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Travel Trade

Spotting huge whales is big business in Northern Norway

Tourism in Northern Norway is thriving, and the opportunities for whale watching is seen as part of the explanation.

Whales. These big mythical mammals have an enormous attraction on humans, and Norway has some of the world’s best spots for whale watching.

At least according to The Telegraph, a British newspaper that sent zoologist and tv presenter Mark Carwardine to the Norwegian village of Andenes. He came back with the following glowing report:

“Many of the residents of this picturesque Norwegian village, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, can watch whales from their beds, kitchen sinks and desks. They just have to look up, and there they are – just offshore, blowing, breaching, lobtailing and fluking,” writes Carwadine.


Andenes has offered whale safaris since the 1980s, and is one of the places in Norway with best chances of seeing whales close to the shore. Carwadine observed a great variety of them on his trips:

“On most trips, we saw whale blows literally within minutes of leaving Andenes harbour. There were killer whales patrolling the shoreline in close-knit family groups, heavy-breathing humpbacks in twos and threes, gangs of giant fin whales (the second-largest animals on the planet) slicing through the melee like riot police with linked arms; and, in deeper water offshore, individual sperm whales catching their breath after long dives into the cold, dark depths of the fjord.”

Over the last few years, Northern Norway has experienced a tremendous growth in tourism, and the oppurtunities for whale watching are seen as an important factor. One of the companies offering whale safaris in Andenes (Hvalsafari AS) has seen a 400 per cent growth in revenue from 2014 to 2015.

Meanwhile, the hotels in Northern Norway recieved 25 per cent more foreign guests in 2015 compared to 2011, according to Dagens Næringsliv, Norway’s leading business newspaper. Suddenly, the airports in the North get requests for landing permits for private planes from all over the world.


“We are getting reports of tourists overwhelmed by emotion after seeing whales up close. Many of them are crying. It’s an animal that used to be faced with extinction that is now returing, and the stocks are increasing in the Norwegian fjords. Some experience this as some sort of forgiveness,” says Britt Kamvik, professor at the Insitiute for tourism and northern studies at the Arctic university of Norway.

Social anthropologist Eugene Guriby has researched the relationship between humans and animals, and see the increasing popularity of whale watching as a sign of the times.

“Nature itself is the new zoo. To seek close encounters with wild animals has become an industry. People don’t want cages and glass barriers anymore,” says Guriby to Dagens Næringsliv.


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