Whales & Puffins – Wildlife Express in Reykjavik

Wednesday, 4th March 2015

Destination Specialist

iceland reykjavik mt esja rth

On a trip to Iceland, one of our travel specialists took two wildlife watching excursions from Reykjavik to see puffins and whales. 

Both our boat trips started from the Old Harbour in Reykjavik, and we had time enough to do both in one afternoon.

Puffin Express

We boarded a traditional wooden boat named ‘Skulaskeid’ or ‘Old Skull’ and set out to Puffin Island, which only takes 15 minutes to reach. The boat itself is licensed for just 33 passengers, so there’s no chance of overcrowding while trying to see the birds. It is specially designed to be able to get close to the islands, which proved great as we were able to see these extraordinary birds resting on the island and looking after their burrows. Getting so close to the island also means that there are some great photo opportunities.

Our guide gave us lots of information about what we could see during our trip and gave some fun facts about puffins. For example, did you know that although they are not great at flying (and worse at landing) they are in fact brilliant at swimming? While in the water their wings will then be used to swim much like we use our arms.

iceland wildlife puffins eld
© Elding

The guide was extremely knowledgeable and was happy to answer any questions. He also pointed out other birds such as fulmers, arctic terns and guillemots. You may also be lucky enough to see the odd porpoise or seal.

This hour-long trip is definitely a good way to get to see these funny birds in all their glory and one I wouldn’t hesitate to go on again and again.

Whale Watching Express

Back at the Old Harbour, we boarded the Rosin (“The Rose”) for our 2.5hour whale watching excursion. I could hardly contain my excitement as it has always been a lifelong dream to see these magnificent animals in their own territory. The Rosin is the fastest and only purpose-built whale watching boat in Iceland. It’s very comfortable and only carries 65 passengers at a time, with 54 of its seats inside – perfect if it happens to be a rainy day.

After a safety briefing, we were on our way. Most of us sat inside while we headed out to sea as it was quite wet outside along with some strong wind. We were advised that it would take approximately 25 minutes to get to the whales’ breeding grounds. We thought the best option was to stay warm and dry for as long as possible, but perhaps ten minutes later we couldn’t wait anymore and decided to get our overalls on (provided onboard) and go outside. The overalls are perfect and kept us nice and dry and – importantly – toasty warm. I would just recommend that you take gloves.

The guide on board was very friendly and great at giving facts about the marine life we were on the lookout for. He explained that although they are obviously out there to see the whales, they do not want to have an impact on the whale’s existence and so do not use any equipment to find them. They rely on eyesight and in-depth knowledge of the whales’ habits. What better way than to have 65 sets of eyes all looking out for the same exciting thrill of having your first wild whale encounter.

reykjavik whale watching minke st
Whale watchers spot minke whale

We were very lucky to see not just one minke whale but three. Each time I caught a glance of a whale was better than the last. The guide was also good at knowing how long and in which direction the whale would appear again after diving, making it easier for everyone on board to catch a glimpse.

The birdlife is also thriving as we saw puffins, arctic terns and gannets. During our voyage, which flew by, we managed to see minke whales, white-beaked dolphins and harbour porpoises. Three out of the four encounters on offer… definitely an excuse to go back to try and see a humpback whale!


Discover more about wildlife holidays in Iceland »

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