Adventures in Iceland: Whale Watching

For someone who is always cold, I always manage to find things to do that will make me colder. Deciding to go whale watching in Iceland in January would be one of those things. The irony is, the more fun you have the less you seem to notice you’ve lost feeling in your fingers. I have always had a love of the ocean. We used to go to Sea World when I was a kid and I thought being a volcanologist who moonlit as an oceanographer seemed like the right career path. While my ambitions changed, my love of the sea did not. Once again, Icelandair allowed me to book a spot with Elding Whaling provided an outlet for my wanderlust and it was perfect!

I should also preface that Titanic is my favorite movie and this whole experience gave me some serious Jack and Rose vibes, except that there was no Jack (but hey, Leo…I’m single!) and we didn’t sink (although you are restricted on how far you can go because of icebergs…I didn’t see any). Sailing in the North Atlantic, while sapphire seas and the sun glittering among the ripples was stunning. It was also the only day that I actually saw the sun and blue skies. It was meant to be!

I have been whale watching before-several times in California and once in Virginia Beach. I have seen a grand total of zero whales. I have seen dolphins but the closest to a whale in the wild I have gotten is Shamu. So my expectations were low that I would see anything. Spring is ideally the best time to go and you can see all sorts of marine life. But I was there in January and I was going to take a three hour boat tour (queue the ‘Gilligan’s Island Theme’). The previous day they had seen a humpback whale, so I was giddy! Just maybe…

My biggest tip is in the winter is do not stand at the front of the ship. It does offer the best views but the water was so choppy, I kind of felt as if I was going to fall overboard and I’ve already said Leo wasn’t with me. I stood to the side and felt much more comfortable and still saw incredible things. The side also provides a rail which you can wrap your arms around when you start rocking severely left to right (this was all due to it being a very windy day). I did not ever feel unsafe, it is just a comfort level for me. You are made aware of the choppy conditions prior to boarding. You are also given some anti-nausea medication. I did not take the medication because I don’t usually get motion sickness, but it is available if you may do.


First up were dolphins! They stay in the Reykjavik harbor year round so they are shorter and fatter than those I saw at Sea World or the Southern Atlantic Ocean. There was a cluster that followed along with our boat. Then we went to another spot and there he was, my humpback whale! Apparently the ones who hang out in the winter are young or in between their ‘adult’ pursuits with other whales. Because he was in shallower water, I did not see him breach or tail in the air but I saw him and that’s all I care about! It was so cool and I was so excited. I completely forgot how cold I was and that I was starting to get nauseous after 2 hours on choppy seas, I saw a whale. Something that I had wanted to see since the first time I hung a Wyland poster on my bedroom wall. My viewing was also clearly meant to be because the moment the whale swam away for the final time, the heavens opened up and it started to sleet.

You can barely see him, but he’s there!

I highly recommend this tour, I would do it again in a heartbeat at any point during the year. The guides/employees are so knowledgeable. Marine biologists are on staff and will point out birds and tell you all about what lives in the waters.

Being on the water, with the fresh air, it made for what would turn out to be the most perfect of days!