humpback whale

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Whale watching from a luxurious yacht off Reykjavik, Iceland

Whale watching from a luxury yacht off Reykjavik, Iceland


The chilly waters off Iceland‘s coast support a variety of marine life and provide the perfect opportunity for whale watching, particularly during the period from April to September. Whales, dolphins, seals and porpoises are regularly seen in their natural environment on boat trips out of Reykjavik. And sometimes, if you’re very fortunate, chances are you’ll even see basking sharks.

Whilst there are a lot of whale watching companies working out of Reykjavik, figuring out who to decide on could be a problem. With the bigger vessels, your view is likely to be slightly extra distant and the flexibility to maneuver to get one of the best view is likely to be considerably restricted. With smaller boats reminiscent of ribs, you’ll have higher manoeuvrability and may need a higher likelihood of getting ‘up close’, however this not give you the your required degree of consolation, significantly if the climate is unfavourable.

We went with Harpa Yachts, who supply the proper mixture of fine visibility, consolation and manoeuvrability, aboard a luxurious yacht the place you possibly can escape the crowds and profit from an expertise with fewer passengers, and with native and private service on board.

Harpa Yachts is a household firm that has been providing snug whale, dophin and puffin watching cruises from Reykjavik since 1998. The founders and homeowners have been pioneers of whale watchting journeys in Reykjavik. Their foremost focus has been on a private, high quality serivce aboard their well-maintained 70-foot MY Harpa yacht, absolutely outfitted with a salon, lounge, bar and a fly bridge with 360-degree views. They even have MY Amelia Rose which is 108 toes lengthy, usually used when the climate is much less good, and their latest addition, the 50-foot MY Axel Rose used for smaller teams and unique journeys.

Cruises depart from Reykjavik Old Harbour in downtown Reykjavik and head out to Faxaflói Bay, a big bay in south-west Iceland, between the Reykjanes and Snӕfellsnes Peninsulas.

“Welcome aboard this one-way trip to Greenland…” stated Capt Einar over the tanoy system as we departed the harbour at Reykjavik. By this time, we’d obtained used to Icelanders having fun with a joke or two from different excursions we’d been on, however we did marvel if another passengers have been momentarily barely panicked by the announcement!

We departed Reykjavik, hopeful of seeing whales however on the similar time realising that we have been coping with nature and a profitable sighting was under no circumstances assured. That stated, most journeys are profitable, significantly within the peak Summer months of July and August.

The vessel is gorgeous and was initially inbuilt Italy by Cantieri di Pisa. She was purchased by Harpa Yachts in 2012 from homeowners in Greece and sailed to Iceland, earlier than being modernised in 2017-2019. She can maintain as much as 35 passengers, guaranteeing that you’ve a reasonably intimate whale watching expertise.

As we ventured out into the bay, we noticed occasional puffins – usually stretched out in a line of half a dozen or so – with many carrying sand eels of their beaks, little question taking them to their younger. Iceland’s nesting grounds account for round 60% of the worldwide inhabitants of Atlantic puffins through the Spring and Summer, so there’s a excessive likelihood you’ll see some, even when it’s from a distance.

Of course, the principle function of our journey out to sea was for a whale sighting and that was up to now eluding us, regardless of one of the best efforts of our captain and crew. As many as 23 completely different whale species have been recorded off the shores of Iceland, however solely 12-14 of those are thought-about to be common inhabitants.

The vessel has an remark deck on the high and passengers have been suggested to say a time on the clock if they need to spot something (for instance, “3 o’clock” if there was a sighting on our starboard facet) to assist others know the place to look.

Everyone was scouring the ocean hoping to see one thing but it surely appeared we have been out of luck.

Then unexpectedly, we had a sighting. A humpback whale!

Everyone’s gaze tranfixed on the place we’d simply seen it. There have been three or 4 boats searching for whales and one of many smaller boats re-positioned itself for a greater view, earlier than we noticed it come to the floor once more some minutes later.

Here’s one other model of the identical {photograph}, cropped slightly tighter.

The humpback whale (or hnúfubakur as it’s referred to as in Iceland) usually stays underwater for five to fifteen minutes. They are characterised by lengthy flippers and usually stay in solitude or small, unstable teams. There are regarded as as much as 100,000 humpbacks worldwide and so they migrate a distance of 6,000 kilometres a method – the longest journey identified for any mammal. They will be something as much as 17 metres lengthy (that’s concerning the size of 10 adults laid on their facet in a single line!) and as much as 40 tons (the mixed weight of three double decker buses!).


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With a big time period having handed, and no additional sighting, it appeared our pleasant whale had moved on. An alert got here via on the radio {that a} whale had been sighted elsewhere so all of the boats left to attempt to make the most of that sighting. We stayed the place we have been and our captain’s persistence was rewarded when the whale appeared as soon as once more, simply as the opposite boats left!

Humpback whales are well-known for his or her breaching acrobatics – while we by no means noticed this whale breach, we have been fortunate sufficient to see it come to the floor on a number of events. That alone was a really particular expertise.

There was one closing wave of the whale’s tail, generally known as a fluke, as if taunting the boats that had chosen to look elsewhere. Lifting the fluke like this earlier than a dive is one thing that’s significantly attribute of humpbacks.

With Harpa Yachts, we obtained to expertise a enjoyable small group tour, with seating choices each indoors and outside while on board. Warm blankets can be found, as is free WiFi, a bar and lounge, a restroom {and professional} and skilled crew. In the occasion of no whale sightings – which may occur on uncommon events as nature shouldn’t be at all times 100% predictable – a free ticket can also be provided.

Whale watching in Iceland is a singular expertise that you just received’t wish to miss!

Sadly, whales are nonetheless hunted in Iceland regardless of a global settlement by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to cease all industrial whaling by 1986. However, the observe of whaling in Iceland has seen a pointy delcine and the nation has introduced that, as a result of falling demand, it’ll now not hunt whales from 2024. Hopefully it will make whale watching journeys out of Reykjavik much more rewarding sooner or later.

As nicely as whale watching excursions, Harpa Yachts additionally supply a Northern Lights yacht cruise in addition to non-public yacht excursions alongside the shoreline of Reykjavik, with distinctive seaside views of town. On a non-public cruise, you are able to do something from deep-sea angling to skeet capturing to golf driving competitions.

Planning a visit to Iceland your self? You can watch a video from our journey to Iceland right here. Footage from our whalewatching tour will be seen between 5m 56s and 6m 03s:

Disclosure: This publish is sponsored by Harpa Yachts. Our journey to Iceland was additionally sponsored by Helly Hansen.





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