polar Regions as often as possible. Learning from polar experts during onboard presentations and eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with members of the expedition team—and other guests—in intimate settings…that’s typical of our itineraries. Taking you to destinations within the Polar Regions where few humans have ever set foot—that’s part of a ‘typical itinerary’ with Quark Expeditions.
Could you tell us about your Arctic expeditions and what makes each destination unique, from Quark Expeditions’ point of view?
The wildlife. The land formations. The water—sometimes open sea, sometimes ice-laden fjords. The vegetation—or lack thereof. Geology. Climate. Type of ice formations. The history. So many factors contribute to the uniqueness of an Arctic destination. The local terrain can determine what kinds of shore landings are possible. In some Arctic regions, we have the honour of interacting with local Indigenous communities who live a traditional lifestyle. In other Arctic destinations, there isn’t a single human to be seen. We offer polar bear safaris, itineraries highlighting the Northern Lights, journeys to the North Pole, voyages to archipelagos in the remote Russian Arctic which were only discovered in the 1930s. And then there are places like South Greenland where we offer incredible helicopter-supported adventures to give guests a new perspective on the Arctic.
What are some unique experiences that guests love? Such a tough question. Without fail, our guests tell us they love the ability to have a genuine polar experience that gets them off the ship and out into the polar environment, whether by Zodiac, on foot, by helicopter, by kayak or by stand-up paddleboard! They love the wildlife they get to see—whether a majestic polar bear, a rookery of cute penguins, or a cliff dominated by thousands of birds—or a pod of whales! Our guests love the intimacy and connectedness aboard our small polar ships. After all, we never have more than 199 guests onboard. Learning from polar experts—whether during a formal presentation or while sharing a table at lunch—ranks high for so many polar travelers. Guests rave about the knowledge they acquire during our voyages, the photographs they take, and the people they meet.