Reykjavik Stories and Tips

Hardly a Whale of a Time!

Elding is the no.1 whale sighting tour company in Reykjavik, running boats from their harbour every couple of hours, you will likely be handed a leaflet at some point or another during your stay in Europe's most northerly capital city.

Now unless you are a fish, it's not every day you get to see a whale so despite being on a budget trip, we were willing to fork out whatever it costed to see one. At 45 Euros per person (I recall it being more when we did it in 2007 though) it's not too dear for a one-off lifetime experience.

We bought the tickets at a little kiosk and eagerly awaited the boat to arrive, like Russian babushkas at a tram people wanted to get on whilst the previous visitors were still getting off!

Finally on the boat,, everyone sits down and is gets a briefing and are told about the captain's system of alerting people where the whale is by saying 12 o clock (directly in front of the boat), 2 o clock etc, sea sickness tablets are handed out along with water. You then go downstairs and don a warm insulated lifejacket which makes you look like a spaceman, foolishly I dipped my hand in the pocket and found someones used tissue but apart from this they were pretty cool.

You then get out on the deck and fight for position, seemingly assuming you know where the whales will appear better than anyone else. There's a continuous spring of information coming out of the speakers (in English and German), commenting on everything from fishing trawlers, sea birds and generally giving you a bit of knowledge about the whales - nothing that you don't learn when you are about 8 at school though!

Finally Captain Bird's Eye spots something, informs the sighters some of which are heavily prepared with ammo (enormous cameras and binoculars), there's then a struggle to get to that part of the boat first - some people who didn't quite understand the clock system seem to do their own thing before rectifying it and arriving late on the scene. It's full steam ahead and the whale has moved, so everybody runs across deck again whilst the engines are turned down, it's then a game of cat and mouse as the boat tracks the whale. Regular updates are given by the announcer on the speaker, when the boat slows down, the words become a husky whisper like one of those perverted old men telephone calls (I imagine)

Before you know it, the tour is over - you've been out there chasing a whale for an hour and it's time to return to harbour. No sightings, you think - great I get another chance. However, the sighting of a small tail fin is considered enough apparently.

Happiness with a whale sighting service very much depends on whether you see a whale or not and whilst the tours can't be completely faulted for you not seeing a whale, I did feel that they "bigged it up" a bit too much on their brochures and was rather disappointed with the outcome. Husavik is a much better place to see whales, there are far more sightings and full sightings at that. The waters around Reykjavik are a little too busy and there's simply less whales out there. If you do see a whale in full, you'll be pleased with the service, if you don't - at least you get another chance but if you only get a glimpse of it's arse, it doesn't seem all that it's cracked up to be.

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