Puffins in 2018

A calender of the great things that happened to us in the previous year

Puffins was born when Sofie pitched the idea to a jury on her birthday in April 2016. Off course, she had been chewing and brewing on Puffins for many years. The organisation was legally established on 16 February 2017 at the office of a notary in Oostkamp, Belgium. The Summer set the stage for a grand expedition to Greenland from June until the end of September : 75 Puffins, 9 different expeditions. A huge success! Still a very young travel agency as Puffins may be, a lot has happened over the course of the subsequent rollercoaster year. And if you know Sofie a bit, you’ll understand the below post is equally about the beautiful landscapes of the High North and more so about the wonderful people she met.

2018 started with a turbulent realisation, and following split from co-founder Willem. We shared a fantastic adventure in Greenland together, but cherished different dreams afterwards and differ in style and vision. It was not an easy decision, but one made in grace. It taught me to trust my instinct and look forwards. I took a deep breath and the risk to continue. Solo, but with a little help from my closest friends & family.

2018 started with a turbulent realisation, and following split from co-founder Willem. We shared a fantastic adventure in Greenland together, but cherished different dreams afterwards and differ in style and vision. It was not an easy decision, but one made in grace. It taught me to trust my instinct and look forwards. I took a deep breath and the risk to continue. Solo, but with a little help from my closest friends & family.

A big project brought me to Bergen, Norway, five years after I cycled through the city. I designed a dream incentive for 60 people in a hidden fjord. It was a magical itinerary, bringing the guests through a narrow fjord with a boat to an exclusive accommodation. The client was in seventh heaven. it was supposed to bring Puffins good fortune. But the hotel owner closed down which made the rest of the programme impossible and the project was aborted. What does not kill you, only makes you stronger! With hindsight, I joke about the year 2018 being an expensive master in tourism.

A big project brought me to Bergen, Norway, five years after I cycled through the city. I designed a dream incentive for 60 people in a hidden fjord. It was a magical itinerary, bringing the guests through a narrow fjord with a boat to an exclusive accommodation. The client was in seventh heaven. it was supposed to bring Puffins good fortune. But the hotel owner closed down which made the rest of the programme impossible and the project was aborted. What does not kill you, only makes you stronger! With hindsight, I joke about the year 2018 being an expensive master in tourism.

Thanks to a colleague of my father, I came in touch with Philippe, Thomas and Marion, a fantastic Belgian family who share the dream, the vision, the style, the love for people and the right spirit. It was an eyeopener ! In March, I had the honour to visit their beautiful yacht at the shipyard in Makkum, where it was being built. This team is our prime yacht partner and we will explore the Arctic together. You can be part of our first upcoming joint adventure:  puffins.travel/spitsbergen .

Thanks to a colleague of my father, I came in touch with Philippe, Thomas and Marion, a fantastic Belgian family who share the dream, the vision, the style, the love for people and the right spirit. It was an eyeopener ! In March, I had the honour to visit their beautiful yacht at the shipyard in Makkum, where it was being built. This team is our prime yacht partner and we will explore the Arctic together. You can be part of our first upcoming joint adventure: puffins.travel/spitsbergen.

A scouting expedition on the Lofoten and Vesterålen islands brought me in touch with Lauri. This was lifelong friendship at first sight. He is a most warm-hearted and genuine personality with knowledge of both the natural and cultural world of the magnificent islands where he roams. A professional whale guide and fisherman and from now on, a true Puffin. It is with much pride, that I can announce he will be my co-guide on our Lofoten expeditions, the first of which will take place from 8-15 September 2019. There are still spots available, if you want to learn new skills, feed your knowledge of nature, dance, share, grow and  sea  the Lofoten Islands, as you have never seen them before.

A scouting expedition on the Lofoten and Vesterålen islands brought me in touch with Lauri. This was lifelong friendship at first sight. He is a most warm-hearted and genuine personality with knowledge of both the natural and cultural world of the magnificent islands where he roams. A professional whale guide and fisherman and from now on, a true Puffin. It is with much pride, that I can announce he will be my co-guide on our Lofoten expeditions, the first of which will take place from 8-15 September 2019. There are still spots available, if you want to learn new skills, feed your knowledge of nature, dance, share, grow and sea the Lofoten Islands, as you have never seen them before.

Thank God for Jeroen! Not only does he make incredibly crazy pictures from Iceland’s incredibly crazy nature, he also takes people on special, exclusive tours sharing his insider knowledge and hidden gems. We are so lucky, he loves Puffins too ! Jeroen will be our guide on trips in  Iceland . And thanks to Jeroen, our website is what she is today, because with his tips and never-tiring patience, he coached me to take matters into my own hands and develop my website all by myself.

Thank God for Jeroen! Not only does he make incredibly crazy pictures from Iceland’s incredibly crazy nature, he also takes people on special, exclusive tours sharing his insider knowledge and hidden gems. We are so lucky, he loves Puffins too ! Jeroen will be our guide on trips in Iceland. And thanks to Jeroen, our website is what she is today, because with his tips and never-tiring patience, he coached me to take matters into my own hands and develop my website all by myself.

This fun crowd Glenn, Bert and Tim (who took the picture) joined me to the Faroe Islands, where we went exploring new ground. With slopes, grassy and steep. And sheep, tougher than men. Puffins in plenty. Along a coast that is dramatic and wild. Where the fierce wind blows your mind. Bert made an  aftermovie .

