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Whale watching in Tromso : when and how to see the whales and orcas ?

Seeing the whales during a visit to Tromso (a city you can discover here) is one of the must-sees. And for good reason, it’s a pretty great experience when you have the chance to see them! We will talk about it below, Tromso is an excellent place to see them, but under certain conditions, including dates.

You know me, I’m super fond of this kind of activities. As i’m still a (big) child, I did it several times. With more or less success, I must admit. It is in particular for that reason why this article will be very poor in photos. The first time, the weather was superbly ugly. Really cold, snow, wind. Well ok, it’s Norway during winter, it’s not very surprising, I know! And as it was at the end of the season (end of January), there weren’t many animals left in the sea. But I saw whales! We were able to get relatively close and it was super cool.
The second time was even later in the season, at the beginning of February. And while the weather was fantastic, nothing. So seasonality is really important, but I explain all that below.

Why is Tromso a good place for whale watching ?

That is a good question. Obviously Tromso is not the only good place in northern Norway. We have possibilities in the Lofoten Islands (mainly from Svolvaer), in the Vesteralen islands (all year long), Alta… because cetaceans roam all along the Norwegian coast.

But Tromso is a good place for several reasons. First of all, we know that there are whales, we are sure of it. It changes a little from one year to another, they tend to move towards Skjervoy (we’ll see that), their arrival and departure can vary by a week but it is a safe bet.

Then, it’s quite obvious but you don’t come up there just to see the whales. Tromso, as I present it to you here in many articles, is a great city in a great region with lots of things to do. Northern lights, landscapes, dog sledding, there are so many great activities to do here ! So your stay in Tromso will not be limited to seeing the whales, and fortunately! A sample itinerary can be found here.

baleines tromso

From Tromso to Skjervoy

So for a few years, the whales have migrated east of Tromso and more precisely to Skjervoy. It’s about a hundred kilometers from Tromso. But departures are always mainly from Tromso, we always book for the same excursions, but in general we leave from Tromso. Obviously you can do these tours directly from Skjervoy if you are in the area.

In general we do Tromso – Skjervoy by shuttle or bus (depending on the size of the group) but there are some agencies who make the trip by boat directly. This is the case of the new Brim electric boat. I will tell you about it below in all the options available. I was supposed to take it two years ago but since the whales were gone they canceled.

When can we see whales and orcas in Tromso ?

Well… it’s not all year round. It is in autumn and winter, it depends a little on the years. The period is shorter than before because of the scarcity of their food, because the whales and killer whales, once back up there, will follow the schools of herring in particular.

But roughly speaking, we will find whales and killer whales (they are visible a little longer) from the beginning of November and the end of January. But there is no exact science!

This will vary by more or less a week. But then you have to know that if the agencies are no longer running, it doesn’t mean that everyone is gone, far from it. This means that the probability of seeing them is much lower. You can watch to see fins from the coast. I’ve seen them, the locals see them from time to time.

How to chose your agency and boat in Tromso ?

So we have in Tromso many agencies, and you’ll have to make your choice according to several criteria:

  • the size of the group: I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like large groups. In general I prefer to pay a bit more to have something a little more confidential. Especially since large boats are often popular with tour operators. But they have the advantage of being cheaper.
  • reputation: above all, compare reviews, ratings, and the content of negative reviews. If it’s trifles or a bigger concern.
  • the type of boat: we will find different types of boat
    • the classic boat, quite big, on two floors in general, the one we will see most often. Discover it here.
    • the fishing boat, it happens that some outings in more confidential places are done with the fishermen and it’s nice. On the other hand, you have to see it directly at the port.
    • the electric boat, much more respectful of cetaceans, but quite imposing. Discover it here.
    • the zodiacs, the famous speed boats, with a lot fewer people but not very stable. On the other hand, you can get very close. Discover it here.
  • the price: because there is something for every budget. Basically it starts from 130€ and it can go up to more than 300€ by taking luxury boats. But let’s say that on average it turns out to be 150€.
observation baleines tromso Norvege blog vincent voyage

My recommendations

With all the info I’ve given you, I’m going to make it even easier for you with a little sorting. There are at least 6/7 agencies in Tromso, I will suggest 3 different ones. These 3 ones have a good reputation, are animal-friendly, and are reasonably priced:

  • Whale watching in a zodiac, at 180€, allows you to get very close to the animals and to be in a select committee (pay great attention to the current price evolution, sometimes it’s not worth it). With Green Gold of Norway
  • Observation by electric catamaran, at 150€. Departure from Tromso so no bus, and does not disturb the animals. With Brim Explorer
  • The classic and comfortable observation boat, a little more crowded, but less expensive. Priced 135€ with Arctic Travel.
  • Last but not least, the friendly little boat with Polar Adventure, 150€

Can we see whales and orcas from the coast in Tromso?

So… have you ever played the lottery? It’s possible yes, but really random. By staying a full season we can see them yes, they sometimes hang out in Kaldfjord, Tromvik or Sommaroy. Tromso itself is very complicated because there is a strong maritime activity, a lot of boats. But it’s not like in the Bay of Saint Laurent in Canada where you just have to land to observe them. There it will be much more due to a big stroke of luck. So don’t count on it too much I guess. Sorry. However, always take a look. I happened to see fins, seals and otters.

In conclusion

There you go! I think I’ve told you everything I know. Not many pictures because they were shy but mostly the weather was ugly when I did it in Tromso, but quite a lot of info and that’s the most important I think 😀 In Tromso the time range is reduced compared to Iceland or the Vesteralen (Andenes), we have roughly 3 months and several possibilities between the different types of boat. Knowing that in general it will be necessary to go to Skjervoy, but the company will take care of that.

And don’t forget you can also do dog sledding and feed reindeers in Tromso !

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