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Whale Watching in Iceland – Incredible! | Don't Ever Look Back

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Whale Watching in Iceland – Incredible!

Whale Watching in Iceland – Incredible!

It’s zero degrees Celsius outside as our boat sets off onto the Atlantic Ocean from Grindavik, a small fishing town located on the southwestern coast of Iceland.

The two of us are here for a whale watching tour with Elding Whale Watching and as the freezing sea breeze starts hitting our faces, we ponder whether we’ve made the right decision to be here. Although the sun is shining brightly, we’ve just arrived from New York City and have never experienced weather this cold before.

Amy keeping warm while whale watching

Amy keeping warm on our whale watching tour

Soon after departing Grindavik harbor, we spot a large group of white-beaked dolphins in the water. The two of us saw one of these cute dolphins at SeaWorld San Antonio during our Beluga Whale Interaction so it was nice for us to spot some frolicking in the wild.

White-beaked dolphin

A white-beaked dolphin in the Atlantic Ocean

We leave this group of dolphins and within twenty minutes another pod of white-beaked dolphins is located, however these ones are much more difficult to get close to because they are protecting many baby dolphins. Very cute!

But as nice as these dolphins were, they aren’t the reason we are freezing our tails off in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – we are here to see some whales! The Elding tour boat sets off into deeper waters and ten minutes later, we hear one of the crew excitedly yelling over the boat’s P.A. system…

“Our captain has spotted a HUGE blow on the horizon about 4 miles away!”

Using powerful binoculars, the captain has seen a large geysir-like blow from a whale and we immediately head in that direction. The tour narrator goes on to explain how they find whales on these tours – from their fish finder technology to looking for movement and feeding birds on the water. After thirty minutes, we arrive at the location of the blow and are greeted with this!

A blue whale exhaling in a huge blow

The whale blow is several meters high!

Once the whale surfaced, the crew were quickly able to identify what type of whale it was…

It was a blue whale!

This whale is the largest known mammal to have ever existed at a whopping 30 meters in length and 180 metric tons in weight! And here we are just 10-20 meters away from it, listening in awe to this blue whale breathing strongly – exhaling water through its blowhole and then sucking in oxygen shortly afterwards.

Blue whale tail fluke

Blue whale tail fluke showing as it dives into the deep ocean

The whale disappears under the water to feed as we and the rest of the tour group patiently wait for it to resurface. We’re feeling incredibly privileged right now – Elding have been taking whale watching tours for twelve years and 2011 was the first time they have seen blue whales in Icelandic waters!

Within a few minutes, the blue whale comes back up for air and the captain quickly steers the boat towards it as we get more close-up views of this massive animal.

Blue whale

The huge body of the blue whale right near our tour boat!

Blue whale

Blue whale swimming in the ocean

The boat follows this blue whale for quite some time and we also see many huge blows coming from the distance, suggesting that there are many other big whales in the area.

Blue whale

The blue whale shows its very small dorsal fin as it comes out of the water

On the way back to Grindavik Harbor this is proved true as a fin whale and a humpback whale are also seen. Unfortunately these whales didn’t surface for long enough for us to get a good look at them.

Despite the freezing weather, we definitely made the right decision to take this magnificent whale watching tour with Elding. Never in a million years did we think we would see a blue whale in the wild and here we were, on our first day in Iceland, following one for over an hour!

Simply incredible!

Have you seen a whale before? Or is whale watching on your bucket list?

A huge thanks to Súsanna from ICELANDisHOT for organizing this Elding Whale Watching Tour.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are our own.


  1. Chelsea
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    I grew up in the Whitsundays so we would regularly see humpbacks when out on the water in the summer months. I also saw an orca when I was on a ferry from Seattle to Victoria. Love, love, love whales!

    • Posted November 13, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      That’s awesome Chelsea – did you ever get to see them breaching? That’s one thing we still really want to see (and hopefully get a photo of!).

      We also want to go kayaking with orcas off British Columbia one day!

  2. Posted November 13, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    What an adventure. You two will definitely have some stories to tell the grand kids. Your travels are really going well. Enjoy. XXX
    Natalie recently posted..Photo Post – Up Close and Personal

    • Posted November 14, 2011 at 2:37 am | Permalink

      We’re certainly going to have some amazing stories to share – and hopefully this is just the beginning. Thanks Natalie! 🙂

  3. Posted November 13, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    What awesome pictures! We are planning a trip to Alaska next year, and whale watching is definitely on the list…
    The World of Deej recently posted..Deej’s Pictures of the Week

    • Posted November 14, 2011 at 2:37 am | Permalink

      Sounds great Deej! Stay warm and you’ll have a fantastic time!

