Have you ever heard the breath a whale?
Ever since a particularly unpleasant boat experience as a child I have never been a fan of boating experiences, however when we were looking into things to do on our trip to Iceland we discovered that Iceland was a great place to go whale watching. I knew my boating fear would be something I would have to get over. The opportunity to see whales in their own environment was something I had to experience, and Iceland seemed the perfect place to do it.
With our booked tickets booked we went to the harbour in Reykjavik where we boarded onto our boat. It was three tiered and had plenty of areas for you to sit either inside or out. The crew offered us sea-sickness tablets as we were warned that there was a fair bit of choppy water out in the bay. We took advantage of the offer, and thankfully we did as apart from being a bit wobbly walking around from the sway of the boat I was completely unaffected by rough waters.
We headed out of the harbour into Faxaflói Bay. From our time in Iceland the day we chose to go Whale watching was the best weather day and even though it was gorgeously sunny and particulary mild, we were advised to take advantage of the sea suits which were on offer. Everyone felt a bit like teletubbies wearing them but I’m so glad that I wore one. It may have been nice and warm in the harbour, but on the open water with the mist, wind and rain that later came in the middle of the tour it was ultimately freezing. The suits kept us nicely warm and dry. If I was going on the tour again I would certainly remember to take advantage of some gloves!
From the bay we got a fantastic view of Reykjavik, the Hallgrímsvaka stood out beautifully above all other buildings on the skyline. We were lucky the weather was so good. For our tour our guide was quick to point out that when it comes to nature there are no promises and the likelihood of us seeing any anything were slim particulary for the time of year, saying that we kept our fingers crossed and watched the seas with baited breath.
Our guide was so knowledgeable and filled us information about the seas, the birds and the whales that come to visit Iceland from Africa where they stayed in the summer. We couldn’t believe our eyes when a Minke Whale popped up his fin in the water and followed our boat for a good fifteen minutes. The size of him was incredible, this was so special to see in the wild.
Shortly after our Minke sighting it came on to rain, with the bright sunshine the mix of weather created a rainbow on the water which was lovely to see and couldn’t have been better staged. At the end of the rainbow under the water must have been a lucky pot of gold as shortly after the rain subsided we were treated to the magnificent sight of a humpback whale. He was about twice the size of the Minke whale and came within about 20 meters of the boat. It was such a spectacular experience to see this in the wild. The boat turned off its engines and we coasted next to him for about 15 minutes. During this time we were lucky enough to see him breaching, each time he came up we had a chance to see the barnacles on the under belly of this gentle giant. Each breach feed allowed us to watch him deep dive into the waters getting a full view of the whales tale. As he approached the surface of the water you could hear him getting closer as he spurted water out of his blowhole. Everyone on the tour was a bit in awe. It was at this point when our guide said to us ‘I wonder how many people can say they have heard the breath of a whale in the wild’ it made me realise how incredibly special what we had seen that afternoon was.
Despite being lucky enough to see both a minke and a humpback whale in one tour I would have loved to have taken the tour again. Iceland’s waters are filled with rich amounts of wildlife and there is no guarantee what you may see and every tour is different. Below is one of the only pictures I managed to get – it’s not great but the memories in my mind are so much better.
My top tips for whale watching in Iceland would be:
• Take the seasickness tablets if you are offered them
• Wear a suit otherwise you will be cold out at see
• Put down your camera and take in the moment you never know when the whale will come up again