Date: 09/09/2013

Top tips for whale watching in Scandinavia

Author: Kirsi
Location: Iceland, Norway

Magnetic North’s Kirsi travelled to Northern Norway in June 2013 and here recounts her tales from the sea followed by her top tips for whale watching in Scandinavia…

I can see someone pointing at the distance and exclaiming in excitement. They have spotted a spout of water rising from the sea as the whale exhales and comes to the surface for breath. As we come closer I can see it as well. Holding my camera I hear deep and slow breaths before the whale dives and the huge tail fin appears above the surface. This was my first encounter with a sperm whale, a creature that can grow up to 20 meters and can dive down to 3 kilometers yet is a mammal just like us – only once they are born they are approximately 4 meters in length.

The researchers who study whales have learned to tell them apart by their tail fins, which act like a finger print on each of the whales. Not only can researchers tell them apart by their fins, they also recognize their habits. Beneath the surface they communicate by clicking – perhaps warning other males they are bigger and stronger or inviting them to join them for a feast of herring. A lot of fascinating research has been established, yet the full extent of their social communication remains largely unknown.

The whales are known to live in colonies, the females travelling with the calves in warmer waters whereas large colonies males come to feed for herring in the Northern coast of Norway, are all males. Sailors have known them to feed in this area for centuries. The Carta Marina which Swedish historian and cartographer Olaus Magnus drew in the 16th century based on stories he had heard from the sailors gives a glimpse into how whales have been seen in this region centuries ago. On the map you can see huge sea creatures resembling whales in the coast of Northern Norway, from Lofoten islands and Andenes up to Troms. Needless to say, the stories Magnus recorded may have been exaggerated as they were passed from a story teller to another, but also prove that large sea creatures have been known to feed in this area for hundreds of years and have made a lasting impression on anyone who saw them as they still do today.

Sperm whales, which are the largest of toothed whales are very common but you can also meet killer whales (also known as orcas), harbour porpoises, pilot whales and humpback whales in the northern coasts of Norway. Get in touch with us to plan your very own encounter with these beautiful and magnificent creatures on a whale safari!

TOP 5 places to see whales in Scandinavia

Stø, Norway
Located in Vesterålen just by the Bleik Canyon, where plankton rises from deep sea to the surface attracting a great variety of sea life, including whales. The great sperm whales come here to feed on squids and fish that swim in the deep waters. You can view whales here both summer and in winter time.
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Andenes, Norway
Just on the northern tip of the island of Andøya, the village of Andenes is also located by the Bleik Canyon and offers stable feeding grounds for whales. Whales are also studied in this area which gives your guides up-to-date information on the whales. You can also visit a museum which gives you all the insight to the life of whales beneath the surface of the sea.
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Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland is well-known for its unique volcanic activity and stunningly beautiful nature but you can also join whale watching cruises right from the capital of Iceland. You can find more than 20 different species swimming close to the shores of Iceland. Whale watching tours depart all year round from Reykjavik.
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Senja, Norway

Just a short trip from Tromsø, at 69 degrees North the beautiful island of Senja is among one of the best places to view the whales. For those wanting to get off the beaten track and travel with excellent wilderness guides, Senja offers excellent chances for viewing sea life in its natural habitat. We warmly recommend Senja if you are interested in photographing wildlife with our experienced guides.
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Kattfjord, Norway

Just outside Tromso, on the island of Kvaløya (translates to whale island), you can spot whales swimming in the fjord from your cosy fisherman’s cabin. The stunningly beautiful fjord and mountains also offer the perfect backdrop for viewing the elusive Northern Lights.
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We can arrange tailored itineraries with whale watching included year round – just get in touch to find out more

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