Whale watching in Greenland | One of the best places in the world to go whale watching
Their size alone has made whales mythical, and Greenland is home to numerous whales – especially in the summer months. We guarantee you that you will never forget seeing the beautiful animals dive with their tails sticking straight up in the air, or if you are fortunate enough to see them thrashing around in the surface.
Video about whale watching in Greenland
A number of the whale species found in Greenland are preserved, while the other whales are hunted according to internationally defined quotas. Greenland is a nation of whalers, and it is a natural part of life up here that the large animals are hunted – as they supply a great deal of food as well as reserves for the freezer.
The Bowhead whale – the longest, heaviest and oldest
Weighing up to 100 ton, the Bowhead whale is ranked among the heaviest whales and is one of the heaviest animals to have ever existed. These whales sometimes live to be more than 250 years old and are thus the longest living mammal on earth! But not only their age is impressive: this whale reaches up to 18 metres, weighs up to 100 ton and lives in what is undoubtedly the planet's most beautiful regions around Canada and Greenland.
The Bowhead whale is an Arctic whale species, and in Greenland it typically stays near Disco Island by Qeqertarsuaq, during the spring months before heading for Canada in mid May. Your chances of spotting the world's longest living mammal are usually good around April.
The humpback whale – acrobat of the sea
The humpback whale is nearly as long as the Bowhead whale, up to 18 metres long but “only” weighs 30 ton and is therefore considered the acrobat of the sea among the large whales. When you see a humpback whale flip its tail, it will take your breath away. It is easily recognisable by its characteristic black and white patterns on the ventral (under) side, which it happily displays when flipping its tail straight into the air before diving.
You will usually find humpback whales by the west coast of Greenland, near Nuuk, Aasiaat and Qeqertarsuaq – but also around Sisimiut, Maniitsoq and Paamiut chances of spotting a humpback whale are really good. During recent years, humpback whales have also been spotted around Ilulissat.
Humpbackwhale in Greenland - Photo: Vadim Petrakov - Shutterstock
The minke whale – the lesser rorqual
The minke whale is a relatively small whale, measuring no more than 10 metres and weighing up to 10 ton. The whale is seen in fjords and along the coasts of southern and western Greenland, including in Disco Bay, typically from May to October. However, they have been spotted on many other locations in Greenland and during other periods.
The narwhal – the whale with the twisted tusk
The narwhal is a medium-sized toothed whale, typically weighing between 800 and 1,600 kg. It is mostly known for its characteristic tusk, which in some males can reach a length of up to 3 metres. In Greenland, the narwhal is most commonly in Melville Bay, the area surrounding Qaanaaq, as well as in the northeast of Greenland.
Narwhale in Greenland - Photo: Linda Bucklin - Shutterstock
The beluga – a medium-sized toothed whale
Like the narwhal, the beluga is a medium-sized toothed whale. Belugas are often seen in smaller pods of 5 to 10 whales, but have been seen in herds of several thousand animals. In Greenland, the beluga is common between Maniitsoq and Disco Bay as well as around Qaanaaq and Upernavik.
Capture them – using your camera
Naturally, you have not come to Greenland to hunt for whales – except for the ones you will capture using your camera. Therefore, it is more relevant for you to know where you have the best chances of meeting these imposing giants.
Whales swarm in Greenland's many fjords and the sea surrounding the island. Mid-summer through autumn you are almost guaranteed to spot whales near Paamiut, Nuuk, Aasiaat, in the Disco Bay and at Uummannaq. We write 'almost guaranteed', as we have to respect the free will of the whales and recognise the fact that they are not there for our entertainment.
Already in April and May, your chances of spotting the Greenland right whale near Qeqertarsuaq in the Disco Bay are good. When sailing, a useful tip is to stay close to the skipper or other members of the crew, as they are skilled whale spotters.
The smell and the sound
Experiencing whales up close often surprises travellers – not only due to the sheer size of the animals, but also their sound and sometimes their smell. The sound of whales is beautiful, while the same is not necessarily true of their smell. But imagine getting so close that you can actually smell them! The skippers and captains have great experience sailing safely near the whales, taking you as close as possible.
Guide to whale watching in Greenland
Download this guide about how to get close to the whales in Greenland. All you need to know about whale watching in Greenland
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