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  • Writer's pictureElding's research team

A look back at 2023 whale watching

The past year has been a spectacular one for whale watching in Iceland, marked by an abundance of humpback whales, minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, harbour porpoises, the occasional fin whale, and some incredible orcas. We want to show you our sighting data and share some of our best photos of 2023 to look back on a fantastic year, and to start looking forward to many more magical moments in 2024!


Humpback Whales

The humpbacks were particularly active last year. It's been incredible to get to watch them frequently leap out of the water, slap their pectoral fins on the water, and throw their peduncle up in the air. We often spotted the humpback whales hanging out in pairs or trios. Some individuals stuck around in the bay for a while, allowing us to get to know them and their unique personalities.


Tours with sighting of at least one humpback whale in 2023. Blue bars indicate a tour with humpback whale, grey bars indicate the total number of tours. Photo by Eline van Aalderink.


Minke Whales

Minke whales are usually elusive, but last year they've given us some amazing close encounters. Seeing them up close and admiring their sleek bodies has been very special. As per usual, the minke whales tended to be by themselves, however they frequently shared the same feeding area with multiple other individuals – great for us, because it often meant that everywhere we looked, we could see minke whales if we were in the right area!


Tours with sighting of at least one minke whale in 2023. Green bars indicate a tour with minke whale, grey bars indicate the total number of tours. Photo by Cindy Schwenk.


White-Beaked Dolphins

White-beaked dolphins are arguably the most social of Faxafloi’s ‘regulars’. They've often joined us on our boat trips, riding the bow and jumping high out of the water. We encountered many mothers with their young, and we are excited to watch them grow up and to get to admire them for a long time.


Tours with sighting of at least one white-beaked dolphin in 2023. Olive bars indicate a tour with white-beaked dolphin, grey bars indicate the total number of tours. Photo by Miquel Pons.


Harbour Porpoises

We had lots of short but sweet sightings of harbour porpoises. These small cetaceans are normally very fast and tricky to spot. However, on some days, there were so many harbour porpoises that they popped up all around the bay and we could hardly sail a mile without encountering a pod.


Tours with sighting of at least one harbour porpoise in 2023. Orange bars indicate a tour with harbour porpoise, grey bars indicate the total number of tours. Photo by Eline van Aalderink.


All these amazing experiences last year encourage us to keep looking after the animals and the ocean they call home. We're doing our best to study and protect Faxaflói´s cetaceans so we can all enjoy and learn from them for many years to come. We hope you'll join us as we continue to explore and protect these amazing animals and their home in the Icelandic waters in the coming year!



White-beaked dolphin jumping. Photo by Miquel Pons.


By Eline van Aalderink

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