Whale watching in Iceland is one of the things that was on the bucket list that I made up last year. It’s also something I was nervous about as I don’t like boats or open water generally, get motion sickness and can’t really swim. Still, I really wanted to see whales and Husavík is somewhere you are pretty much guaranteed a sighting during the summer months.
On my previous trip to the area I did horse riding instead of the whale watching and now the whale watching was one of the main things I was looking forward to on our recent trip.
First of all, Husavík itself is a very pretty town. It’s a nice place to stop even if you don’t want to do whale watching.
In fact we had one of the best meals of the whole trip here, at the Salka Restaurant – it’s always nice when you find somewhere in a touristy area that actually serves good food.
There are two companies that do the whale watching trips – North Sailing and Gentle Giants. They do pretty much the same thing for the same price, so most people just book whichever one has the next departure. We went with Gentle Giants. Both companies run the tours from traditional small fishing boats which I thought would be scary because they were so small, but they were really much nicer than some of the huge ugly whale watching boats I have seen elsewhere.
Luckily, it was a beautiful sunny calm day so the water was as “flat” as it ever gets and even I enjoyed the trip out, we probably went out for about an hour to get into the right area, with an hour and a bit following various whales and dolphins and then an hour back.
We saw dolphins and minke whales. The group that went out on the next boat saw blue whales and humpback whales. So you never know what you are going to see and for how long. When we did see a glimpse of a back/fin off in the distance, you could never tell where it was going to surface again. This was part of the fun, but I learned after a while not to go from one side of the boat to the other trying to “follow” one, as they take an unpredictable route. It’s actually better to just stay in one place on the boat and take your chances by watching one area only.
There was so much bird life out in the water that there was always something to see, with puffins and terns everywhere. Watching them and generally enjoying the amazing scenery was just as good as seeing the whales. I can see that going out in the boat on a rainy, choppy day wouldn’t be as much fun, and not seeing any whales would be disappointing, but I was really pleasantly surprised by how much fun the journey itself was and how much was going on out there.
Another good tip for spotting – if you get the chance, go up to the top viewing points on the boat!
Whales are hard to photograph. They surface only briefly, and not where you are expecting them to. So although we saw a lot, good photos are lacking! Below is a minke whale that was relatively close. You can see much better photos on the whale watching companies websites.
Right at the end, a minke surfaced close to the boat and to hear it breathing through its blowhole was unforgettable. It all happened so fast you couldn’t have got a photo, but it was enough to be there in the moment.
If you’re thinking about a whale watching trip here – do it!