  4. Erica
    Posted November 14, 2011 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    Were you there 18-10-11? I recognise the story because I was there too! It was really amazing!

    • Posted November 14, 2011 at 2:39 am | Permalink

      We were there on the 18th! Hopefully our story has helped you relive some memories of that amazing tour – it really was a great time.

  5. Posted November 14, 2011 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    Ahhh! That’s so awesome. I wish I had seen a Blue Whale :]
    Amazing shots too, especially the whale blow!
    Seattle Dredge recently posted..25 Before 25 : Bucket List

    • Posted November 14, 2011 at 2:54 am | Permalink

      They gave us the choice of leaving from Reykjavik harbor (nearly guaranteed to see minke whales) or taking a 45-minute coach tour out to Grindavik in the hope of seeing the bigger whales.

      Fortunately the gamble paid off and we got some spectacular pics! 🙂

  6. Posted November 14, 2011 at 3:04 am | Permalink

    That’s an awesome sight! I tried to see whales on Bainbridge Island in Washington and it was an epic fail… I arrived 30 minutes after a huge pod of killer whales swam past.
    Scott – QuirkyTravel recently posted..Photo Teaser #18: Name that city

    • Posted November 14, 2011 at 3:37 am | Permalink

      That’s gotta suck! Hate those moments when you miss things by a matter of minutes – hopefully you’ll get another chance one day!

  7. Posted November 14, 2011 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    Wow, you guys saw a blue whale!! That is so awesome.
    Amanda recently posted..Photo of the Day: Mendenhall Glacier

    • Posted November 14, 2011 at 3:38 am | Permalink

      We didn’t even think it was a possibility when we left on our tour so it was totally unbelievable to get so close to one! Loved it!

  8. Posted November 14, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    I stayed in Byron Bay, east of Oz for. Few months and witnessed Hump Back whales passing by the headlands. Such a beautiful sight and I can’t wait to go back see it all over again!
    If you ever visit, a good tip is to go to Little Wategoes for some fishing and they breache so close it’s so awe inspiring! Best day of my life 🙂
    Love your post 🙂
    Kerri recently posted..Where Am I Going?!

    • Posted November 14, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the tip – we’ll definitely see if we can visit there when we get back to Oz! Would love to see that!

  9. Posted November 14, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Wow!!! That is so amazing you got to see a blue whale! I saw a whale once when I was staying on a yacht in the Whitsundays!
    Well, blue whale watching is definitely now on my bucket list!
    Claire recently posted..Xtreme Travel Sports

    • Posted November 14, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      It’s great to know we’ve inspired someone to add it to their bucket list! Get over to Iceland asap! 🙂

  10. Posted November 14, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    What a fun experience.. expect it looked so cold : ) But you guys dressed pretty warm for it.

    • Posted November 14, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      We had thermals underneath – it was still cold but wasn’t totally unbearable. Coming from NYC, I’m sure you’d be fine. 😉

  11. Posted November 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Great photos! Your post makes me want to go whale watching too 🙂

    • Posted November 16, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Leslie, it was an unbelievable experience and highly recommended! 🙂

  12. Posted November 17, 2011 at 1:59 am | Permalink

    How amazing and rare that you got to see a blue whale in Iceland. Definitely worth bearing through the cold!
    Suzy recently posted..Suzy Stumbles Over Travel: Week of November 14, 2011

  13. Posted November 17, 2011 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    Wow! That looks so cold. But totally worth it.
    Elizabeth recently posted..Oh Little Town of Bethlehem: Photos of the Palestine Wall

  14. Posted November 23, 2011 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    saw your post on Suzy website… super jealous! I would love to go Whale watching! you have given me some ideas on my near to come trip to ireland 😀
    Rebecca recently posted..Chapter 8: Scotland – (looking back) A beginners travels from the experienced eye

  15. Posted November 24, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Beautiful! I love seeing dolphins and whales in the wild. I participated in a whalewatching tour right outside Boston once and we got lucky and saw quite a few… the bad part of that tour wasn’t even the weather (nice, sunny, very un-Boston), but the group of Chinece tourists who got sea sick all over the boat. So gross! Still worth it for the whales, but the people… yuck!
    Sabrina recently posted..Only in Texas: Skull with Horns on Truck

  16. Posted June 22, 2012 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Ahh! Whale! Beautiful!
    I like the first pic where everybody is freezing 🙂
    and, of cause, ‘tail fluke showing’ is perfect!
    Thanks for sharing!
    memographer recently posted..Berlin: Sightseeing Cruise on the River Spree

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