Paddling with humpback whale and killer whales

Our trip was booked and planned a long time ago. For the last seven years, humpback whales and orcas have arrived in Kaldfjorden in north of Norway in the middle of November. However, this year everything went wrong. The whales decided to move to another place and then came Ylva.

Our dedicated guides work day and night the last week before departure. Why would we go to Kaldfjorden when there wasn’t a single whale? That was the whole reason for this trip. We wanted to paddle with whales. The decision was unanimous; we had to follow the whales. They followed the herring to Skjervøy, and we followed them. After days of logistics, we were accommodated in private homes by the dock.

Our guide, Laila

However, our problems wasn’t over yet. The storm Ylva had to make an appearance. The day before we arrived it was at it’s most powerful. The kayaks that we had rented was onboard “Hurtigruten”, and was supposed to be unloaded at Skjervøy. Because of the storm the boat couldn’t even go to dock, and all of a sudden, both the kayaks and our guides ended up in Hammerfest. Over 80 miles from our destination. After several attempts of getting back by car, and a local bus they strike luck and got a seat on a local plane. The arrived just before we did and was ready with the welcome dinner.

Anyhow, before we could sit down and enjoy the dinner we had some more problems. The express boat that was going from Tromsø to Skjervøy did not go. The boat wasn’t at the dock. We didn’t receive any messages, there was no note on the dock, it was just cancelled. Apparently this was normal during bad weather and we should just understand that it was cancelled! What should we do? It was already late at night and it was cold standing up and down outside. Should we take in to a hotel and hope that the boat would be on route the next day? Then we would miss a whole day of paddling. No, we had to move on today. Somehow. A 12-seat taxi came to our rescue. It was a four our drive, and we had to pay 6500 NOK. Nevertheless, we were now 11 person, so divided among us it was acceptable. Our 11th man we met on the dock. He was also on his way to Skjervøy to dive with the wales.

The harbour at Skjervoy

We arrived at 10 pm and was greeted with open arms by our two guides, Laila and Geir. Dinner was ready and we were very hungry. All problems last week, and the new one this last day had to be told over dinner. We needed to get it out of our system. Then we could plan for next day.
And what a day. We were up and around at 6.30 eating breakfast. It was still quite dark outside. Real daylight was between 10 and 14 so we had to make those hour count. Since all of our rental kayaks still was in Hammerfest, our host, had manage to borrow some new one’s for us at the local kayak club. We were 12 people sharing 10 kayaks, but at least we had kayaks. In addition, our host was 100 percent dedicated to give us a good time. He had a fishing boat and he followed us all day. This way it was easy to swap kayaks out on the sea or if someone needed a break.

Going out to the field

Around 10 am, we were all out in “the field”. The area between Skjervøy and Hakkstein. It was a rough sea. Too much for it to be ok to let go of the oar and take up the camera. Then, all across the bay, we saw a fishing trawler. Around the boat, we saw water fountains. First one, then another one, and all of a sudden the water was splashing all over the place. When the humpback whale come up for air, it blows the water up in the air. Makes it easy to find them. All of a sudden there where hundreds of whale in the area. They were all around us. They were passing right beside us. Right under our kayaks. They came from behind. The heart stopped several times. This was an extraordinary experience. Too much to process, not to mention, describe.  We had to discuss it over dinner. We saw through the pictures and the films we took. Then, when we saw how close we were, then we started to realize how big this was. And how lucky we was to experience such a great day.

Humback whales come up to breath

We were 12 people on this trip. Some of us knew each other before, others had never met. This great experience brought us together, and there was a new familiar tone. Our guide, Laila, wanted us too really get to know each other and she had prepared a personal quiz. She had gone through all of our Facebook pages and came up with some questions. We laughed a lot, but now we were all friends. In spite of a long day, and planning an early night, it got late before we got in bed tonight too. We set the alarm for early. Everything was planned in detail. We didn’t have a minute to waste.

The sea was a lot calmer today and so were we. Although we had to paddle a lot longer, we knew what was coming. What we could expect. Today we would enjoy the day much more. Again it happen so fast. From one minute to the next the whales where here. The humpback whales. The orcas. They were closing in on us. Around us. Under us. Do they know how high the fins are? Do they know how deep they have to go not to bump into us? It seems they had full control. Maybe they were a bit curious at us. Wonder if they could talk to us, or maybe play with us.

It wasn’t only us that was relaxed today, it seems the whales also took it easy. They were more playful. We saw a humpback whale take a jump. It sure is a big splash when 30 ton of whales lands flat on their belly. And spy orcas where popping up all around us. A spy orca is when the orca is coming vertical up from the water and just standing there. Looking around. The science cannot explain why they do it, but of course, they are curious to our world too. 

The orcas belong to the oceanic dolphin family and is a very social animal. They live in herds with 4-40 animal and can stay there for several generations. The orcas can weigh about 5-6 ton and the fins can be up to 2 meters high on the males. It is black by colour and is recognized by it’s characteristics white fields.  The color pattern is unic for each animal. The humpback whale, on the other hand, is not very social and prefer to be in small flocks or alone. The normal weigh for an adult is about 25-30 ton and still it can be hunted by the orcas. They rarely manage to kill an adult, but could easily take on a calf.

Our guide, Geir

An eventful weekend is ending. Too fast, and it’s wistfully to go to shore. But at the same time we are full of experiences. We return to Tromsø with a catamaran and being out on the deck, we get one last experience with the orcas when they put up a show around the boat. We share a great experience, we talk and laugh our way back to Tromsø. We hardly notice the big waves coming in from Lopphavet. We are on our way home and we already want to go back. 

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