You’ve decided you want to go whale watching, and that the only way to do it is in style; on a luxury yacht. But what can you expect to see? We talked to one of our experienced guides to talk about their favourite days on the water, whale watching from Reykjavik, Iceland.
“Every day on the water is unique, so when you first come onto the ship there is no way I can predict what the day will bring with 100% accuracy. However, thanks to years on the water and working with, and studying these amazng creatures we have a good idea of what is often seen at that time of year, and, more importantly what has been seen in the previous days. But sometimes nature throws us a curveball.
As a whale guide the best and yet hardest question I am ever asked is what is the coolest thing that you have ever seen in your time whale watching, because out on the water so many awesome things happen. Although something I might consider ever so exciting might not hold the same thrill for someone else.
Like having a humpback whale do a poo next to the yacht! I was delighted, I had never seen it before, and I know how important whale poo is for the ocean environment. Of course I try to convey my delight to the passengers, but they are simply thrilled to see a humpback so close, and aren’t really sure why their guide is so delighted with it making the clear water a little…muddy.
A more obvious wonderful moment is when two of my favourite humpbacks came together after many months apart. I’d been seeing Spot for several weeks, which is always a joy, and hopefully your guide will be able to point out some individuals for you, but I hadn’t seen Dragon since last year. We know humpback whales have friendships that last over their whole life times, and I have seen these two together enough to believe that of them.
I try not to put human characteristics onto animals, however intelligent they may be, but seeing these two together after a long time it was evident their delight, and I could feel that as they swam so close to us, mirroring each other and being totally calm. A wonderful moment as a whale guide – seeing these humpbacks reuniting
Of course seeing breaching cetaceans of any species is always a thrill, and it is what everyone wants to see. Sadly we cannot guarantee it, but should you be lucky enough to see one it will stay with you for the rest of your life.
However long you have been a whale guide, whale watching every day, it is a joy. In fact any unusual behaviour is a delight to see, like porpoises and dolphins surfing big rolling waves, or young cetaceans chin slapping (I almost melted when I realised the first pilot whales I ever saw had tiny calves with them) as a they learn to swim. People love to watch videos of whales breaching but nothing really compares to seeing it up close, when you can feel the sound wave hit you as 30tonnes of whale hits the water surface.
The biggest shock treat was the day where we had two blue whales playing with the boat. One of the whales came up to the front of the yacht, from the port (left) side and straight under the bow, but before it did it stopped and rolled up on its side a little bringing it’s eye above the waterline and looking straight at us. I took the photo as quick as I could and carried on watching in wonder at this amazing creature and it watched us back!
Long story short, we use our local knowledge to try to find you whales, be it minkes, humpbacks, dolphins, or somehting much, much larger. But whatever happens you will have a glorious day out whale watching, on a beautiful superyacht, surrounded by the incredible landscape.”
What is the difference between baleen and toothed whales?
We see both toothed and baleen whales here in Reykjavik harbour, Iceland. Did you know that dolphins and porpoises are also part of the same family? www.uk.whales.org is a brilliant website that goes into a lot more detail however this is the basic description!
They write that;
“Baleen whales have baleen plates, or sheets, which sieve prey from seawater. Toothed whales have teeth and they actively hunt fish, squid and other sea creatures. Dolphins and porpoises all have teeth and rather confusingly are known as ‘toothed whales’ too!
Another obvious difference between baleen and toothed whales is the number of blowholes on top of their head; baleen whales have two whereas toothed whales have one. There are only 14 baleen whale species and they are generally larger than the 76 species of toothed whales – except for the mighty sperm whale, the largest toothed whale.”