Nestled on the edge of Skjálfandi Bay, the town of Húsavík is globally recognised as one of the best locations in the world from which to watch whales. In fact, there is a higher chance of seeing whales in Húsavík than any other place in Iceland.
The reason for such a high percentage of whales in this area is the thriving ecosystem in the bay. Melting snow and rivers bring nutrients from mineral-rich locations which, when combined with the boundless summer sun, leads to teeming masses of plankton, the main source of food for baleen whales.
The First Whale Watching in Iceland
The first scheduled whale watching tours in the whole of Iceland started here, in the mid-90s, following requests by passing tourists. Since then, the industry has boomed and made Húsavík a household name, often branded the ‘Whale Capital of Iceland’.
There are four different companies offering whale watching trips here in Húsavík. Trips on the typical wooden boats pioneered by North Sailing take about 3 hours. For those who have less time to spare, Gentle Giants offer a speedier option, using the small Zodiac speedboats. They also offer trips on oak boats. Húsavík Adventures, the newest company, also offers speedier option, two RIB boats. Whilst Salka, operating since 2013, offers trips on an oak boat.
All in all, Húsavík´s harbour is a hive of activity for cetacean related work. As well as the four whale watching companies that use the docks, there is also the Whale Museum and the University of Iceland´s research centre. There are partnerships between most of these organisations, each working to support one another in their whale-related activities.
The Whales of Skjálfandi Bay
Altogether, there are 23 species of whale which have been recorded in Icelandic waters. The most typical visitors to Skjálfandi Bay are humpbacks, minke and blue.
Due to their playful nature, and the range of actions they perform, humpback whales are amongst the most entertaining animals to watch at sea. Lucky whale watchers here may get to see them feeding, breaching (jumping out), slapping (slapping their flippers against the water) or spyhopping (poking their head out the water to see what’s near).
Another frequent visitor to the bay is the blue whale, the largest known animal ever to have existed on Earth. Its tongue alone can weigh the same as an elephant, and its heart the same as a car. To see these creatures in the wild is a breath-taking sight to behold.
All things considered, if you’re ever wondering where to watch whales in Iceland, Húsavík is without a doubt, second to none.