A Day in the Life of a Whale Watcher

Gemma Bradley

21 Dec 2017

NWS Gemma recounts an average day's itinerary from her Norwegian whale watching trip

Swimming with Killer Whales in Norway is not for the faint of heart, but it is probably one of the most exhilarating and exciting trips you will ever experience! If you love orcas and want to feel completely alive, this is the trip for you!

7:30am: Wake up and have some coffee and breakfast.

8am: Get into your first layer of fleece thermals, put on two pairs of thermal socks and pack your waterproof rucksack with a spare top (either wool or fleece), spare waterproof outer gloves, hot flask of tea or coffee, water and boat snacks. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars, camera, GoPro and a decent harness.

8:15am: Put on your dry suit up to your waist and tie the arms around. Put on your middle layer (a down jacket is good) then a waterproof jacket on top, preferably with a hood. Once your hood is up and your hat, scarf and inner and outer gloves are on, you’re ready to go!

8:30am: Walk to the boat and catch the first glimpses of daylight. Around the 25th of November the sun stops rising over the horizon altogether here in Arctic Norway, but you still get great light and incredible sunsets for 4-5 hours per day.

8:45am: We set sail in search of birds circling either around a fishing boat or above a spot in the ocean. This is a great indication that herring are present, which usually means there will be lots of orcas in the area.

9am: Relax, have a hot drink inside the cab of the boat or scout for orcas out on deck!

10-11am: Find a large fishing net that has been placed by fishermen catching herring. These nets keep the herring enclosed until the huge trawler comes along to suck out all of the daily catch! Watch in utter amazement as hundreds of orca swim around the net, bobbing out of the water and diving down to eat the delicious herring on offer for them. Quickly pull on your dry suit, being careful not to break any of the seals. Get zipped up, put on your hood, gloves, flippers, mask and snorkel and attach your GoPro to its harness, making sure it is secure and recording. Then gently get into the cold Arctic water from the back of the boat.

11am-1pm: Listen to the instructions of Patrick Dykstra and his team to let you know where is safe to go, then enjoy swimming with these magnificent mammals! Bob and float in the water and watch the dorsal fins of families of orca swim right next to you! Look underwater to see mothers with their calves diving down to hunt for food.

1pm: Climb back into the boat, remembering to keep your dry suit on as this will keep you warm. Have a hot drink and take some photos topside watching the orcas and humpback swim beside the boat.

1:30pm: Sail back to town, making use of the last of the daylight to take fabulous photos of these beautiful mammals!

2:30pm: Get back to the lodge and take off your dry suit. Don’t forget to bring talcum powder to help dry the seals and get the dry suit off! Jump in a hot shower and warm up before making a hot drink.

3-6pm: Make some lunch and enjoy some downtime - read a book, take a nap or look through your incredible photos and videos by the roaring open fire.

6-8pm: Have a chat with Patrick, and watch an informal presentation about orcas and humpbacks and their behaviour. Learn all about these mammals and also about Patrick and his career that has been devoted to the study of whales for over 20 years.

8pm: After cracking open a cold beer or pouring yourself a glass of wine, jump in the hot tub or pop out to the balcony of the accommodation you are staying in. Watch the night sky to look out for the majestic Northern Lights as you see bright green waves dancing among the stars!

11pm: Head to bed when you are ready. The cold Norwegian weather and darkness can make you feel more tired than usual and your adrenaline often keeps you wide awake and alert on the boat. Relax in your warm, comfy bed and dream about what lays in store for the day ahead.

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