My Experience Whale (and Puffin!) Watching with North Sailing

Located in Husavik on the Northern coast, North Sailing offers the original whale watching tour in Iceland. During my recent trip to Iceland, I opted to take the 4 hour Whales, Puffins and Sails tour. Keep reading to hear about my 6 highlights from the tour.

Beautiful Scenery

I have no doubts that Iceland is one of the most scenic places in the world, and what better way to enjoy the coastal scenery than from the water! Being a sailing vessel, the North Sailing boats move slowly enough for passengers to enjoy beautiful views of the northern Icelandic coast. We managed to catch a glimpse of a few waterfalls, an adorable little lighthouse, and the incredibly jagged moss covered volcanic cliffs that characterize this part of the Iceland. Since you don’t see whales & puffins the entire tour, this scenery makes for nice viewing during those in between times.

husavik harbor
The Husavik harbor couldn’t be much more picturesque!

Excellent Whale Watching Opportunities

Husavik Harbor is located on a wide bay that gets lot of glacial runoff. This fresh water mixing with salt water churns up lots of wildlife, especially krill — one of the main staples in a whale’s diet. This abundance of life attracts hundreds of (mostly) humpback whales to visit this bay throughout the summer. Lucky for visitors, this offers ample whale watching opportunities! I was pleasantly surprised when we had 9 different viewing opportunities over the course of our tour! We only saw humpback whales, but we got some great views of their dorsal fins, tails and dives.

humpback whale back humpback whale tail

And puffins too!

Since we did the puffin & whale tour, we were naturally hoping to see some puffins too. At this time of year, puffins come to a specific island just off the coast (conveniently named Puffin Island) to breed and hunt fish. Puffins are small birds that look pretty awkward when they fly because of their stout bodies and short wings. They are much better swimmers and divers than fliers! On Puffin Island, there are nearly 500 thousand puffins there during the summer months. We got to see and hear hundreds of these little cuties flying and diving all around us!

puffin island
A view of Puffin Island, which was beautifully flanked by a rainbow! Can you spot it?

Friendly Staff & Bad Ass Outfits

With a small crew of 4 managing the 120 foot ship, Northern Sails provided a fun and informative on-deck experience. I especially appreciated that they asked for assistance from the passengers. We got to help out lifting the sails, trimming the lines and spotting whale spouts. It made me feel more involved and invested in the experience! The crew was also super helpful in getting us set up in our badass sailing outfits. Since Iceland is pretty cold in the summer and we’re sailing on Arctic waters, passengers are required to wear full body weather gear (which given the wind and rain, I’m quite glad they do!). They’re just trying to make us look more legit I think :)

in my wetsuit iceland

Unique Boating Experience

Being on the ship itself was one of the highlights of my tour. I had never experienced whale watching from a sailboat before, let alone a restored two-masted oak ship from the 19th century! North Sailing reclaims it boats from Icelandic fisherman, and rather than destroying them, they restore the ships to use as passenger & sightseeing ships. It’s such a unique sailing experience, with a safe and stable boat to enjoy. After helping to hoist the main sail, I have a new appreciation for how people back in the 1700s must have felt on a ship!

lines on the sailing ship

Sustainable Eco-Tourism

One of the things that really attracted me to Northern Sails was their commitment to responsible tourism and wildlife management. They strive to adhere to an active environmental policy that is rooted in the principles of sustainable development. Our tour was completely carbon neutral, because we primarily used sails to propel us. When we did use the motor, it was actually a battery-powered engine that is charged with renewable geo-thermal and wind energy from Iceland’s copious natural reserves. In addition to the ecological benefits, this type of engine is nearly silent compared to it’s fuel powered counterparts – making for a much quieter and more enjoyable on-board experience. I was really impressed with their overall business model and how actively they work to teach their travelers about the importance of responsible tourism.

sail boat iceland

Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better, more eco-logically friendly whale watching experience! From the great wildlife viewing to the unique on-board experience, North Sailing does an amazing job for summer visitors to experience authentic Icelandic nature.

Ready to start your whale-watching adventure in Iceland? Check out North Sailing today here

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Author: Megan Arz

I am a travel and food obsessed Midwesterner living in Chicago and dreaming of the world. I work as a full-time program manager for Greenheart Travel, but I am also committed to integrating the travel lifestyle into my every day routines. I am passionate about ethical travel, meeting new people, creating unique memories and eating local cuisine!

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