Whale sightings on North Sailing tours from 1995 – 2023

Since the first whale watching tour from Húsavík back in 1995 our crew has kept logbooks from each and every trip. They keep track of which whales are seen on the tour, write about the weather and sea conditions as well as document any surprising behaviour or happening, like a breaching humpback whale or spy-hopping minke.

Humpbacks, Minke and Orcas
Humpbacks, Minke and Orcas in Skjálfandi Bay

As of now, we have 29 years (1995 – 2023) of data giving us a very interesting insight into the development of cetacean life in Skjálfandi Bay. We can see that the number of tours has increased from year to year but also more whales and whale species have been spotted as years go by.

97,2% overall whale sightings in Skjálfandi Bay

For the last 29 years (1995 – 2023) the overall whale sightings in Skjálfandi Bay is a noteworthy 97,2%. No wonder Húsavík is considered the whale capital of Iceland and Skjálfandi Bay an acclaimed place for great whale watching!

The overall sightings take into account both the summer season (May - September) and the winter season (March - April and October - November). Please note that the average sighting success is usually even higher during the summer months (approx. May - September) compared to the winter season where sightings can be slightly lower (est. around 80%).

By looking over this long period of whale sightings in the Bay it is also good to mention the fact that in earlier years, we were sailing only during the summer months, while we have in recent years extended our season further into the winter, now running from the beginning of March until the end of November.

What are the most common whale species?

Looking at the data from the logbooks in the last 29 years gives a great insight into what whale species are the most common in Skjálfandi Bay. In the first 15 years, the Minke Whale was the most common species to be seen in Skjálfandi Bay but around 2006 the Humpback Whale sightings started to rise and in the last ten years the Humpback Whale has been by far the most common whale to be seen during the tours. Since the beginning the White-Beaked Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise have also been frequently seen on the tours.

In addition to the common whale species, we also see some other species in Skjálfandi Bay, such as fin whales, killer whales, northern bottlenose whales, sei whales, sperm whales or long-finned pilot whales. But these species are only seen from time to time and are rather rare visitors to Skjálfandi Bay.

The best time to see them

We are sailing from the beginning of March until the end of November and the most reliable months for whale watching are during the high summer when the baleen whale species such as humpback whales, minke whales and sometimes even blue whales are visiting our waters to feed.

While Humpback whales and minke whales can regularly be seen from early spring until the end of the year, the mighty blue whales are rather seen during the spring or early summertime, and most sightings have occurred in April, May and June in recent years. But even then, blue whales are a rare and special sight in the bay and are by far not as common as humpback or minke whales. Playful white-beaked dolphins are mainly seen during the summer months, with a peak in June/July/August, while their smaller cousins, the harbour porpoises, can be seen during the whole year in Skjálfandi Bay. Especially the off-season months at the beginning or at the end of the season can sometimes also bring rare visitors to these waters, like fin whales or killer whales, for example.

But one of the nicest things about whale watching is: anything can happen, you never know which species you will spot on your tour and you could basically encounter any species at any time during the whale watching season.

Logbooks 1995 - 2023

For a closer look at the development and statistic every year, feel free to browse our logbooks below. If you have any questions, just stay in touch, we are always happy to take a closer look.