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 sighting rate in this area is the thriving ecosystem in the bay. Melting snow and rivers bring nutrients from mineral-rich locations and meet three ocean currents int he bay. When combined with the boundless summer sun, this leads to teeming masses of plankton and fish, the main source of food for baleen whales. Three oceanic currents converge at the bay and bring in even more nutrients. Even though Skjálfandi Bay may not seem impressive in size compared to other fjords in Iceland, a relatively deep channel runs through the north-west. This depth has also a positive impact on the productivity in the bay.
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 RIB 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, the Húsavík Whale Museum and the University of Iceland´s research center are also found around the harbour. There are partnerships between most of these organizations, each working to support one another in their whale-related activities.
Whales in Skjálfandi Bay
Altogether, 23 species of whale have been spotted in Icelandic waters. The most typical visitors to Skjálfandi Bay are humpback, minke, white-beaked dolphin, harbour porpoise and blue whale.
Due to their playful nature and incredible acrobatic displays humpback whales are amongst the most entertaining animals to watch at sea. Lucky whale watchers here can see them feeding, breaching (jumping out), slapping (slapping their flippers against the water) or spyhopping (poking their head above 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. A child can fit through its blowhole and a small child can swim through their blood vessels.
To see these creatures in the wild is truly breath-taking.
All things considered, if you’re ever wondering where to watch whales in Iceland, Húsavík is second to none.