I’ve gone whale watching a few times throughout my life and for the most part, it’s hard to see a whale up close because they don’t typically dive or jump up from the water in the same way that dolphins do. That said, Iceland is known for whales and more than 20 species have been recorded in Icelandic waters. Whales have changed lives with their mysterious and complex behaviors and curiosity.
While there are numerous companies that offer whale watching tours from both Reykjavik and the north of the country, I went with Elding out of Reykjavik’s harbor. Depending on the day (and your luck), you can see minke and humpback whales, white-beaked dolphins, harbor porpoises and various sea birds such as puffins, gannets, guillemots, gulls, kittiwakes, arctic terns and more depending on the season.
The whales often surface within a few meters from the boat but because of their strict observation of IceWhale’s codes of conduct for responsible whale watching, you never get too close, so be sure to bring binoculars and a zoom lens if you’re a photographer. Since it can get cold, they provide warm, floatable overalls, raincoats and/or blankets can you use on board during the tour.
On my particular tour, we first discovered around ten white beaked dolphins that were hunting and watched them for awhile from a close distance. After heading further out, we saw our first Minke Whale as she surfaced close to us three times until she took a deep dive, so we then moved on. Soon we found some Harbour Porpoises that followed us for awhile and then saw another Minke Whale while they were still in our sight.
We headed over to Akurey where we saw a lot of puffins, mainly sitting on the sea around the island. Little did I know at the time since it was the start of my trip how mesmorized I would be by puffins by the time I left the country. On Akurey, they were at a significant distance so it wasn’t easy to observe their behavior or get up close. Later I did this in the West Fjords (be sure to read my write-up on this experience – it was life transforming).
We encountered more Gannets, Puffins, Minke Whales and also two pods of 6-8 Harbour Porpoises within a couple of hours and then before we docked back on shore, we saw a pod of another four white-beaked dolphins. An amazing tour in a bay full of life.
I did mention the weather suits they provide right? There was some drizzle but it wasn’t particularly cold, so it may be overkill if you have a lovely day in the harbor. That said, they come in very useful on a wispy wet day, which can happen in Iceland often.
Smaller photo credits from the Elding website and others from Renee Blodgett.
Note: I was hosted by Elding for the tour but all opinions expressed are my own.