Marten Bril

Join a whale safari in Vesterålen to meet the giants of the seas

At the edge of the deep sea, just outside Vesterålen, 20-metre long giants roam. Go out with Arctic Whale Tours and meet the sperm whale.

Vesterålen is located in one of the world’s richest and most abundant ocean areas. That’s why some of the world’s largest animals flock here, and you have a chance to get up close and personal with creatures that normally live their lives far out to sea.

Sperm whales are not ones for romance

15–20 metres long and weighing in at 45–57 tons—the sperm whale is an aloof ocean giant. Sperm whale males are the ones hanging around outside Vesterålen. The females, significantly smaller than the males, favour the waters around the Azores in the Mid-Atlantic. Every now and then, the males come rushing in from various colder regions, fighting for the ladies. Only the strongest ones get to mate. The largest male is richly rewarded; he gets a whole harem of females to defend against love-sick suitors. The vanquished and the rejected are forced to swim home with their tails between their… well, as you can see, the dating game in the ocean is more brutal than Paradise Hotel.

Practical information about Whale tours in Vesterålen

Arctic whale tours have their own website with all the information you will need about planning your trip.

The Arctic Whale tours season runs from June 1st to August 31st.

Visit Vesterålen have a great webpage with all the information you need about planning your trip.

The Young and virile become warriors of the deep

The females hang out in large flocks in the warmer waters around the Azores, forming a ring around the calves to protect them when the males attack. Girls got to stick together! The males, however, swim north to colder waters, so they don’t eat all the food the calves need. Outside Vesterålen, they feed constantly to get bigger and stronger, because size definitely matters. Younger bulls beef up in the hope of attracting the ladies, whereas many middle-aged bulls have given up on the ladies entirely, spending the rest of their lives foraging in Vesterålen. They feed on Greenland halibut and squid, and giant squid and sperm whales fight to the death 1000 metres under the surface. Older sperm whales often have large scars after intense battles.

Stop by the birdcliff to see some classic Norwegian coastal birds

On the return, the boat stops by Anda, which is a lighthouse and bird cliff. Black-legged kittiwakes, razorbills and kittiwakes nest in the steep cliff faces, puffins have burrowed into the grassy hills, and great cormorants and European shags sit in the talus, drying their feathers. High above it all, the white-tailed eagle soars. Eagles hunt and eat a couple of seafowl a day.

Sperm whales are not the only wildlife on offer

The ocean outside Vesterålen is among the richest waters in the world, so even if the sperm whale is the main attraction, chances are good you’ll see a lot of other species too. En route, you can see the Arctic fulmar sail elegantly around your boat. When we came out, we also saw killer whales hunting around our boat. Sightings of porpoises, minkes and dolphins are common. On the way out of the harbour, you often see harbour seals resting on the rocks. The destination, however, is the sperm whale fields, and the operator offers a whale guarantee: If you don’t see whales, you get to go out again for free. They have a 95-percent success rate.

Whale encounters are a special moment

In order to encounter the whales, you have to go all the way out to the edge of the continental shelf, where the deep ocean begins. This edge is just a short boat ride out from Vesterålen. From Stø on the tip of Langøya, it only takes about an hour. Then you have to be prepared for some waiting, but suddenly the whales appear. A long, grey back bobs in the waves, and water sprays out of the breathing hole on top. For several minutes it rests there, allowing its muscles to fill with oxygen. Then the whale slowly lifts its tail, folds it out against the horizon and slowly dives again, staying under for at least 20 minutes. Guests on whale safaris are generally struck dumb with awe while the whale is at the surface. Cameras click all over the boat when the tail rises in the air. And then, once the whale is back in the deep, you can hear the buzz of excited conversation.

The whale safari is non intrusive

One might imagine that boats full of tourists can be quite stressful for the whale, and it’s true that many places around the world, whale safaris have led to stressed whales with behavioural issues. Operators in Vesterålen take this issue very seriously, and Arctic Whale Tours comply with standards for maintaining a certain distance to the animals and how long to stay near each whale. These standards have been developed in collaboration with marine biologists. So you can rest assured that your whale encounter did not cause the whale any annoyance or distress.

Keep in mind that nature requires some flexibility

Arctic Whale Tours’ boat takes 65 passengers, which is a fairly small group of people. There are comfortable and warm lounges inside, lunch is included and hot beverages are available. Whale safaris are subject to the weather, and if wind and current conditions are not favourable, the tour will be cancelled. It’s a good idea to spend a few days in Vesterålen and see all the other things this green archipelago has to offer. Be flexible with the dates. Even on a warm summer day it’s cold out on the water, so remember to bring warm and windproof clothing. Medication for motion sickness is also a good idea, especially if you have not experienced heavy swells before.