Iceland Diary - A Paradise for Animals
My primary goal when preparing this Icelandic trip was to see, live, enjoy and photograph some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the world. But when you see how rich the Icelandic wildlife is, there is no choice but to enjoy it the same way. I already wrote earlier that Iceland is a paradise for birdwatching. However, when I wrote that I had not yet seen what I have seen the four last days in Snæfellsnes national park and in the West Fjords. I can confirm it now more than ever : Iceland is a real f***ing paradise for birdwatching and wildlife in general!
Everything begins in Hellnar, a small town in Snæfellsnes national park. We are enjoying a sunbeam with a cappuccino on a terrace when suddenly something appears from the water, far away. I grab the goggles and a few seconds later there is no more doubt : killer whales (2 adults and 2 cubs) are enjoying the sun as much as we do. A few hours later, as we are watching a dozen of guillemots and razorbills nesting on a huge rock over the sea, Céline sees something else, a bit further. They are too small and too numerous to be killer whales … it is actually a whole lot of dolphins.
After having set up the tent in a camp site, we decide to drive a few kilometers away. We have heard that seals can be seen around here. First spot, no seals. Only ducks and gulls, a usual. Second spot, no seals. But it is quite a beautiful cliff over the infinite ocean. We then decide to have a walk under the light of the setting sun before going to bed. We stop on a place where we can see thousands of terns and gulls feasting. Seems like there is a lot of fish in these waters. We can even see them jumping out of the sea! All of a sudden, a few meters away, a breath. As we turn our head, ten meters under our feet a whale appears. It is a matter of seconds before it slips into the dark water as quick as it showed. We are enthralled. Each time it shows, the young Icelanders fishing and drinking in the same place are enjoying the same show … louder : “WOOOW!”. A really, really great moment. This day is truly blessed!
Then, we had planned to visit Snæfellsjökull glacier but unfortunately the road is no more practicable for regular vehicles. We have to resign and continue our trip to the West Fjords. After a seven hours of driving on terrible but wonderful roads, we finally arrive in Látrabjarg. Látrabjarg is a very remote place renown for these birds I have been dreaming to see since I visited Britannia, France, with my parents when I was a kid. At this time, I even used to collect postcards with photographs of them : puffins.
I will probably remember this moment all my life. We are all alone on the puffin cliff. Despite — I would rather say “Thanks to”– the late hour, they are dozens. And they are not afraid at all. We can almost touch them. 30-50 centimeters seems to be the closest we can get to them before they fly away. We spend here a couple of hours. We are lucky enough to see them seducing partners, “kissing” each other with their beak like Eskimos (at least, it looks like that), building their nest under the ground, sleeping, … Those pidgin-sized creatures have definitely the maximum cuteness factor ever! We could have stayed all night long to observe them … and that’s almost what we did as we left around 5 AM.
The day after, we go back to the cliff during daylight. Most of them are gone fishing. On the other side, some other strange birds replaced them : tourists! We then move away from the puffin’s cliff and sit down in front of the huge bird’s rock, next to our friend, a discreet puffin. Together we take some time watching the birds carefully. Some are brooding, some already have chicks to feed.
Look at the chick and the eggs on the left side … Isn’t it cute? ;)
This is a wonderful show for the eyes and the ears (not for the nose unfortunately!). Birds feel so confident with us that a razorbill comes very close. Good occasion for a portrait! Then a fulmar parading to seduce the female next to us. We feel like we are part of the wildlife. This is an incredible sensation, one of which I never experienced before and that I would like to live everywhere.
But we have to leave for our next destination. We drive through the steep roads of the West Fjords with a colorful sunset/sunrise. We enjoy the show all the way through the huge fjords until we arrive to the camp site for a good plate of pastas … at 4 AM! ;)
And because I am such a nice guy, here is an extra photograph of a puffin, because they are so cute! ;)