Whale Watching in Iceland!
So I have a bit of a blurry fluid bucket list which regularly has things mentally added or removed…one day this will become a physical bucket list! A lot of things on my list involve nature and wildlife, like a lot of people I guess there are certain things I just need to see, wildlife I really want to see in their natural habitat…Orcas, sharks, polar bears, the big five, grizzly bears, I could go on and on thinking about it…maybe this is why this list has not made it into text yet! One aspect of this as well is that on top of seeing these amazing animals, their habitats are some of the most spectacular destinations in the world.
Whale watching has been very very close to the top of this list for a long long time! The spectacular sight of these gentle giants sliding through the water, tail fin slapping into the water is something I have seen so many times on T.V or in photographs, and something which would be such an experience!
When the opportunity came to go whale watching in Iceland through Guide to Iceland I just could not contain my excitement! I knew that there would be an element of luck involved and that there was by no means any certainty involved…but I couldn’t help it…WE WERE GOING WHALE WATCHING!
Our trip was with Reykjavik Sailors booked through Guide to Iceland who have a great range of tours and trips in Iceland. The boat, albeit one of the oldest in the Reykjavik whale watching fleet, had everything, the viewing decks were great, there was a fully stocked bar with some snacks, and the crew were great. Our guide made time to speak to everyone individually, spoke great English and was able to answer any questions people had. Our trip was particularly good because it was not overcrowded, we were able to move about the viewing deck freely and always had a good view.
We were provided with sexy waterproof, windproof suits to wear as well…even though they clearly added 2 or 3 stones to any photograph taken of you…they did the trick and we didn’t feel the cold…and my fiancée would feel a draft and complain about it in a sauna!
As we began our voyage of discovery the first thing which drew my attention…again…was the mystical landscape of this beautiful country. It was slightly misty on the morning of our departure with some low lying cloud, but here it seems to add to the atmosphere.
You could also see the Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavik looking back, great views! So during the trip we sailed out for nearly an hour, went searching for whales for around two hours, and then sailed back, around 4 hours in total. The crew reinforced the fact that nothing was guaranteed and that we all needed to keep our eyes peeled and shout out if we saw anything, teamwork was the key here…it was great fun! They explained that if we were going to see anything most likely we would see dolphins and Minke whales…I was so excited! They also explained that if we were to see Minke Whales we would have to be pretty lucky to capture them on camera because they breach the surface of the water only for a brief moment and are fast swimmers.
So a fleet of ships set sail around the same time in search of the whales and all are in contact with each other and share the news if they find anything. As we sailed out my eyes were fixed on the water, hands on my camera, every crest of a wave caught my eye, any splash on the surface of the water, everyone was stood around the edge of the viewing deck looking out, pointing at things, questioning themselves.
Just as the frustration began to build and I was beginning to think we were going to be unlucky, ahead of us I could see one of the boats begin to circle round…they had seen something! They contacted our crew and we were told that they had seen dolphins which had swam really close to the boat, we made our way over to the area. It wasn’t long before shrieks of wonder were heard and people began pointing out over the water.
We saw white beaked dolphins first, they were swimming so close to the boat just under the water, everyone became so excited, I was determined to try and capture them on camera but it was really a case of pointing and clicking hoping for the best. When I looked back at the photographs I could see where they got their name from! I had never heard of white beaked dolphins and they really do have a pronounced white beak! Males grow up to 3.1 metres 350kg and the population is thought to be around 100,000.
It was really fun to see the dolphins but eventually they disappeared and we continued our search. Everyone had a taste for it now! This had whet our appetites and we were ready for more! Again though, time went on and on, I began trying, unsuccessfully to take photographs of sea birds as the skimmed the surface of the sea. It seemed to me that it was probable we were not going to see any whales.
But…just as hope was fading, someone at the front of the ship shouted out and pointed forward, everyone rushed to where he was and began scouring the ocean. Then there it was…I saw the black dorsal fin and the arched back break the water…I couldn’t help it…I automatically pointed out and shouted “WOW!” I lost my cool big time! There was no thought of “Get the camera” I’d lost all self control! Our guide informed us it was a Minke Whale!
Then again we saw it again, and then further out another breached the surface! We were told that Minke whales are usually solitary and that it was quite rare to see two together like this. Our guide explained that he thought one was a large female and that perhaps the second smaller one may be her calf. It was awesome! Everyone was buzzing! So excited and happy to have seen this wonder of nature. Female Minke Whales can grow up to 10.7 metres long weighing in at up to 9700 kg and there are estimated to be over 209,000 in existence. They can say under the water for as long as 20 minutes, our guide again explained that for them to breaching the surface so regularly they must be feeding.
I started to concentrate on trying to capture them on film, but as the guide had said it was proving very difficult. You almost had to be shooting before they breached the surface to be able to capture the moment. Nevertheless, it was fantastic. That moment I first saw the dorsal fin breach the surface will stay with me forever, that feeling of excitement…magical.
Then, as had happened with the dolphins, the whales made their exit and disappeared from view, we stayed for a short time longer but it seemed like the whales had made their mind up that they had performed for long enough and were off to continue with life away from prying eyes!
This had been a special trip, although it had not been as spectacular as the unbelievable images seen of whales leaping from the water, it was still a magical moment seeing these incredible mammals wild like this and I would definitely recommend this tour.
You can see the tour we went on here and Guide to Icelands full selection of whale watching trips here.
Thanks to Guide To Iceland for supporting My Travel Mission during this tip, as always all opinions are my own.