A wonderful day out whale watching in Iceland, we never know what we will find but we were delighted to find a chilled-out minke and some dolphins, but most surprisingly we found a basking shark!
by Lucky Byfleet
Success! We found a beautiful minke whale relaxing, some playful white beaked dolphins and glimpsed a basking shark! We also saw lots of different species of sea birds, including the last few puffins and arctic terns that hadn’t left yet for the winter.
We set out from Reykjavik harbour on our yacht, the Amelia Rose, the day was overcast and there were spots of rain, but whales are already pretty wet so we continued out in search of them! Inside the islands the water was relatively calm and as we headed out past them the yacht easily cut through the swell. Despite the clouds the visibility was pretty good, and the views didn’t disappoint us, and we all enjoyed the journey out into Faxa flói bay to look for whales and dolphins.
We saw several different species of sea birds wheeling and darting across the ocean, this is always a good sign as we often use the seabirds, especially gannets and terns, to find whales and dolphins or any other cetaceans in the beautiful waters here. They look from much higher up than us so can see a long way if there is a fish in an area, people have been using this technique of bird watching to find cetaceans for unknown generations throughout history.
Not long after departing some lovely white beaked dolphins found us, a species in the same family as whales. As we sat with the engines off they played near us for a little while, riding the swell and diving under one side of the yacht to appear at the other. We also glimpsed a basking shark, it is the second largest fish in the word! It’s large flag like fin stuck out of the water as it lazily cruised along the surface feeding. We love all sharks but it is an honour to be in the presence of this gentle giant.
Finding dolphins is always a good sign as it means there is food in the area, and the whales are often hunting the same fish, or other fish in the food chain there. Because of that we hung around in the area for a little while hoping we’d find any signs a whale might be in the area, for instance like the footprints the pressure of their tail leaves on the water service. However, after the beautiful shark we found nothing else there and carried on out across the feeding grounds, everyone on the look out at all times for the tell-tale signs of a large cetacean being seen in the area.
The most common whales we see there are the beautiful minke whales and humpback whales as well as white beaked dolphins. However we never really know what we will come across on our adventure, in the past twelve months we have found pilot whales, basking sharks, killer whales (orca) and even a couple of very friendly blue whales!
Our patience and persistence paid off and soon we found a rather large minke whale, just relaxing, logging near the surface. We gave it a lot of space, but it was wonderful to see. Eventually it started feeding again, and we saw it’s elegant form diving down into the water. What a treat. Seeing whales and dolphins in the stunning bay outside Reykjavik is often at the top of people’s bucket lists. It really is an Iceland must-do, and especially a Reykjavik must-do!
People also come here to see the bewitching northern lights, and we take people out to see them, again on our lovely super yacht Amelia Rose. If you book a whale watching tour with us you can get a Northern lights trip for 50% off!
Sea Trips Reykjavik sail everyday out from Reykjavík Harbour, Iceland. Our yacht, Amelia Rose was built as a super yacht in 2003 and as such is ever so comfortable and stable. However the seas often change here, and people are affected differently by the movement of the oceans. As such we have seasickness tablets available for free at the bar. We also have warm blankets and ponchos around the yacht for your comfort, though the inside of the ship is very warm and snug.
What are differences between baleen and toothed whales?
We see both toothed and baleen whales here in Reykjavik harbour, Iceland. Did you know that dolphins and porpoises are also part of the same family? www.uk.whales.org is a brilliant website that goes into a lot more detail however this is the basic description!
They write that;
“Baleen whales have baleen plates, or sheets, which sieve prey from seawater. Toothed whales have teeth and they actively hunt fish, squid and other sea creatures. Dolphins and porpoises all have teeth and rather confusingly are known as ‘toothed whales’ too!
Another obvious difference between baleen and toothed whales is the number of blowholes on top of their head; baleen whales have two whereas toothed whales have one. There are only 14 baleen whale species and they are generally larger than the 76 species of toothed whales – except for the mighty sperm whale, the largest toothed whale.”
If you are interested in learning more we recommend these websites, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/group/whale-facts/ and https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/whale They have a lot of extra learning materials about cetaceans all over the world.
Whale Watching in Iceland