Attraction of the month, Norway: Experience Arctic wildlife up-close and at its best
TEXT: INGRID OPSTAD | PHOTOS © MARTEN BRIL, SEA SAFARI ANDENES
If you are looking for genuine Arctic wildlife adventures like whale watching, snorkelling with orcas and puffins, or photographing the spectacular Northern Lights, then Sea Safari Andenes is the ideal place to come to. Surrounded by stunning coastal and Norwegian fjord landscape, you are invited to spend an unforgettable time and experience Arctic wildlife up-close and at its most stunning.
At Sea Safari Andenes, you can watch whales, orcas, sea eagles and puffins from aboard safe and modern rigid-inflatable boats. If you are lucky, you will also see other creatures, such as coastal seals, harbour porpoises and dolphins leaping in front of you. “We can’t promise that you will see a specific species since this is the wild. We can, however, guarantee one thing: you will never forget this close encounter with nature and the ocean as long as you live,” says owner and general manager Marten Bril. The Dutch wildlife and photography enthusiast has combined his passion with two Norwegian co-owners to provide a unique sea safari experience.
Sea Safari Andenes uses three RIB boats, each with a capacity of 12 people, on their adventures. “In a RIB boat you are closer to the surface and closer to the whales, which provides a unique view of these huge, impressive animals at their own level,” Bril explains, while adding: “With these kinds of boats, less than five per cent of people get seasick. They reduce the risk greatly compared to bigger whale watching vessels.”
Something for everyone
The ocean outside Andenes is very deep and productive, which attracts many different species of whales and fish. Not only can you join in on whale watching and observe these impressive animals at close range all year long here, but there are plenty of other exciting activities during the different seasons.
“We have something for everyone who loves the arctic wildlife. Join our bird safari trips to watch white tailed eagles, gannets and puffins, among others. If we are lucky, we might also encounter harbour seals, harbour porpoises, otters or minks,” Bril says. During these bird safari trips, the boats stop by Bleiksøy, one of the most famous bird colonies in Norway with about 25,000 pairs of nesting puffins, auks and guillemots, before heading to Forøy.
During the winter months, a popular activity is to go snorkelling with the whales, while in the summertime, you can snorkel with the puffins. To watch these fascinating animals at close range under water is a once in a lifetime experience.
Learn how to capture the Northern Lights
Because of its location under the Auroral Oval, Andøy Island has a greater Auroral activity than most other places in the Northern Hemisphere. Here, at 69°North you have a great chance of experiencing the amazing Northern Lights after a day out on the sea with the whales. Away from city lights and mass tourism, you can see the stunning Aurora Borealis from the end of August until the beginning of April.
At the evening photography workshop, it is possible to learn more about this natural phenomena. Brill will help with the best camera settings to capture the northern lights before you can put your new knowledge into practice.
Positive sea experiences
With tourists coming from all over the world, Bril recognises a demand for unique outdoor ventures. “People are starting to notice how incredible this area is for experiencing whales the whole year. Of course it can be weather dependent in certain periods, but we are proud to offer tailored activities and focus on giving people a positive sea experience,” he smiles. “This means we do not go out if the weather is rough or the waves are too high. For this reason, we highly recommend that visitors allow for some flexibility during their stay, by adding a few additional days to better avoid disappointment during such circumstances.”
A new winter activity planned for this year is a project in combination with a large boat further up north. “It will be a six-day trip to see the orcas and to follow them while they are slowly heading down to our area,” Bril concludes.
What kind of whales do you see in summer?
In summer, you can observe sperm whales, which is the largest toothed whale in the world. There is also a chance to see pilot whales playing around the boat and chasing the waves, and sometimes, if you are lucky, you can see other kinds of whales and dolphins.
What kind of whales do you see in winter?
You can mainly see orcas, humpbacks and fin whales feeding on the herring in winter. They come around the beginning of January and by mid-February they leave, the orcas come back the first weeks of April. There are sperm whales here the whole year round.