2024.04.16 Whale Watching

Today  was all about whale watching.  Thankfully, our tour was not until 1:00 because we were getting a very sluggish start to our day.  Breakfast was not included at the Hilton, so we made the logical choice to skip breakfast and go straight to Icelandic hot dogs for lunch.

We drove back to the downtown area, parked the car in a public lot, and walked a few blocks to Baejarins Beztu Pylsur.  Since we are repeat visitors to this hot dog stand, you might say we are big fans.

Prepping Our Hot Dogs
The Best Hot Dog!

Given our slow start, we were a little rushed for time, so I dropped Stephanie off at the end of the pier to grab our tickets and I drove a few blocks to park the car.  We easily got on the boat in time, but we were definitely some of the last people to board.

Catching A Boat AT The Pier

We booked our tour with Elding, who had the #1 rated whale watching tour in Iceland.  There are plenty of other tour companies, and we saw several of them leave for the open sea about the same time we did.

The boat provides complimentary weather gear, since most people don’t pack insulated coveralls or insulated raincoats.  While there were plenty of people who didn’t grab weather gear, we jumped right on that.  We not only want to be comfortable, we want to look like we belong on the boat!

We caught enough of the announcement to know that the weather gear was on the first level, so we found the coveralls and were digging through them trying to find something that would fit us.  We found one (kinda) for Stephanie but none for me.  That was when the staff told us we were in the Kid’s Locker!  The other end of the boat had the Adult’s Locker, and we quickly found some outerwear that fit.

There were three levels to the boat, and we climbed the stairs to the top level and grabbed a spot on the rail at the front of the boat. 

Stephanie Putting On Her Coveralls

We immediately headed out to sea.  The Reykjavik harbor is beautiful with large mountains immediately to the north.  The sea was unexpectedly (to us) very calm.  The voyage was not rough at all.

Ready For Whale Watching

The staff made announcements that while they would be searching for whales, that it would be a group effort, so if you see anything, let other people know so everybody could enjoy.  Our main host, Maria, also explained to us how the front of the boat would be referred to as 12:00, the right side as 3:00, the rear as 6:00, etc. so that she can announce where to look should we see something.

Whale Watchers at 6:00!
Elding Whale Spotters
Maria On The Microphone

We were out to sea for about an hour with no activity at all, when Maria made the announcement that there was a humpback whale at 11:30.  As it just so happened, Stephanie and I were positioned on the rail at exactly 11:30 on the boat, so we had a front row seat and didn’t have to move at all to view the whale!

This whale did several dives where its tail flipped in a classic way.  We were so excited that we were this close to the whale doing whale things.  The whale later started flipping its white, and very large, fin again and again, almost like it was waving at us.  Hello Humpback!

The humpback would dive and be underwater for several minutes and then appear again.  This was repeated a number of times, and we figure we saw 5 or 6 tail flips.  At this point, we already knew we had got our money’s worth and were very content with our experience. 

Humpback Tail
Humpback Diving
Humpback Blowhole
Humpback Fin

The boat continued to cruise around the open sea looking for other cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).  After some time we saw a group of white-beaked dolphins swimming along the surface in a very classic manner.  How cool. 

White-Beaked Dolphins

After roughly an hour of these on-again off-again spottings, we started our return back to land. On the ride back, we got a bonus sighting of a minke whale in the distance.  Maria, our host, described the minke whales as shy and it kept our distance from the boat, and likewise the boat did not approach the whale.

The entire excursion was around 3 hours, and I would definitely do it again.  It was a fitting activity to experience on our last full day in Iceland.

While Stephanie and I (and every other passenger) enjoyed taking pics and videos of the whales, the pictures I have shared here are all from the official Elding photographer who shared these pics as part of the package.  Yay Elding!

Looking For Whales

Also as part of the package, Elding provided their own report of our trip, which I will share here.  I couldn’t have said it better myself:

Report from Hafsulan (name of boat): We sailed out in the glassy sea on this cold afternoon looking to repeat the sightings of this morning.  We searched for our first cetacean for a long time without having much chance. Suddenly, a very enthusiastic humpback whale appeared in the distance, giving us the pleasure of multiple fluke dives and even rolling around, flapping its fins! After deciding to leave this animal to be, we soon encountered a pod of 4 white-beaked dolphins, who curiously came to us before heading back to their lives. As we finished our trip and sailed back to the harbor, we passed by one last minke whale swimming in the distance.

~ Maria Ernesto

After disembarking from the boat, we wandered back to our hotel from Day 1, to ask the front desk for help on lunch/dinner.  Our British breakfast host had recommended a place, but we could not remember how to get there, and the desk staff pointed us in the right direction.

The recommendation was for the Grandi Food Hall.  The entire area is known as “Grandi”.  Originally an area for the fish processing plants and shipyards, it has been repurposed into a bustling area for entrepreneurs and workshops, and is now one of the hottest parts of the city.

We made our way to the Grandi Food Hall down on the pier.  There were 7 restaurants to choose from and we ordered food from several.  Lamb skewers from Fjarhusid, and seafood soup & seafood platter from Truno.  It was all delicious.  We now find ourselves eating seafood soup daily and there are no regrets.

Grandi Food Hall
View of the Harbor from Grandi Food Hall

By the time we finished our meal, it had started to snow.  We were so glad that we finished our tour before that started.

Lucky for us, there was an ice cream shop a few doors down so we capped off our meal with a treat.

Ice Cream!
Snow On The Car

After leaving the pier, we visited a Kronan store to get a few local treats, then drove straight to our hotel and started getting our stuff together for our return flight tomorrow.  We considered a couple of outdoor activities this afternoon / evening, but with the snow and falling temps, our appetite for being outdoorsy is waning.  That’s a wrap on today.

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