Quick update from Iceland.. Just 5 species
So this clearly wasn’t a mammal-watching trip…
We saw 5 species: Grey and Harbor seals at Ytri-Tunga point on Snaefellsnes (both species are always present).
Then at Husavik we took a whale-watching excursion with North Sailing. They have a 94%-96% success rate. Despite that statistic, on the afternoon tour we only saw 1 species: Harbor Porpoises (which at least I got a decent picture of). Then they gave us vouchers to go again for free the next morning. Only my sister and I went, and we got Humpback Whale, and my only lifer for the trip (I think): Minke Whale, which was too quick to photograph.
As Sabrina Bando so kindly advised me, white-beaked dolphins are best seen at the bay of Reykjavik (better seen from a boat, though we didn’t have time) than anywhere else around the island. Blue whales are almost guaranteed during July in Husavik while whale watching.
I also had my eye out for arctic fox which isn’t terribly uncommon around the island. Perhaps the best place for seeing them is in the West Fjords, specifically around the Arctic Fox center. Though a bit disappointed, I’m not too worried about it because I know I will see this species elsewhere. They can be seen sometimes in Snaefellsnes national park, Skaftafell National Park, or around Vik. Though Icelanders do not like them and will shoot them or call an exterminator if they see them anywhere because they sometimes attack sheep.
I think there is a tiny population of polar bears on one of the off-shore islands in the North, but you would clearly not choose Iceland as your polar-bear watching destination.
Otherwise, it’s an amazing country!
Further to my earlier comment, I have just received this link from Laki Tours which gives a good idea of what conditions are like for whale-watching at Holmavik – not another boat in sight! https://www.facebook.com/LakiToursWhaleWatching/videos/919635905073632/
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thanks for this post. My wife, Ingrid, is half-Icelandic and we are regular visitors. I agree it is not a prime a mammal-watching destination but there are many other reasons to visit, as you say. There is good whale-watching from Husavik and it has become the centre of industry with North Sailing being the local tour operator of choice. But anyone planning a wale-watching trip in Iceland should also consider Láki Tours which operates out of Hólmavík in the Westfjords and Grundarfjörður and Ólafsvík on Snaefellsnes, all three destinations offer great opportunities to see a variety of cetaceans but are currently little known and Láki is the only company operating out of Hólmavík. We took trips with them from Holmavik on two consecutive days this year and had some the best whale-watching we’ve experienced anywhere – you can see White-beaked dolphins there too.
You are right, Icelandic Arctic foxes are best seen in the Westfjords, especially in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. But elsewhere they are, as you say, widely persecuted and extremely elusive. Borea Adventures runs dedicated fox tours: https://www.boreaadventures.com
Apart from the seals you can see (introduced) reindeer if you know where to look – we haven’t found them yet! But apart from al that there is some great bird-watching with a chance of white-tailed eagles and gyr falcons – if you like that sort of thing!
Best wishes for your next trip – wherever that may take you,