For the last four years, the fjords of Kvaløya (Whale island) off Tromsø have received some spectacular visitors: large pods of humpback whales, orcas and the occasional fin whale feed on the large schools of herring that enter the shallower waters to spawn. Last year I spent a week-end kayaking with friends in Tromsø, watching humpback whales and orcas, and I was hooked. I have kayaked with pilot whales, bottlenose whales, porpoises and dolphins before, but the sheer size and power of the humpbacks and the orcas just blew me away. This year I’m back with a group from Terra Santa Kayak Expeditions, led by my friend Omer Singer. We’re going to spend ten days in these waters, and I must admit I do feel like the most privileged person on the planet.
Yesterday Anne Birgitte Fyhn took us out to Kaldfjord to watch the northern lights and to listen for whales. Standing there in the moonlit snow under a heaven full of northern lights, I could hear the whales blowing just fifty meters from the road, and I knew today was going to be a wonderful day!
Bjørn Tore Sørensen kindly drove us to Kaldfjord, and the minute we parked there, a large pod of orcas swam by, some of them had young ones that they kept very close to their bodies.
Then, as soon as the orcas had left, two humpbacks glided by, blowing as if saluting as they passed us. The whales were coming to us, and we couldn’t wait to get into our kayaks!
Immediately after we got on the water, we saw a large group of humpbacks breathing in the distance. We headed in that direction, but a speed boat approached , and the humpbacks elegantly lifted their tails and dove.
The speed boat passed, and suddenly like magic the whales reappeared all around us! I counted eight huge humpbacks, and they passed just a couple of meters away!
We encountered several pods of humpbacks on our way in the Kaldfjord, and many of them passed just a couple of meters from our kayaks. This is the beauty of watching whales from a kayak, they come straight up to you, check you out, and move on. If they don’t want you close, they let you know, either by blocking your path, by diving or by slapping their tail in the water repeatedly.
On our way to the lovely café Budeiene I said to Omer that we haven’t really seen that many orcas since we’ve been on the water. “It would be so lovely to come close to a pod”. Minutes later a large pod of orcas crossed our path, and the day was perfect! And to round off a wonderful day like this, we met with Anne Birgitte and Bjørn Tore for coffee and cakes at a window seat at Budeiene, where we could continue to watch whales while sipping coffee. Pure bliss!
Today we saw maybe fifty humpbacks, and maybe thirty orcas up close, and scores of them blowing. We even saw a huge fin whale in the distance! This trip has already made a lasting impression, and we have an entire week to go! I just have to say it once more; I just love my job!