This fun crowd Glenn, Bert and Tim (who took the picture) joined me to the Faroe Islands, where we went exploring new ground. With slopes, grassy and steep. And sheep, tougher than men. Puffins in plenty. Along a coast that is dramatic and wild. Where the fierce wind blows your mind. Bert made an aftermovie.

In July, Puffins brought two groups of our beloved guests + myself to Spitsbergen aboard the beautiful schooner Abel Tasman in the good care of Captain Roger. Roger’s achievements are grand, his personality modest. He sailed four times through the magic North West Passage, and skippered more than 90 expeditions to the Antartica peninsula. He sleeps with an original copy of Nansen’s “The Farthest North” beneath his pillow. Roger became a good friend of Puffins, true to the name of his yacht ‘Philos’ and we are lucky that he is available for private charters to Greenland in the Summer of 2019.  Contact me,  if you’d love to hear more about the remaining availability.

In July, Puffins brought two groups of our beloved guests + myself to Spitsbergen aboard the beautiful schooner Abel Tasman in the good care of Captain Roger. Roger’s achievements are grand, his personality modest. He sailed four times through the magic North West Passage, and skippered more than 90 expeditions to the Antartica peninsula. He sleeps with an original copy of Nansen’s “The Farthest North” beneath his pillow. Roger became a good friend of Puffins, true to the name of his yacht ‘Philos’ and we are lucky that he is available for private charters to Greenland in the Summer of 2019. Contact me, if you’d love to hear more about the remaining availability.

In August, I opened the doors of my family’s Bed & Breakfast  “Puffins Bed & Travel”  in Knokke-Heist. It is the result of many many hours of hard work painting and redecorating the house I grew up in. The beautiful Summer at the Belgian coast brought many guests to my place, many of whom share the passion for the North. A whole lot of travel talk took place at that table over breakfast in front of our world map! Our guesthouse sleeps up to 8 in 4 double rooms.

In August, I opened the doors of my family’s Bed & Breakfast “Puffins Bed & Travel” in Knokke-Heist. It is the result of many many hours of hard work painting and redecorating the house I grew up in. The beautiful Summer at the Belgian coast brought many guests to my place, many of whom share the passion for the North. A whole lot of travel talk took place at that table over breakfast in front of our world map! Our guesthouse sleeps up to 8 in 4 double rooms.

11 Puffins were introduced to the spectacular scenery of South West Greenland during our Wild South expedition. Matthias De Loore from Do You Even Hike made an awesome  aftermovie  including unique drone footage. Sit back and enjoy !

11 Puffins were introduced to the spectacular scenery of South West Greenland during our Wild South expedition. Matthias De Loore from Do You Even Hike made an awesome aftermovie including unique drone footage. Sit back and enjoy !

In October, I jumped of joy, when the great Debbie Sanders expressed interest to guide for Puffins. Debbie is Belgium’s unrivalled authority with regards to mountain walking. She has covered almost all of Europe’s mountains and is starting to conquer other continents as well. She is the chairwoman of the biggest non-profit hiking community of the Benelux “Hiking Advisor” with 5000 members and wrote a book on mountain hiking. I’m very proud to announce today, that we will guide together on  Scotland’s wild western islands of the Inner Hebrides from 22-29 September,  with 3 nights in B&B’s and 4 nights aboard a sailing yacht. Limited edition for 10 Puffins only !

In October, I jumped of joy, when the great Debbie Sanders expressed interest to guide for Puffins. Debbie is Belgium’s unrivalled authority with regards to mountain walking. She has covered almost all of Europe’s mountains and is starting to conquer other continents as well. She is the chairwoman of the biggest non-profit hiking community of the Benelux “Hiking Advisor” with 5000 members and wrote a book on mountain hiking. I’m very proud to announce today, that we will guide together on Scotland’s wild western islands of the Inner Hebrides from 22-29 September, with 3 nights in B&B’s and 4 nights aboard a sailing yacht. Limited edition for 10 Puffins only !

In November, journalist Frits Meyst let us know we made it to  National Geographic Traveler  with our story from Spitsbergen. This is our fourth major publication. Not too bad for a young puffling!

In November, journalist Frits Meyst let us know we made it to National Geographic Traveler with our story from Spitsbergen. This is our fourth major publication. Not too bad for a young puffling!

I ended the year down under in New Zealand, guiding for  Anders Reizen , the organisation where I started my career as a professional guide 5 years ago now. Guiding is what I love to do most. I experience the dynamics of a small group of people, out in wilderness settings, as most intriguing. Never hesitate to drop me a line, if you have an adventure in mind! I have tonnes of ideas. I decided to stay a bit longer and explore more of Paradise, Glenorchy and Mount Aspiring National Park solo and it was brilliant. You must have noticed, as it was quiet on our social media. I got to review the year in peace and end between fjords and mountains, my natural habitat. Now I’m back, to kick some ass in 2019!

I ended the year down under in New Zealand, guiding for Anders Reizen, the organisation where I started my career as a professional guide 5 years ago now. Guiding is what I love to do most. I experience the dynamics of a small group of people, out in wilderness settings, as most intriguing. Never hesitate to drop me a line, if you have an adventure in mind! I have tonnes of ideas. I decided to stay a bit longer and explore more of Paradise, Glenorchy and Mount Aspiring National Park solo and it was brilliant. You must have noticed, as it was quiet on our social media. I got to review the year in peace and end between fjords and mountains, my natural habitat. Now I’m back, to kick some ass in 2019!

Sofie Vanmaele1 Comment