Northern Lights in Canada
There are a variety of categories on one’s bucket list — things you know you will experience this year (“the low-hanging fruit”), things you might get to within the next five years (“sooner rather than later”), things you will definitely do, but might get to much later in life (“one day”), and things you hope, but are not guaranteed, to do before, well, you kick the bucket (“winning the lotto”).

The category I call “one day” has been popping up a lot lately. With my amazing opportunity and good fortune to travel with Natural Habitat Adventures, I have been ticking quite a few things off my bucket list lately…and even adding a few items retroactively (that’s allowed, right?!).

Seeing the northern lights had been on my “one day” list. I knew that if I were 85 years old and had not seen the aurora borealis yet, I would darn well make sure it happened. But, with a fortunate turn of events, my dream came true sooner than expected.

On my recent trip to Churchill to see the polar bears, I stayed out on the Arctic tundra as part of the Tundra Lodge & Town Adventure (I highly recommend that trip if you want a great mix of culture and wildlife!).

It was early season, so the aurora borealis wasn’t really a “hot topic” for that trip, as the northern lights are rarely seen in October (typically, the best time to see the northern lights in Churchill is from January through March). Nevertheless, our tireless Expeditions Leaders, Colby Brokvist and Drew Hamilton, were on a nightly “aurora watch,” promising to wake us up if they saw any green glimmer in the sky (we thought they were just being nice).

On the second night, just after dinner, big smiles appeared on our guides’ faces; the aurora borealis was starting to come out! Everyone grabbed their camera gear and their parkas and hurried outside. I didn’t really know what to expect; I was thinking there would be a couple green streaks here and there, that I would snap a few cool photos, watch the lights for a bit and then head to bed. What we got instead was one of the best northern lights shows anyone had ever seen!

The night sky was painted with not only multiple shades of green, but also streaks of red! There was constant movement, with bright colors shooting from one end to the other, ribbons of light dancing through the air, and indescribable patterns and shapes appearing and disappearing one after the other.

Our small travel group lit up with excitement; shrieks of joy and giggles engulfed us. Everyone was outside trying to photograph the northern lights, but eventually, everyone put down their cameras and simply enjoyed watching the stellar display.

Seeing the northern lights was like anything I had ever experienced before, and I will be lucky if I see anything like it again.

See the Northern Lights

This guest post was written by Natural Habitat Adventures Adventure Director Sara Higgins. All photos © Sara Higgins.