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Whale watching

Experience the giants of the sea!

Whale safari in Vesterålen .
Photo: Ismaele Tortella / Visitnorway.com
Whale safari in Vesterålen .
Photo: Ismaele Tortella / Visitnorway.com

This could be you!

... exploring Arctic wildlife at its best, in Northern Norway.

Whale watching outside Andenes, Vesterålen, Northern Norway .
Photo: Wanja Sandø, Maverix / Visit Norway
Whale watching outside Andenes, Vesterålen, Northern Norway .
Photo: Wanja Sandø, Maverix / Visit Norway

Feel the suspense of not knowing when they will suddenly appear on the surface ...

Whale safari in Andenes, Vesterålen .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen, Maverix / Visit Norway
Whale safari in Andenes, Vesterålen .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen, Maverix / Visit Norway

Then, a whale suddenly surfaces in the most majestic way!

Whale watching Andenes, Vesterålen, Northern Norway .
Photo: Stefan Leimer Fotografie
Whale watching Andenes, Vesterålen, Northern Norway .
Photo: Stefan Leimer Fotografie

It was wonderful – we cried! We have been waiting for this for years.

Krista Mutanen and Piia Katajapuu, visitors from Finland

Whale safari in Andenes, Vesterålen .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen, Maverix / Visit Norway
Whale safari in Andenes, Vesterålen .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen, Maverix / Visit Norway

Northern Norway is unique for whale watching, all year round! While orcas and humpback whales crowd the fjords in winter, you can expect to see sperm whales in every season.

Whale watching in Norway

These mighty creatures inhabit the Norwegian coast, showing off for tourists and locals alike. In Norway, the sperm whales, which can be as long as 20 metres, can be spotted along the Vesterålen coast all year round.

On board a whale watching vessel, the sharp and clean ocean air fills your lungs, as the ship steams out from the quay in Andenes. No one knows what the day will bring, because as with any other safari, it is the animals that decide when to appear. However, your chances here are good, as Vesterålen is the place in Norway with the greatest chance of seeing whales.

Around mid-winter, migrating herring attract humpbacks, orcas, and fin whales off the coast of Northern Norway. For the whales, the large volumes of these small fish provide a massive feast. The last few years, this phenomenon has mainly occurred in the Lyngenfjord/Alta area. Here, whale watching is organised by several companies. However, next year, the herring might decide to move somewhere else, and the hungry whales would then also follow suit. 

In the Svalbard islands, you can even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the biggest whale on earth, the blue whale.

If you are in luck, a whale safari is an excellent way of getting a close look at a tail fluke and learning more about these fascinating animals in their natural habitat. Sara Mesiti, biologist and guide at Whalesafari Andenes, hopes these experiences increase people's interest in marine life and preserving the oceans.

“It's a mix between an adventure and a research trip.”

Sara Mesiti, biologist and whale watching guide

The world's best whale watching destination?

Andenes in Vesterålen has a geographical advantage that brings you closer to the whales all year round. The large sperm whales thrive in a particularly nutrient-rich area northwest of Andenes called Bleiksdjupet (Bleik canyon). According to Sara, there is no other place in the Nordics where such a short journey can bring you to such deep seas, where there is such a high probability of seeing whales.

The whale safari ship and a whale in front
Whale safari (Whalesafari Andenes) in Vesterålen.
Photo: Stefan Leimer Fotografie

The winter whale watching season usually runs from mid-January to April, and summer season is from early May to early November.

If you are going on a safari with Whalesafari Andenes, you can take a fascinating tour of its whale museum, located in its whale centre. There are also safaris from Stø, on the tip of Langøya in Vesterålen. From here, the trip out to the whales will be a bit longer, but as a bonus you may see some seals relaxing on the rocky grounds by the shore, as there is a seal colony by the fishing village.

A whale safari is not just a ride out to the whales — it's a breathtaking journey with views of the Arctic fjords and landscape. If you don't happen to spot a whale on your safari, many providers operate with a 100% whale guarantee, where they offer you a new trip.

