Seeing Eye to Eye with Killer Whales in Iceland

Friday, 4th November 2016

Doug Kington

iceland west fjords orca close up laki

We send our Travel Specialists out to our destinations so you have real experiences to draw on – here’s what Doug made of his whale-watching experience on our signature Orcas & Aurora escorted tour.

Back in February this year, I joined our Orcas and Aurora small group escorted tour to Iceland.

The trip was a great opportunity for me to see how one of our main winter tours operates from start to finish, and to improve my knowledge of Iceland. I was glad to see for myself where our guests go, what they could expect to see and do while there, and to then add on my own personal experience to make sure that this trip would be perfect for them.

The First Hour

Our guide Alexa had studied cetaceans for years and gave an in-depth talk on the marine wildlife we might be able to see on the boat trip that morning. She has a great passion for wildlife and Iceland in particular, so it was a pleasure to listen to someone with such enthusiasm and knowledge.

We were barely ten minutes into the boat trip when the eagle-eyed captain had spotted some white-beaked dolphins. They were quite a distance away and were moving further from the boat, so we left them and continued the search for the orcas.

Orcas and Orcas

After an hour searching Grundarfjordur, the cold was setting in, along with the realisation that we might not see the whales on this boat trip. The captain had other ideas, however, and advised everyone that we were going to the next fjord, Kolgrafafjordur, to try our luck there.

Within moments of entering the next bay, the sightings started. Then they got closer and closer until there were between thirty and forty orcas surrounding the boat. I couldn’t believe what we were seeing, and I felt an absolute thrill at the sight of these great cetaceans, at times within just ten metres of the boat.

There were big males with huge dorsal fins which must have been over a metre and a half long, and also young orcas with a yellow colour to their skins. Their movements were so graceful through the water, and they put on a great show as they all bobbed in and out of the water.

The captain moved the boat around the fjord for about ninety minutes without disturbing the orcas, so that we had amazing photo opportunities as well as time to appreciate the moment and what we were witnessing.

Back to Land

With this group of whales moving deeper into the fjord, it was decided that it was time to head back to land. As we came back into Grundarfjordur, we then encountered another ten or so orcas which came even closer to the boat. By this point, many of us had gone to the lower deck of the boat to have a hot chocolate and a cake. The windows on this level are just a few feet above sea level, so as the orcas came out of the water they were at eye level!

The whale watching boat trip was such a fantastic opportunity and something I will remember forever.

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