We knew we were in the right place as we spotted a bunch of funny looking tourists dressed up in warm suits provided by Elding tours looking prepared for a rough afternoon in Faxaflói bay. As we boarded the double decker tourist boat, I felt a surge of excitement at the thought of seeing some whales, the majestic kings of the sea (or was that sharks?). The boat sailed out of the harbour, and our guide came onto the intercom to explain the best way to spot a whale. “Look out for white crests or blows”, she told us. “Birds flying around are also a good sign, because they might be looking for the same fish to eat.”
Dead Sea …
The first thirty minutes, I concentrated on the surface of the ocean. Surrounded by nothing but water and a few birds, I got more and more impatient. Our guide explained how to inform the others if we spotted something. “Whale at twelve o’clock” means right in front of us, and “whale at three o’clock”, on the right side of the boat (or starboard, to say it in a more nautical way). She sounded surprisingly optimistic. But I was convinced we wouldn’t see anything at all, so I decided to just hang out in the sun and at least enjoy some wave watching.
Then, all of a sudden, I heard someone shouting: “White-beaked dolphins at eleven o’clock”. Everybody moved to the left side of the boat, holding on to the rail or the next person or anything else they could grab, because the boat was rocking quite a bit by now. My stomach churned and I really wished I had taken the anti-seasickness pill offered by the girl at the Elding ticket office. Arriving on the other side of the boat, I was disappointed to catch only a small glimpse of something grey disappearing into the water. However, my disappointment didn’t last long, because the speakers soon announced more dolphins were to be seen. The whole crowd moved from one side of the boat to the other to see them. The dolphins kept running us back and forth from on one side to the other—well, except for those taking a closer look at their seasickness bags.
Underwater dinner party!
“Blow of a whale twelve o’clock!” The boat sped up in pursuit of something splashing about ahead of us. As we got closer, our guide told us it was a minke whale, a type of baleen whale, which filters food from the water. Our guide was explaining that minke whales measure an average of seven metres, can dive for around twenty minutes and swim up to 40 km/h, when she interrupted herself, announcing a cascade of uncountable “one o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock whales”. We found ourselves in the middle of a whale of a dinner party: minke whales, white-beaked dolphins and dozens of gannets all feeding together. This scene totally made up for the slow beginning. A group of gannets hovered above until—out of nowhere— the whole swarm plunged into the water, head first, in a suicidal fashion. Gannets dive up to 100 km/h to catch fish in very deep water. It was extremely entertaining to watch these fascinating birds. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say it, this being about a whale watching tour, but the suicidal gannets were the secret stars of this trip.
Elding offers whale-watching tours every day at 9:00 and 13:00 during September, and in October daily at 13:00.
Whale watching tour provided by Elding. Book trip at www.elding.is or +354 553 3565
- Website: www.elding.is
- Phone: +354 555 3565