Swimming With Orcas in Norway

Swimming With Orcas in Norway

Imagine sharing the crystal clear waters of the Tromsø Region with its most famous resident – the killer whale! Contrary to their name, orcas or killer whales are quite friendly, inquisitive, and protective creatures. So, if you’re planning a trip to the land of the midnight sun, why not sign up for a fun and once-in-a-lifetime experience with an swimming with wild orcas expedition tour? But before you purchase just any package out there, here’s what you need to know…  

Is It Allowed To Swim With Orcas In Norway?

Yes, with most orca expedition tours being held during peak season, swimming with orcas in Norway is allowed. From exploring mysterious fjords and enjoying the coastal waters, you can do it all with family groups of orcas. And if you’re lucky, you might spot some humpbacks, too!

Although diving qualifications are not required, you must possess swimming skills. It will help to have strong endurance and stamina too.

You must also note that a typical orca expedition tour involves long hours on a boat. So, if you’re someone who is prone to getting seasick, this activity may not be suitable for you.

How Much Does It Cost To Swim With A Killer Whale?

With the peak orca season starting from the end of October to mid of January, our partner offers 3-day and 6-day tours in Skjervöy, Kvænangsfjorden, and Reisafjord in Northern Norway. Besides whale watching, this is the ideal time and place to catch the Northern Lights while greeting the sea eagles against the beautiful backdrop of High Arctic/Northern Norway. 

As such, the cost of the tours differs according to the activities and amenities included in each. The details are as follows:

  • MS SULA – 6-day trip in January 2023 (accommodates 12 passengers)
    • 6-day orca expedition with USEA lectures = Starting at NOK 57,000/person
    • Diving equipment including drysuit, snorkel, mask, gloves, fins, weight belt, aquafloat, and underwear/thinsulate = NOK 2,100/person
  • MS SULA & MS BERGSUND – 3-day trip in November or December 2022 (accommodates 12 passengers)
    • 3-day orca expedition with USEA lectures = Starting at NOK 30,000/person
    • Diving equipment including drysuit, snorkel, mask, gloves, fins, weight belt, aquafloat, and underwear/thinsulate = NOK 1,200/person
  • MS MÅRØY –  6-day trip in November or December 2022 (accommodates 16 passengers)
    • 6-day orca expedition with USEA lectures = Starting at NOK 55,000/person
    • Diving equipment including drysuit, snorkel, mask, gloves, fins, weight belt, aquafloat, and underwear/thinsulate = NOK 2,100/person
    • Biology Course by Dott Alessandro de Maddalena = NOK 2,500/person.
    • The course includes classes on classification, coloration, size, swimming, morphology, anatomy, habitat, reproduction, diet, and more about orcas.

For further information (and the terms and conditions) on booking and payments, we recommend submitting your contact details below, and we’ll get back to you shortly. 

What Does Your Trip Look Like?

Every year, during the peak season, the Troms region witnesses the largest gathering of killer whales, thanks to the herring track. So, even if we can’t pinpoint the best week/period for swimming with orcas, we assure you that you won’t be let down by a no-show. In fact, if the conditions are favorable, the tour guides may allow multiple swimming sessions throughout the day.

Besides the main activity, i.e., free diving and swimming with the whales, the liveaboard expedition includes comfortable accommodation with a professional chef on board. If you’re not the adventurous kind, you can stay back for a relaxing dip in the hot tub while your friends and family share the Norwegian waters with some whales. For freediving, dinghies will be available with a driver and guide each. 

Additionally, you will enjoy wireless internet onboard, and a hydrophone will be provided once during the trip for passengers to listen to whale songs in real time! According to the tour you choose, you will also be able to attend USEA lectures and biology courses. So, you will return home with picture-perfect memories and valuable knowledge about the world’s most mysterious mammal!

Speaking of the schedule, the tour day begins at 7:30 AM, with breakfast being served within the first hour. Thereafter, the boat will leave the harbor at 9 AM to look for orcas near the beautiful fjords. 

Some days you can greet the orcas early, but other times, it may take a couple of hours. Once you’ve spotted a pod of orcas, you can shift to the dinghies with your dry suits on. Here on, we recommend keeping your cameras ready for some glorious shots for the gram!

Later as the sun sets, the passengers can return to the main boat and enjoy a delicious lunch with a warm cup of soup or any beverage of choice. Then you’ll sail to the nearest harbor or bay to spend the night and call it a day with a hearty dinner at 6 PM. 

What Is The Best Season To Swim With The Orcas?

The best season to swim with the orcas in Norway is between October to January. But keep in mind that the number of orcas you witness may vary with the weather conditions, their behavior, herring track, etc.  

How Close Do You Get To The Orcas? Can You Touch Them?

Close! While there is no defined distance that one must maintain from an orca, we do recommend swimming side by side and not coming in their path. It is also best not to touch or feed them as doing so may cause stress to the mammal. 

Despite being known as “killer” whales, orcas follow a fixed menu of aquatic mammals, fish, and squid. So, the chances of orcas attacking humans are very slim, if not nil. However, for your peace of mind, we’ll add that there has been no instance of a verified fatal attack in the wild. 

