“I understand and acknowledge the risks I’m undertaking by choosing to participate in activities and assume all responsibility for exposing myself to these risks/dangers,” states the last sentence of the contract. I consider these words before signing. It’s a necessary step before an all-action whale watching safari that promises to include scooting over the waves a aboard a 700-horsepower inflatable speedboat.
Having experienced extreme cold while taking boat trips in Iceland, I’ve packed my winter jacket, hat, scarf and gloves for this one. I only need the hat, though, as Whale Safari supply everybody with warm overalls, gloves, goggles and all necessary safety equipment. As I dress, I feel a bit anxious—I can’t help but think about Moby Dick rising up out of the water to destroy Ahab’s ship. But the guy who helps me and about dozen other thrill-seekers into our lifejackets is so chill that I quickly forget such scary thoughts.
I chat with an Irishman who just got off the last tour. “It took us for a while to see any whales, but it was worth it,” he says, happily. “Actually, it would’ve been great even if we didn’t see whales. The boat ride was an adventure in itself.”
Whales aren’t summoned
We board the boat and speed out of the harbour, bouncing along the waves. I enjoy the feeling of cold ocean water splashing my face. It’s a bumpy ride, so I also enjoy the fact that I didn’t have any lunch beforehand. I eye the huge mountains, the powerful sea and the endless horizon, and the feeling of freedom is priceless.
In 92% of these tours, whales or dolphins are seen. After scanning the ocean for about an hour and a half, we learn with regret that we’ve won the jackpot: we’re among the eight percent that don’t. But the Irishman’s words from earlier ring true: the ride was an adventure in itself.
I’m happy to find out that the tour company gives everyone on an unlucky boat a complimentary second trip. When I return a few days later, the sea is mirror-still—perfect conditions for the gentle giants to reveal themselves to us. Fifteen minutes in, I begin to see the first whales scything effortlessly through the water, and pretty soon a big minke whale shows up. “We call it ‘minke-stinky’ because you can smell rotten fish before seeing a minke itself,” says our guide. She’s right. “Minke-stinky” may be the second-smallest of the baleen family of whales, but it looks like a giant with its dorsal fin sticking up above water. This time, we’re lucky enough to see at least ten of these beautiful creatures during the trip. After an unforgettable hour amongst these seabound giants, I return to the harbour thinking: “I love the sea, and everything in it.”