Diary Extract: A day whale watching in Husavik, Iceland

Thursday, 4th August 2016

Destination Specialist

iceland north husavik whale northsailing

Maria, our Customer Services Supervisor and self proclaimed whale-watching enthusiast, had an experience of a lifetime during a short break in Húsavík. The “harbour of houses””, is a pretty coastal town in the remote North of Iceland. Known as the town of whales, or more pretentiously ‘The  Whale Watching Capital of Europe’, this town offers one of the highest chances of seeing whales than in any other place in Iceland. Maria describes her weekend adventure and shares what a whale watching boat trip is really like.

Arriving in Húsavík

We started our day with a visit to the Húsavík Whale Museum, the first and only institution of its kind in Iceland (which Discover the World helped to set up), located near to the port. What a surprise! It’s much larger than we expected and has some fascinating exhibits of cetaceans found in the waters surrounding Iceland, including impressive whale skeletons (one of which has a walkway between them). Because of time constraints we only spent an hour here, but we would have liked to have stayed for two or three.

We had a light lunch in this pretty harbour town, where there are many restaurants to choose from (decisions, decisions!) before boarding the boat. North Sailing operates six beautiful Icelandic oak boats that have been specially converted to accommodate passengers. Two of them, Haukur and Hildur, have been transformed into two-mast schooners, the only pair of its kind in Iceland. We were each given flotation suits which were very warm, especially when hats, scarves and gloves were thrown in for good measure.

iceland north husavik schooner northsailing

Setting Sail

This was a fantastic feeling – to think the next time we’d arrive back at shore we’d have (hopefully) seen a whale or two. The guide on the boat told us the best way of spotting the whales and that if we noticed anything unusual, to shout which way using clock face directions. It turns out whale watching is something of a group effort! Quiet descended and we waited with baited breath as Húsavík vanished behind us over rolling waves.

A few of us went up to the higher deck for a better viewing point. Camera ready, there was a great atmosphere as the guide kept us entertained as we awaited our first sighting. With the clear skies undoubtedly helping, someone suddenly shouted “11 o’clock!” and in the distance there it was, a whale’s tail! It was in fact a diving humpback, which meant a wait of between five and 50 minutes for it to resurface. Luckily, it only took 10 minutes, and now that the boat was moving towards the whale, it appeared to be getting bigger and bigger.

Iceland husavik Humpback Whale

The guide said he’d never seen a performance like it…

What a sight! Before long, the whale started raising one of his flippers into the air and slapped it down on the surface of the water, which looked like it was waving at us and trying to get our attention, which, in fact, he already had in full. But the best was yet to come – the humpback then started to jump high out of the water, behaviour known as breaching. He even flicked his tail up a few times – we all lost count after 20!  Our faces break into gigantic grins, and are enthralled by this playful creature. We managed to follow the humpback for quite a while, and also caught sight of Minke whales and dolphins, but the humpback will forever remain as a lifelong memory.

Heading back to shore

Once the whale had finished his show, the guide decided it was time to return back to shore – the trip had actually been extended slightly because of the spectacle we had witnessed. With hot chocolate and cakes served on the return journey, there was a real buzz on board as all of us couldn’t believe what we had just witnessed. Whilst we were told we had a 98% chance spotting whales on this trip, I could not anticipate how humbling this experience would be and how remarkable it is to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.

iceland north east husavik whale watching rth
Humpback whale breaching in Husavik Iceland

Learn more about whale watching

Feeling Inspired?

To find out more about whale watching in Iceland, be sure to read our ultimate guide. We also encourage you to read about the importance of sustainable travel and wildlife conservation to Discover the World here.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss whale watching experiences in Iceland, contact our team of Iceland Specialists.

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