Whale Watching Experience – is it worth it?

Iceland is a great place to go Whale Watching because of the dense population of Whales that live by the island. Usually, you can see the Mink, Fin and Humpback whales. But if all your stars align and you are a very lucky person, then you might even see a Blue Whale!

This was the only tour that was cancelled for me, but it’s not uncommon for the weather to dictate your itinerary. I had booked the 4 PM tour with North Sailing, who seem to have the best whale watching tour options. It was a 3-hour ‘Whales, Sails and Puffins’ tour. The idea was to take a wooden Viking-style sail ship and to go whale watching and stop by the ‘Puffin-bay’ where the migratory puffins temporarily make their homes.

The tour company itself was great to work with! I had no problem switching to a second option the following morning, which also got cancelled due to the weather. My options were to get a refund or try to catch a shorter whale-watching only tour at Hjalteyri, about an hour and a half away. As Hjalteyri was already on my route that day and I would end up reaching there just in time for the tour and would waste time waiting around, I decided to give it a shot. When I got to Hjalteyri, it was lovely. It was still pretty cold and windy but the sky was clear and the sun was shining down. I guess that’s optimal for viewing purposes. The tour operators provide the gear to get on the ship, which is basically this multi-layered warm jumper suit. It’s to protect people from the wind and splashing water.

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We caught glimpses of quite a few whales. I just didn’t expect the duration to be so short. Basically, the tour guide spots a little stream of water coming from the Whale’s ‘spout’ and that’s usually followed by the whale diving back in. That’s the moment when you spot the whale. Mostly, the whale’s tail is all you can see from a boat. At times, by the time I turned towards the direction of the spout, the whale would have dived in already.

I’m not sure what I was exactly expecting, tbh. Sure, I wasn’t expecting a ‘Life of Pi’ moment with the whale flipping over the boat but I thought it would be a little more exciting than what it was. A combination of the cold, the short glimpses of a whale’s tail, the over-excited passengers on the boat crowding around and all the re-booking hassle, made the whole experience very ‘meh’ for me. I was a lot more excited to see the whales at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. I guess this tour just wasn’t for me.

On another note though, I would totally recommend North Sailing for anyone who wants to do a whale watching tour in North Iceland. They were very courteous, accommodating, helpful and I had no problem getting my difference refunded by them (the Hjalteyri tour was almost $60 cheaper than the Husavik one). And they did spot more than a dozen whales on our tour!

 

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