most awesome day as a whale guide blue whale

10 Ways to Spot a Whale!

Whale Watching Iceland;

Learn how to spot a whale with Sea Trips Reykjavik. 10 brilliant techniques we use to find whales, dolphins and other beautiful animals amongst the waves. Whale watching Iceland.

1. Get Up High.

The higher up you are the further you can see, and also it means you can see into the valley of waves. That’s why old whaling ships have a big mast even though they don’t have sails, and why our crew spend a lot of time as high as they can get! But once we spot a whale you can head down to the front, if there are dolphins they may start to bow ride, and then you might hear them vocalise!

2. Look For Birds.

Sea birds are beautiful in their own right, and a joy to see, but we use them to help us spot a whale. The birds feed on the same types of small schooling fish as the cetaceans, and they will dive down into the water sometimes from over 30m up! That means we can see them from far away, and thus be lead to feeding animals. So if you sea see birds have a really good look underneath them.

spot a whale with sea birds

3. Be Patient.

We know, in ideal world you’d get on the yacht and just after you have drunk a mug of creamy hot chocolate a humpback whale will breach next to the boat. However whilst it does happen, we often spend a lot of time waiting. The whales surface to breath about every 5 minutes here, so in that time it is under water don’t give up, keep your eyes out for signs it could be under the water. It could turn up anywhere around us! Be prepared and wrap up warm!

4. Look for Water Marks.

Cetaceans don’t have feet but they can leave footprints! As there powerful tail propels them it creates a pressure wave that leaves a flat circular area on the water above them. In the right conditions you can see a line of these circles, like giant footprints! Also look for bubbles. Bubbles can come up for many reasons, but some whales, especially humpbacks, will make a bubble ring around a shoal of fish, confusing them and making them swim closer to each other, and there for easier to feed on.

spot a whale with sea trips

5. Use Your Nose.

If you think your friend has just made a bad smell think again, and look up wind! When whales breath out it can smell pretty bad, like rotting fish. Sometimes we call minke whales ‘stinky minkes’ because of this. So maybe you can spot a whale by the smell!

6. Scan Methodically

When you are scanning the ocean you can loose place of where you saw something. To make sure you are looking properly take a section of water to search, maybe a 90degree portion at the front of the yacht. Then, starting at one end of it, take your eye along the horizon. Upon reaching the other end look a little closer to the boat. Then look along that length. Again look a little closer and go back the other way. Like this zig-zag from the horizon to the boat you are on, then start all over again.

If you do this then you know you have searched an area properly, and, upon seeing something you need binoculars to identify further you will know roughly where you had been looking. You can also look up from what you see to find a cloud or mountain as a reference point, giving you time to grab your binoculars, then you can use that reference point to find that area of water again, ready to call out when you spot a whale!

How to spot a whale

7. Fins are ‘Fin’tastic!

If you see a fin then brilliant! We love everything with a fin, whales, dolphins, porpoises and sharks. Even if you didn’t spot a whale we will be delighted at your skills, and often we find the big cetaceans along side smaller ones. So keep an eye out for fins.

8. Listen carefully.

Over the sounds of the winds and the waves we can often hear creatures. Dolphins vocalise with whistles and clicks, sea birds chatter and screech, and whale blows sound like nothing else! We also hear fin slapping, and breaches landing with giant slaps on the waters surface. The humble porpoise is called ‘sea-pig’ in many languages due to it’s short sharp blow sounding a bit like a pig. But the Icelandic word for it comes from the Old Norse word for sneeze! Achoo!

9. Big Blows!

As well as hearing blows you can see them, blue whale blows can be 10m tall! Cetaceans are mammals, just like humans. And like us their breath is warm and wet. When they breath out that warm wet air gets blasted high into the air, making a visible cloud we can often see. It is easiest to see from big whales on days with little wind.

10. More the Merrier.

The best way to spot a whale is with friends. The more people looking out the better. As well as knowing the best places to go our crew is always keeping a watchful eye out, even if it’s just through the window at the bar! We also work together with a network of spotters, both on land and on other boats to help us find whales and dolphins. So if we spot a whale we tell the other whale watching boats, and if they spot a whale they tell us, meaning that everyone has a greater chance of seeing them.

spot a whale with sea trips reykjavik iceland

We hope that has helped you prepare for your awesome whale watching adventure! Of course our highly skilled crew will talk you all through this when you come out whale watching with Sea Trips Reykjavik here in Iceland. Make sure you have a chat with our guides on the top decks, and with our wonderful captains in the wheel houses. They are always delighted to share their favourite whale watching moments, and want to share their love for these incredible creatures with the world.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.