A Guide To Watching Orcas In Iceland
Watching Orcas in the wild can be a truly magical experience especially for those with a love for nature and the great outdoors. Orcas can be elusive creatures travelling vast distances and so the opportunity to get up close and personal with them is something every nature lover should do. In this guide we will give you all the information you need to get the best chance of seeing these amazing creatures in their natural habitat. This guide will give you information on when to see Orcas in Iceland, where the best locations are for seeing them up close and some tips and tricks on making the experience more enjoyable.
A little Orca Knowledge
When you go out on a whale watching tour in Iceland many of the expert guides on board will give you some great knowledge on any of the species you see and because they work so closely with these whales all year long they know lots about them. Orcas are large marine mammals that are highly intelligent and easily recognisable to many who see them. Orcas or Killer Whales as they are sometimes called can be seen in both coastal waters and travelling long distances across deeper waters.
Orcas live in pods and work together to hunt, feeding on anything from basic fish to other whales. Many people don’t realise that Orcas are in fact the dominant species in our oceans and could easily take down a great white shark if they so wished. However despite there taste for other mammals, attacks on humans in the wild are extremely rare and much of the footage filmed by swimmers and surfers see’s encounters with these creatures as a calm and beautiful experience. Check out National Geographic for more information on these amazing creatures.
Where To See Orcas In Iceland
Iceland itself is one of the best locations in the entire world to see Orcas in the wild. The snealfiness pennisula is a region of iceland best suited to watching orcas in the wild. Boats depart during the winter at the village of Grundarfjörður from April to October the boats depart from Ólafsvík. One of the reasons for being able to see Orcas around this region is simply down to food supply. Large groups of herring flock to the Fjords around Grundarfjörður making it the perfect feeding ground for whales and seabirds. These two well known fishing villages are located on the northern part of the sneafellness pennisula and are accessible by main road, although it is always best to be cautious of the roads especially in the winter.
Olafsvik Whale Watching
Olafsvik is located on the northern part of the Snæfellsnes peninsula and is overlooked by the incredible Snaefellsjokull glacier. When it comes to seeing Orcas in the Spring this is the best place to go, you can follow the ring road right around the island and pass by some amazing sightseeing locations. On one side of Olafsvik you will find one of the most photographed mountains in the world, Kirkjufell and on the other you can find Saxholl Crater. The Snaefellsnes peninsula is full of amazing sights and so Olafsvik is the perfect base when visiting Iceland.
Grundarfjörður Whale Watching
If you plan on taking your whale watch tour during the winter months then you will be heading to Grundarfjörður a small town much like Olafsvik. Both these towns are known for their whale watching tours, especially when it comes to seeing Orcas in the wild. However despite Olafsvik being located between some amazing scenery, Grundarfjörður is home to Kirkjufell. As previously described Kirkjufell is one of the most photographed mountains in the world and many visitors come for the mountain but stay for Grundarfjörður.
When is the best time of year to see Orcas in Iceland
Orcas can be seen in Iceland all year round however the best time to see Orcas in Iceland is during the winter months and the spring. To give yourself the best chance of seeing Orcas in the wild you should plan to visit Iceland no later than the end of April. During the winter and spring, food sources such as herring flock between the Fjords and Orcas tend to stick to areas with high food sources this makes them more common during the these months.
If i was to recommend a time to go and see Orcas in Iceland i would say March would be the best month to visit. March and April are times in Iceland when the days start getting longer and the roads begin to clear. Much of the inner areas of the island are still inaccessible apart from main roads and the rind road is usually clear. As well as being able to see one of natures most beautiful creatures you may still catch a glimpse at the northern lights as these are visible into the early spring but not as common as during winter.
Where to stay in Iceland When Seeing Orcas
So its obvious by now that the area you stay in will depend on what time of year you go. If you choose to go between December and March your most convenient destination will be Grundarfjörður, if staying between April and October, Olafsvik is your most convenient destination.
Despite these towns being fantastic in their own right, they are not the only locations you could choose for your stay in Iceland. Before picking your location, think about all the other things you want to do and see. One of our favourite locations when visiting Iceland is Borgarnes.
