What’s Special About Our Orcas & Aurora Trip?

Monday, 10th February 2014

Destination Specialist

iceland snaefellsnes grundarfjordur aurora over kirkjufell rth

Chasing the Northern Lights and spotting orcas in the wild are two of nature’s elusive wonders. They are rare experiences that most people are fortunate to see one or the other in their lifetime. Ordinarily, the two occurrences don’t go together, but over the recent years orcas have started to make a more frequent appearance amongst Iceland’s shores, coinciding with the best time to see the aurora.

This is why we put together an incredible holiday experience that combines the allure of the aurora borealis and the opportunity to see orcas in the wild. One of our clients, Gary Ward, has been fortunate to travel on this trip to Iceland three years running. We caught up with him to find out what makes our Orcas and Aurora trip so special.

Why did you choose to go on the Orcas and Aurora trip?

I’ve been on a few Discover the World trips to Iceland before, all in the hope of seeing the Northern Lights but they had continued to escape me over the years. My next trip with you was more focused on whale watching and going in search of orcas in the wild, one of your travel specialists recommended this trip as it would provide an opportunity to witness both essential Iceland experiences, and I’ve never looked back! Although I didn’t see the Northern Lights until my second Orca and Aurora’s trip, every trip has been magnificent and I’ve always had a different adventure every time I’ve been.

Why have you been on the Orcas and Aurora trip more than once?

Well, I booked the second trip because I was obsessed with seeing the Northern Lights, I would not let the idea drop. I had no intention to book a third trip, but January, February, March – it’s like dead time in a way isn’t it? What do you do? There’s nothing going on, so I thought ‘I know… northern lights again!’ No-one ever sees the northern lights and thinks ‘oh, I don’t want to see that again’. That combined with the awe of watching such majestic creatures burst through the waters is a must for any nature lover. 

Call me demanding, but I loved the chance to see not one, but two incredible sights! This trip offers everything this greedy traveller could ever dream off. 

iceland snaefellsnes wildlife orcas rth

What stands out as a highlight on the trips for you?

Last year we went out to a hillside near the waterfall just out of the village to see the northern lights and it just came on; it was like switching on Blackpool illuminations, and I’m there – a grown man – with a great lump in my throat. It is just overwhelming to see it in full flow like that – the sky burning green like that was just wow. 

We were also extremely lucky with the killer whales – there were loads of them in flat-calm waters, blue sky, and we were there for as long as the whales so it was just win-win on all counts. Last year was absolutely excellent.

Would you do this trip again? Are you worried about going back again after such an amazing experience?

Whilst I know there’s every possibility I could do this trip again, and it could be completely overcast over the four days, with no sightings of orcas but when you’re into wildlife and nature, you know that those sort of things don’t perform on demand; these sightings enhance your trip, they don’t make or break them. It’s the thrill of the chase I enjoy; the different memories I have on each adventure, the camaraderie, the humour, the collective ooo’s amongst the sighs. I can’t wait to explore again, who knows what I’ll discover fourth time round!

iceland grundarfjordur orca watching ch

Did you enjoy travelling as part of a group?

Yes, everyone was really like-minded – just good, decent people, all with an interest in the same kinds of things, and appreciation of that. They were also perhaps people who, like myself, have travelled a bit further and wider than your typical package holiday, so you can talk about each other’s travel experiences in far flung corners of the world as well as your own. That small, sort of little social circle that you form – well, its just good.

What did the guides bring to your experience?

Cathy [Harlow] is a fantastic guide! Her knowledge and enthusiasm is second to none – that really rubs off on to you and makes you enjoy the whole experience even more. It gets you involved in your surroundings more than perhaps would otherwise be the case if you’re just driving through yourself.

On the first year, there was also Vassili [Papastavrou] the whale expert who was also extremely knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about whales – he just imparted his knowledge to you in a very informal manner, it was a really relaxing education!

I now appreciate that travelling with a guide can be more advantageous to myself in terms of the knowledge you can gather, picking out the best spots and things that you might not know about if you were just to turn up to a location yourself

Are you inspired by Gary’s experience?

Find out more about our Orcas and Aurora small-group holiday combining whale watching and northern lights viewing or contact our team of Iceland travel specialists to discuss options.

Be sure to check out journalist, Mark Rowe’s, experience of the same trip.

We also encourage you to read about the importance of sustainable travel and wildlife conservation to Discover the World here.

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