Founded by a marine biologist dedicated to ocean preservation and an Icelandic captain with adventure running through his veins, Tilvera Expeditions offers meaningful and transformative sea voyages in the Arctic. On board the beautiful Tilvera vessel, travellers are encouraged to explore, take part in scientific work, and reconnect with nature.

In Icelandic “tilvera” means existence but also to be or live in the moment, and that is, in essence, what the founders of Tilvera Expeditions want to achieve, for themselves and their guests. Belén García Ovide, a Spanish marine biologist, who came to Iceland to work with whales in 2014, is one of the two founders. Together with her partner, the Icelandic captain and explorer Heimir Hardarson, she wanted to create a sailing community of like-minded people who wanted to sail with a purpose – with and for nature. The hope was that the voyages would serve as inspiration for participants to improve their relationships with nature.

Tilvera Expedition: Explore and restore the beauty of the Arctic

Awe-inspiring polar bear photographed during Tilvera’s Greenland voyage last summer.

“We want people to get interested in this way of living and travelling, it’s not a cruise ship, it is not luxury; it’s about the experience, about bringing people together and doing something for the ocean while travelling. It is a chance to connect and become one with nature,” she explains.

Some of the trips planned for next year will be made in collaboration with scientists from Ovide’s network and will offer guests the chance to get involved with and learn about marine preservation and research. Tilvera also does trips for Ocean Missions, a non-profit organisation started by Ovide to inspire people to protect the ocean through a combination of science, education, and sailing.

Tilvera Expedition: Explore and restore the beauty of the Arctic

The stunning landscape explored on Tilvera Expedition’s voyages is bound to inspire awe and respect.

In safe hands

While Tilvera Expeditions is a new venture, the couple behind it has decades of experience sailing and exploring the ocean. For the last decade, Ovide has been dedicated to marine research, leading projects in sustainable tourism, whale research, plastic pollution, and citizen science. She has also worked as a wildlife guide and environmental educator and has sailed in some of the most challenging places around the world including the Arctic and Antarctic regions. “My goal is to combine what have been the three pillars of my life so far – sailing, science and education,” she says.

Tilvera Expedition: Explore and restore the beauty of the Arctic

Meanwhile, Hardarson, whom she met as a guide on one of his family’s whale-watching boats, has more than 20 years of experience as a captain and has been sailing and travelling all over the world since a young age. “Heimir has a really big drive for adventure, the ocean and wildlife in general. When captaining our Ocean Missions expeditions around Iceland, he thrives showing others the beauty but also the environmental challenges of his own country. He is a visionary and enjoys creating and doing things in new ways,” says Ovide. “He has been behind many remarkable ideas in North Sailing, for instance, to turn some of the boats into electric/hybrid boats to create a more environmental way of sailing.”

Tilvera Expedition: Explore and restore the beauty of the Arctic

Be ready for adventure when joining one of Tilvera Expedition’s breathtaking voyages.

When it comes to their new vessel, Tilvera, a beautiful two-masted sailboat with eight comfortable cabins, she also has many years on her back exploring the world’s oceans. Previously owned by a Dutch captain, Heinz Wutschke, and his wife Greet Dekker, Ovide and Hardarson came across the ketch in Enkhuizen, the Netherlands, where Ovide was completing her captain’s license. The couple quickly fell in love. By a stroke of luck, it turned out that its captain was ready to scale down and let a new set of hands take over. “It was a really friendly process, and Heinz has helped us a lot – he was captaining some of the trips we did this year and has made sure we know everything there is to know about the ship,” says Ovide. “Moreover, Tilvera is a sail training vessel, with a worldwide sailing licence and is designed to cope with all kinds of weather, so she is actually extremely comfortable to sail and fast even in the strongest gales.”

Tilvera Expedition: Explore and restore the beauty of the Arctic

Icelandic captain and explorer Heimir Hardarson in Scoresbysund, Greenland.

Time to just be

This year, Tilvera completed a number of trips with North Sailing, and it will continue to do so, but next year will also see the vessel set out on its first independent adventures, and more and more we will start seeing adventures that will fully manifest the visions of its new owners. The voyages will include trips from five to 15 days, sailing in Arctic destinations in Iceland, Norway, and Greenland. “One of the points of Tilvera is to allow our guests to just be, to have time to stay in one place and work with nature and not against it,” Ovide stresses. “We want to emphasise this philosophy of ‘let’s spend some more time somewhere, and have the full experience, instead of racing on to the next item on the schedule’. Who doesn’t want to spend more than one night in a magical place where we are the only ones who know that there might be polar bears? Of course, we have a schedule and a general itinerary, but we also love improvising and exploring new places. Over the years, we have developed an important network in the Arctic and a lot of experience, which means that we can offer the best experiences to our Tilvera people.”

Tilvera Expedition: Explore and restore the beauty of the Arctic

Musk oxen photographed during Tilvera’s Greenland voyage last summer.

The Tilvera approach to travelling is based on the Tilvera Code, which summarises the values behind the practice. Among other things, it highlights the power of making people fall in love with nature and the importance of teamwork (for the full code, visit the Tilvera website). Inherent in the code is also the aim to travel responsibly, and one of the ways the Tilvera founders work towards that is by carefully choosing the menu onboard to be both nutritionally and environmentally responsible. “We believe that sustainability is a path, and we are constantly working towards a goal of zero waste through the reduce, reuse and recycle approach,” explains Ovide.

Tilvera Expedition: Explore and restore the beauty of the Arctic

Tilvera Expeditions is led by Spanish marine biologist Belén García Ovide and Icelandic captain and explorer Heimir Hardarson.

With this philosophy also follows an emphasis on enjoying the moment rather than worrying about capturing and sharing it on social media. And that’s not just for the sake of the experience, but also for the sake of the environment being explored. “We go to some really beautiful and not very well-known locations, and we do not want that to be spoiled. We know how social media works, how from one moment to the next, a location can be ruined by its own beauty, and that’s why we advise our guests to use social media carefully and never post exact locations,” Ovide explains.

Indeed, if you decide to join the two adventures on one of their voyages, you are bound to make many very envious, but do not let that be the reason to go, rather let it be a wish to connect with nature, and perhaps even create a change. “We are sailing the Arctic because that’s where the most amazing experiences are, but also because experiencing those remote areas has an immediate effect on people – it makes them realise that we are running out of time when it comes to their preservation,” Ovide concludes.

Tilvera Expedition: Explore and restore the beauty of the Arctic

Tilvera’s voyages in 2024:
Husavík (is)–Jan Mayen-Svalbard, Sails and Whale Research (15 days), 14 – 28 April, 2024.
Svalbard, Hope Expedition with Ocean Missions (8 days), May 26 – June 2, 2024
Svalbard, Wildlife Reconnect (10 days), June 4 – 13, 2024
Longyearbyen – Tromsø, One With The Blue (6 days), June 15 – 20, 2024
Tromsø-Bodø, Luscious Lofoten (9 days), June 22 – 30, 2024
Tromsø – Húsavík, In the Wake of Vikings (8 days), July 10 – 17, 2024
East Greenland, With North Sailing ( 7 days), Weekly from July 22 – Sept 11
East Greenland (extended), With North Sailing (13 days), Sept 13th -25th, 2024

For the full sailing schedule, please visit:
Instagram: @tilveraexpeditions

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