A Sea Kayaking Expedition In Greenland

I’ve adapted this post from an account I wrote when I was 14 years old right after my first ever expedition, a 2 week sea kayaking expedition along the coast of Greenland.

My family’s idea of a holiday is not a typical “relax on the beach and go sightseeing” sort of holiday, it’s more like a “lets climb up this mountain while it’s raining” sort of holiday.

So when dad decided it was time for a father daughter bonding trip I wasn’t too surprised when he suggested a two-week sea kayaking expedition in the fjords of Greenland as opposed to a trip to the mall.

After spending months preparing for the expeditions (including training and logistics) we finally started on our journey to Greenland. The travel involved getting from New Delhi to the starting point of our expedition was intense! From New Delhi we took a direct flight to Copenhagen. We spent a night at Copenhagen and then took a flight to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland, from there we took another flight to Ilulissat, where we spent the day shopping for supplies for our expedition.  We got on a helicopter from Ilulissat to Umanaq and spent time there getting all our gear prepared. From Umanaq we got on a motor boat with all of our expedition gear and kayaks and to (finally!) reach our first expedition campsite.

Along the coast of Greenland: A bench overlooking the icebergs

We would kayak along the coast everyday till we got to our next campsite. After we secured our kayaks, we would set up the group tent before setting up any of our personal tents. We would all eat breakfast and dinner in the big group tent together. Our expedition leader Kim would usually be the chef, but sometimes other team members would take over.

On one of the final days of our expedition, halfway to our next campsite, the weather suddenly turned.  We were kayaking along a cliff and there were huge freezing cold salt water waves splashing on us. The salt water made my eyes burn- I could barely keep them open. I remember being cold and miserable, but knowing that we couldn’t stop, all of us had to paddle past the cliff. I was 14 years old, and had never experienced a situation so extreme and challenging before. I  remember my father kept encouraging me from behind and yelling “keep going Deeya, Keep smiling, We will get through this”.

Hearing that positivity in his voice, helped me grit my teeth and keep going. We finally did make it to the next camp drenched and frozen but safe. I think this where I began to realise how important a positive attitude is when it comes to any adventure sport. If the going gets really tough and you think you can’t do it, you definitely will not make it. However, if you plaster a smile on your face and tell yourself you can do it, the going definitely becomes easier. 

Sea Kayaking in Greenland

There are of course difficult moments on all expeditions, but what makes them special are the team members. I remember I was a bit nervous about going on the expedition, because I was going to be the youngest by quite a margin – 28 years to be specific (the closest person to my age was my dad). I soon understood that being outdoors with people is the best way to make friendships that last a lifetime. It doesn’t matter where your team members are from or what age they are, there’s something magical about being outside and facing the wonders and challenges of mother nature together.

The Beginning…

I often joke that my parents first child was not me but Snow Leopard Adventures – our family owned Adventure Tourism company which was conceived before I was born. My father is one of India’s stalwarts in the outdoors (he was the first Indian to kayak and raft down rivers in six continents, as well as the first Indian to complete the polar trilogy- skiing to the North Pole, South Pole and skiing across the Greenland icecap).

Growing up in a family like this, adventure was our normal. I went on my first hike strapped to my fathers back, before I even started walking. Our family holidays would consist of doing something outdoors whether it be hiking, diving or skiing, and I absolutely loved it.

My passion for mountaineering started in the summer before grade 8 at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering’s (NIM) adventure course. Growing up in India’s National Capital Region, the life I lead in NIM was very different from anything I had experienced before. It was simpler, the days were long and the learnings were life changing. I realised that I was happiest in the company of mountains, walking for hours with everything I needed my backpack.

From then on I jumped at every opportunity I got to be outdoors. My parents understood that the outdoors was a big part of my life, and they encouraged me to follow my passion. While supporting your children’s passions might seem like an obvious thing to do, in India girls aren’t often given the same opportunities as boys. I recognised, at a very young age, that what I had in terms of parental support was unique.

I am grateful for the fact that my parents have always supported me and left no stone unturned in helping me pursue my dreams. To my mother for constantly showing me what a privilege it is to be a woman, and to never let me gender define me and to my father for introducing me to the “great outdoors” and being my favourite “adventure buddy”.

Hi! My name is Deeya Bajaj and I am a mountaineer, adventurer and explorer from India. I have been extremly fortunate to have had the opportunity to explore some of the most remote parts of our planet (including to journey to the summit of Mt. Everest with my father, as India’s first father-daughter team). This blog is an attempt to document some of my learnings and experiences on my expeditions. Thank you for being a part of my journey! Keep checking this site (or subscribe to get an instant update) for more posts on my adventures all over the world!