This town is easy to get to from Reykjavik and is a 1.5 hours drive from Keflavik airport the drive to either Olafsvik or Grundarfjörður will take you about the same. Borganes is home to shops, restaurants, fuel stations and amazing views. Located on the ring road it allows you to access many areas of Iceland such as the golden circle, Reykjavik and northern Iceland.
Your location is entirely dependent on what you want to see, so my advice would be to find out what you want and study google maps for the best area. Staying on or close to the ring road will help a lot especially in those unpredictable winter and early spring months. Springtime can produce surprise snowfalls and the last thing you need is to be stuck in you hotel or lodge, that is why access to the ring road is so vital during your stay.
What to pack on a whale watching tour in Iceland
Whale watching tours can differ all over the world, some may take you far out in search for giant Blue Whales or perhaps keep nearby to coastal waters hoping to spot a variety of marine life. Whether you are going out in the winter, spring or summer its always important to know what to pack and Iceland is no different.
Some of these items may seem fairly obvious, but with all the anticipation of seeing Orcas up close people often forget to pack whats most important. Here is an easy to read list of items you may need on your whale watching trip in Iceland.
Item – Warm Clothing
Reason – Iceland in the winter and springtime can be very cold, especially out on the open sea. The wind chill is what causes the most harm so even if its looking like warm weather dress for cold weather.
Item – Raincoat or Poncho
Reason – Its obvious that the sea is a wet place and if there are choppy seas you may find yourself wetter than you expected. On the Icelandic whale watching tours they usually provide you with waterproof clothing but make sure you pack a fold-able coat just in case
Item – Gloves
Reason – This comes under warm clothing but from personal experience make sure you have some good quality gloves preferably waterproof ones such as snowboarding gloves. Fabric gloves become pretty useless when they get wet and you will end up with colder hands than without gloves.
Item – Camera
Reason – Possibly one of the most important items to take is something to give you long lasting memories of this special day. A vital tip is to get a cord to attach to your camera or mobile phone, they a inexpensive and save a world of heartache if your hand slips, remember its rocky out there. Another accessory for you camera or phone is a waterproof wallet, you may think your phone is fine because its waterproof but the salt water will easily damage both the exterior and interior.
Item – Sea Sickness Tablets
Reason – Its advisable that you take sea sickness tablets if you have never experience choppy seas. If those that have been on many boats before should take them as sea sickness can differ from boat to boat. The tours around Iceland stay quite close to shore so the ability to sea land helps reduce sea sickness, but you never know how choppy it is going to be.
Item – Sunscreen
Reason – If your lucky enough to get a clear sky in the winter or springtime its advisable to take some sunscreen along in case you find yourself left out in the sun too long. Your unlikely to notice that you are burning as the wind tends to keep you cool, however what people don’t realise is the wind contributes to the burning process too.
Item – Water/Snack
Reason – Whale watching trips can be long and tiring so having something to snack on can help keep you from getting hungry. Water is extremely important and can help with sea sickness if you end up having it.
Item – Rucksack
Reason – A rucksack can hold all your valuables and many of the items above. Choosing a rucksack over an open bag should be considered as its more comfortable to hold and you wont need to put it down where your item could get damaged.
Item – Sunglasses
Reason – On a sunny day it can become quite disorientating when the sun is shining both from above and off of the sea. Sunglasses are a great way to prevent this but maybe get an attachment to hold them on your head.
Item – Binoculars
Reason – The dream experience is when an Orca comes right up close to the boat so you can get a great view of them, but this isn’t always the case. Even though in Iceland you are most likely to get close enough to see the Orcas in there full glory, having a good pair of binoculars allows you to see all the whales you come across during your trip.
Laki Tours Whale Watching Iceland
So now you know where the best place in Iceland is to see Orcas in the wild, you now need someone to take you out on a tour. If your going to be watching Orcas in one of the best locations in the world then Laki Tours will be your guide. Laki tours are the sole operator in this region and have a great reputation for whale watching and conservation. You will usually find that on your tour will be a marine biologist or someone with expert knowledge on Orcas around Iceland. Laki tours is a great company and they take every effort to make your trip the most special event of your life.
If you enjoyed this post then check out all our other articles on our website happy travels.