Will You Be Snorkeling Or Scuba Diving With The Orcas?

Yes, the orca expedition tours include snorkeling or scuba diving with the orcas. You will be instructed on how to use the dry suit, and diving instructors will accompany you at all times. However, you must be an experienced diver to indulge in scuba diving. This will take place after snorkeling with the orcas and you will need to have at least 30 dives with a dry suit. This will make everything a lot more convenient and safer for you and the tour guides. 

Also, while snorkeling, you won’t be allowed to use tanks with orcas in the vicinity. This is to prevent the formation of bubbles, as orcas usually get scared of them.

Are Orcas Friendly To Humans, And Is It Safe To Swim With Them?

Yes, orcas are highly intelligent mammals and can sense similar intelligence from humans. Hence, they are usually friendly to humans or may be indifferent, but they won’t harm you unless you do something to stress them out. 

However, whenever you encounter cetaceans, you should never approach them head-on. Let them “scan” you and swim alongside you. Maintain a calm and slow speed within their visual/sonar field. But stay away from their fins/flukes. 

Also, make sure you never approach a calf. Mother orcas are very protective and will do anything to save their young ones from danger. In fact, J35 (Tahlequah), a Southern resident killer whale (SRKW), is known for carrying her dead calf for more than two weeks. Her unusually long period of mourning her calf’s demise attracted an outpour of sympathy all over the world. 

What About The Organization That Is Providing This Orcas Expedition Trip?

Whale Watching Tromsø is one of the top organizations in the country that promises affordable, sustainable, and eco-friendly wildlife tours. I have been in the industry for about 17 years, during which I have worked as a wildlife manager, zookeeper, and marine mammal specialist. Throughout Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, I have worked towards creating awareness of the importance of terrestrial and aquatic wildlife conservation.

Over the years, I realized I was drawn to aquatic wildlife the most. Dolphins, whales, manatees, and seals have always been my favorites, so I wanted to devote my life to protecting these species. 

Later in 2017, during my trip to Norway, I fell in love with the beauty of Norwegian fjords and landscapes. And that’s when I decided to combine my old passion for wildlife conservation and my new-found love for the country, resulting in “Whale Watching in Tromsø.”

Thereafter, I started collaborating with various other services to introduce more tourists to the mysterious wildlife of Norway. This orcas expedition trip is also a service provided to you in cooperation with one of my esteemed partners.

Is Swimming With Wild Orcas An Animal-Friendly Activity?

Albeit illegal in most parts of the world, swimming with wild orcas in Norway is allowed. However, you must ensure that you opt for a tour package that indulges in responsible and sustainable whale interactions. The guides and divers should be able to keep you safe while causing no harm and stress to the animal.

What Is Included In The Expedition?

The orca expedition in Norway includes comfortable accommodation in a liveaboard boat equipped with a hot tub, uninterrupted WiFi, and a Hydrophone. You’ll also be provided with bedclothes, towels, snorkeling gear (on rent), and more.

Other than that, the expedition includes a professional chef onboard to serve you delicious meals and tidbits. And for whale watching, you will get dinghies with a driver and guide each. 

Not to forget, if you opt for USEA certification, you will be able to attend the insightful lectures onboard. 

What Is Not Included?

The tour does not include flights or other transportation services to/from Tromsø. However, there is a free pick-up service from Scandic Ishavshotel to the boat back and forth. 

Additionally, we recommend carrying warm, comfortable clothes like jeans, sweaters, jackets, winter shoes, gloves, and hats. While using dry suits on rent, you will be provided with a thinsulate, but you should be carrying your own undergarments for regular use. Alternatively, you can carry your own drysuit and other snorkeling/diving equipment. 

Try packing woolen clothes over cotton and fleece, as wool is the best conductor of heat, so it’ll keep you warm during the chilly tour. Slippers are also recommended for more comfort in the boat. 

Also, keep in mind that you won’t be provided any video/photography equipment, so it is best to carry your own camera (or a GoPro camera if you own one). Other than that, always keep cash or credit cards, your flight tickets and passport, and travel insurance handy. 

What Is The Best Video And Photography Equipment To Capture Your Swim With The Orcas?

With more and more travelers willing to explore the mystical underwater world, there is no dearth of video and photography equipment for underwater use. However, choosing the best from the lot usually takes some experience. Hence, we’ll make the task a tad bit easier by suggesting some of the best video/photography equipment for underwater use.

Right off the bat, the Panasonic Lumix S1H is a power-packed mirrorless full-frame camera with 6K video recording. Equipped with a 24MP, full-frame sensor, this sturdy camera works well in low visibility and low light conditions, making it ideal for underwater photography. Not to forget, the 5 Axis Image stabilization with Dual IS 2 technology offers it an edge over other video cameras on the market.

Canon EOS 1DX Mark III and Nikon Z6 are also great options for capturing stable photographs and videos of a happy bunch of whales!

In case you are using any other cameras, we recommend investing in a zoom lens for the best results. You could opt for one with a focal length range of 55-200 MM or even a 200-500 MM lens if your budget allows.