Check out a selection of whale safaris in Norway! Some are by RIB boat, others from bigger vessels and quiet hybrid-electric vessels.

Safety guidelines

Norway takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and wants to make sure that everyone follows some common rules to protect animals and the environment when venturing into the great outdoors!

Keep in mind that when you're on a whale watching tour, you're like a guest in the whales' home! Everyone who enters areas where they may encounter whales, must abide by national guidelines for whale watching. These guidelines apply to all vessels at sea, and both the general public, commercial tour operators, and others. 

Keep an adequate distance in order to avoid bothering or stressing the whales. You should under no circumstances try to attract the whales or touch them. For example, by feeding them, making noises, or using flashing lights, etc.

Select a tour operator that takes responsibility for the marine environment and that does not bend the rules. Regarding drone use, there are strict guidelines for operating drones around whales.

If you follow these rules, you will have an unforgettable, safe, and inspirational day at sea!

Sara Mesiti, whale expert

Guide Sara Mesiti on whale safari outside Andenes, Northern Norway

Originally from Italy, Sara is a trained biologist who came to Norway to study whales in the Arctic. Since 2014, she has shared her passion for whales with foreigners and locals alike as a whale watching guide.

"I have always had this dream about Northern Norway, being in nature and such," says Sara.

Whale outside Andenes, Vesterålen, Northern Norway.
Photo: Stefan Leimer Fotografie

The main attraction – sperm whales

The crew has heard some weak whale clicks in the far distance …

If you see the captain sitting with headphones on during the trip, it's because he's using a hydrophone tool, an underwater device that detects and records ocean sounds from all directions, to listen for sperm whales. They are known to be the loudest animal in the world, and their clicking noises can be heard as much as 3-4 nautical miles away.

They are also champion divers, and can reach depths up to 2,000 metres! The whales can stay below the surface for an hour and a half. Once they swim above the surface, they rest there for an average of 8 minutes. You can also recognise sperm whales from the air from their blowholes, which goes to the left at an angle of 45 degrees.

The last thing you see is the tail pointing straight up into the air (this is the moment to take a photo, quick!), before disappearing back down into the depths.

The whales may be below the surface again, but there is plenty of other amazing wildlife to take in. 

7 top whale watching tips 

Stay warm: dress in layers and bring waterproof gear.

Have your camera ready, and use a zoom lens for the best images!

Lower your lens for a while and enjoy the spectacular views that only Northern Norway can offer.

Talk to the crew! They will be more than happy to share their knowledge about different whale species and what to look for.

Be patient! The captain and crew will help by sharing their predictions of where the whales will pop up next.

Take anti-nausea medication 1-2 hours before departure if there is a chance you will get seasick.

Bring some snacks, salty snacks like crackers and chips are best, as they help with nausea.

Whale watching outside Andenes in Vesterålen, Northern Norway .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen, Maverix / Visit Norway
Whale watching outside Andenes in Vesterålen, Northern Norway .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen, Maverix / Visit Norway

Wildlife in Vesterålen

During your whale safari tour, you'll likely spot some other fascinating local wildlife too!

The birdlife along the coast of Andøya is incredible. Have you seen these small unique birds in real life before? Bleiksøya island is a bustling bird sanctuary. In the summer, it's home to one of the largest puffin colonies in Norway! Razorbills, guillemots, black guillemots, and cormorants also nest here.

Puffins in Vesterålen, Northern Norway
Puffins in Vesterålen.
Photo: Marten Bril / www.visitvesteralen.com

Get close to the bird cliffs on a guided safari trip. You are almost guaranteed to see the mighty white-tailed eagles on these tours too. Or maybe you want to try your fishing luck? Deep-sea fishing is a true Northern Norwegian Adventure!

On the mainland, you can have a close encounter with the king of the forest, on a guided moose safari. Perhaps under the northern lights in winter, if you're lucky!

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