Comparing two experiences of Orcas & Auroras
Claire Sangster has been on our Orcas & Aurora holiday twice – here, for anyone considering an escorted tour, she compares her experiences.
January – small group, wild weather
I was lucky enough to travel on Discover the World’s Orcas and Aurora trip twice last year. I had never travelled on a guided, group trip before this and was apprehensive about how it would be. When I arrived in Iceland at the end of January, I was greeted by our guide and joined a group of five others that I would be spending the next few days with.
By the end of dinner that first night, any apprehension I had about group travel was abated. There was loads of laughter, some at our very good natured guide’s expense (her description of a delicious Icelandic dessert called skyr made it sound far too much like cottage cheese!) and the tone was set for the rest of the trip.
The weather was very wild for the following few days, which meant any form of pre-planned itinerary was void. I feel it’s important to remember that when travelling on any trip which involves nature, ultimately nature is in charge, but if you go with it, there is still always so much to be seen and enjoyed.
The camaraderie and continuous banter of the group held strong and we had an amazing time amongst the driving horizontal snow, strong winds and freezing temperatures, experiencing Iceland at the wilder end of its spectrum, but still marvelling at the beauty and magic of the place. Our guide and our amazing Icelandic driver did a great job of ensuring our time was well spent despite the conditions.
On the final day, when the weather relinquished enough to allow the whale watching boat to go out, we felt we had earned the killer whales that we saw within five minutes of leaving the harbour! Nothing quite prepares you for seeing these creatures in their natural habitat. It is impossible not to be affected.
March – more travellers, more orcas
I had enjoyed that trip so much that I went back for more at the end of March, and this time was in a much larger group of about 25. I left behind what had felt like weeks of nothing but greyness in England, and stepped out of the airport in Keflavik to be greeted with cloudless blue skies. The first night the dancing lights of the aurora borealis played above our heads as we gathered out the back of Hotel Framnes and watched in awed silence.
The following day we went out and saw lots of whales in the calm, crystal waters that reflected the clear, pristine weather. Snow-capped mountains, blue skies, multitudes of sea birds, killer whales and white beaked dolphins made for a stunning trip.
The following day we travelled round the Snaefellsnes peninsula and I would happily have stayed at each stopping place indefinitely as each held its own magic, from the nesting birds, to the water spouts, to the slightly eerie black sand beach that is scattered with the rusted remains of a ship.
Whilst being part of such a comparatively large group had felt quite intimidating at first, by the end of the trip, once again camaraderie was strong, and the banter flowing freely. I think when you share in the kind of once-in-a-lifetime moments a trip like this offers, there is an unspoken bond formed among those who have experienced them.
Between the two trips, someone asked me what it was about Iceland that made me want to go back, and my answer was simple: the magic. Maybe it’s the trolls and the spiritual world that Icelanders accommodate, or maybe it’s the unpredictability, the plethora of natural wonders, the serenity, or the raw power of nature, the clear air, the glacial waters… or more likely it’s all of these things!
One thing is certain; Iceland is a place I will never tire of visiting.
Find out more about our Orcas & Aurora trips this winter.
We’ve added a couple of extra alternative itineraries if you’d like to combine whale watching with seeing more of Iceland – check out Orcas, Auroras & Icebergs.
Read more blogs about this holiday, including another client account – Gary Ward tells us what’s special about our Orcas & Aurora trip here.