Swimming with whales is a bucket list that most of us will never get the chance to dive into. But a travel agency has gone out of its way to orchestrate encounters with these gentle giants in Iceland.
The Nordic island country is a land of water, mountains, frozen landscapes and endless landscapes. It is also home to a huge range of arctic wildlife, including the rare and beautiful humpback whale.
And luxury travel experts Black Tomato have created a dream Icelandic expedition: swimming with humpback whales in the northern seas when the sun rises at midnight.
Why do humpback whales migrate to Iceland?
The humpback whale is the most frequent foreign visitor to Iceland, a graceful and dark creature with a dark back, a light belly and an eponymous “hump”.
In early spring each year, humpback whales begin their 7,000 km journey from the Gulf of Mexico to the northern seas of Iceland. Their motive is simple: mothers and young seek out the country’s rich feeding grounds.
What’s it like to swim with humpback whales?
The expedition begins off the coastal waters of Akureyri, where feeding grounds are full of fish and the occasional blue visitor whale.
Here you will depart with your captain and fellow travelers. Dry suits, semi-rigid boat on board, it was a meeting that lasted months and thousands of kilometres.
Humpback whales surface most vividly as “night” sets in, making the winter sun the perfect time to see them.
Eyjafjörður, the fjord that connects Akuyeri to the sea, is the longest in Iceland. Framed by snow-capped peaks and black-brown slopes, it’s a spectacular, narrow waterway that stretches about 60 km from its head to its gigantic mouth.
And at this mouth the lowlands end and the hills roll straight into the blue-black sea below. This is where your search will begin.
The trip is timed to line up perfectly with the midnight sun. It is a natural phenomenon that occurs, worldwide, in places north of the polar Circlewhen the sun remains visible until late at night.
At its peak, near the summer solstice (June 21), the sun does not set below the horizon for an entire 24-hour period. Instead, it dives – curving towards the horizon without ever making contact with it.
Is it safe?
As with all travel experiences centered on wildlifeit is important that travelers know that they are not harming their tourism.
Carolyn Addison, Product Manager at black tomatoexplains: “As with all the trips we design, we make sure to work with specialist partners who avoid exploiting or harming the animals in any way.
“We believe that education in the form of direct interaction is a wonderful way to raise awareness of the important issue of protecting whales and their crucial place in the ocean ecosystem.”
Black Tomato would also like to point out that female whales caring for newborn calves are prohibited from any interaction and that the behavior of all whales involved is respected.
“Our guides accompany our guests to ensure that the whales are not stressed or embarrassed. The activity is undertaken privately or in a very small group, ensuring minimal impact on wildlife.
“Humpback whales are known to be very inquisitive and social animals, often approaching boats directly. We hope and believe this is a positive experience for both guests and these amazing creatures. “.