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 Go Swimming With Killer Whales?

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:

Important: Based on our experience and collaboration with scientists, we have observed this season (2023) that the orcas are migrating further north of Norway. Recently the captains have decided that the expeditions will depart from Alta instead of Tromsø for next year’s season (2024/2025). Contact us for more information.

Expedition dates in 2024

  • MS SULA/ MS BERGSUND – 6-day trip in 2024 (accommodates 12 passengers)
    • 6-day orca expedition with USEA lectures = Starting at NOK 65,000/person
    • Diving equipment including drysuit, snorkel, mask, gloves, fins, weight belt, aquafloat, and underwear/thinsulate = NOK 2,500/person
    •  Available dates from November 2024
      • Week 45 – 02.11.24 – 08.11.2024 / (Including marine biology course*), Fully booked!
      • Week 46 – 09.11.24 – 15.11.2024 /  Fully booked! 
      • Week 47 – 16.11.24 – 22.11.2024 / Fully booked!
      • Week 48 – 23.11.24 – 29.11.2024 / 4 spots available 
      • Week 49 – 30.11.24 – 06.12.2024 / 6 spots available
  • MS SULA/MS-BERGSUND 3-day trip in November and December 2024 (accommodates 12 passengers)
    • 3-day orca expedition with USEA lectures = Starting at NOK 37,500/person
    • Diving equipment including drysuit, snorkel, mask, gloves, fins, weight belt, aquafloat, and underwear/thinsulate = NOK 1,500/person
      • Available dates:
      • Week 44 – 26.10. – 29.10.2024 / 11 spots available
      • Week 44 – 29.10. – 01.11.2024 / 10 spots available
      • Week 46 – 09.11.2024 – 12.11.2024 / 6 spots available
      • Week 46 – 12.11.2024 – 15.11.2024 / Fully booked!
      • Week 50 – 07.12.24 – 10.12.2024 / Fully booked!
      • Week 50 – 10.12.24 – 13.12.2024 / Fully booked!
      • Week 51 – 14.12.24 – 17.12.2024 /  6 spots available
      • Week 51 – 17.12.24 – 20.12.2024 / 5 spots available
      • Week 52 – 21.12.24 – 24.12.2024 / 11 spots available
      • Week 52 – 24.12.24 – 27.12.2024 /  9 spots available
      • Week 53 –  28.12.24 – 31.12.2024 / 12 spots available
  • MS SJØVEIEN 3 day trip in Oct – Dec 2024 (accommodates 12 passengers)
    • 3-day orca expedition with USEA lectures = Starting at NOK 47,500 /person
    • Diving equipment including drysuit, snorkel, mask, gloves, fins, weight belt, aquafloat, and underwear/thinsulate = NOK 1,500/person
      • Week 44 – 26.10. – 29.10.2024 / 10 spots available 
      • Week 44 – 29.10. – 01.11.2024 / 4 spots available
  • MS SJØVEIEN 6 day trip in Oct – Dec 2024 (accommodates 12 passengers)
    • 6-day orca expedition with USEA lectures = Starting at NOK 84,000 /person
    • Diving equipment including drysuit, snorkel, mask, gloves, fins, weight belt, aquafloat, and underwear/thinsulate = NOK 2,500/person
    • Week 45 – 02.11. – 08.11.2024 (Including marine biology course*),  1 spot left
      • Course Program : Classification, size, coloration, morphology, swimming, anatomy, reproduction, habitat, distribution, movements, social behavior, predatory strategies, diet, relationships with humans.
    • Week 46 – 09.11. – 15.11.2024, Fully booked!
    • Week 47 – 16.11. – 22.11.2024, Fully booked! 
    • Week 48 – 23.11. – 29.11.2024, Fully booked! 
    • Week 49 – 30.11. – 06.12.2024 / 6 spots available

Expedition dates in 2025

  • MS SULA/MS-BERGSUND 3-day trips in 2025 (accommodates 12 passengers)
    • 3-day orca expedition with USEA lectures = Starting at NOK 39,500/person
    • Diving equipment including drysuit, snorkel, mask, gloves, fins, weight belt, aquafloat, and underwear/thinsulate = NOK 1,500/person
    • January 2025 
      • 31.12.2024 till 03.01.2025 – 12 spots available
      • 04.01.2025 till 07.01.2025 – 12 spots available
    • November 2025
      • Week 47 – 15.11. – 18.11.2025 / 12 spots available
      • Week 47 – 18.11. – 21.11.2025 / 12 spots available
    • December 2025 
      • Week 50 – 06.12. – 09.12.2025 / 12 spots available
      • Week 50 – 09.12. – 12.12.2025 / 12 spots available
      • Week 51 – 13.12. – 16.12.2025 / 12 spots available
      • Week 51 – 16.12. – 19.12.2025 / 12 spots available
      • Week 52 – 20.12. – 23.12.2025 / 12 spots available
      • Week 52 – 23.12. – 26.12.2025 / 12 spots available
  • MS SULA/MS-BERGSUND 6-day trips in 2025 (accommodates 12 passengers)
    • 6-day orca expedition with USEA lectures = Starting at NOK 69,500/person
    • Diving equipment including drysuit, snorkel, mask, gloves, fins, weight belt, aquafloat, and underwear/thinsulate = NOK 2,500/person
    • January 2025 
      • Available dates: 11.01.2025 till 17.01.2025 – 12 spots available
    • November 2025
      • Week 45 – 01.11. – 07.11.2025 / (Including marine biology course) 11 spots available
        • Course Program : Classification, size, coloration, morphology, swimming, anatomy, reproduction, habitat, distribution, movements, social behavior, predatory strategies, diet, relationships with humans.
      • Week 46 – 08.11. – 14.11.2025 / 11 spots available 
      • Week 48 – 22.11. – 28.11.2025 / 12 spots available
      • Week 49 – 29.11. – 05.12.2025 / 12 spots available
  • MS SJØVEIEN 3 day trips in 2025 (accommodates 12 passengers)
    • 3-day orca expedition with USEA lectures = Starting at NOK 51,000 /person
    • Diving equipment including drysuit, snorkel, mask, gloves, fins, weight belt, aquafloat, and underwear/thinsulate = NOK 1,500/person
    • November 2025 
      • Week 47 – 15.11. – 18.11.2025 / 12 spots available
      • Week 47 – 18.11. – 21.11.2025 / 12 spots available
  • MS SJØVEIEN 6 day trips in 2025 (accommodates 12 passengers)
    • 6-day orca expedition with USEA lectures = Starting at NOK 85,000 /person
    • Diving equipment including drysuit, snorkel, mask, gloves, fins, weight belt, aquafloat, and underwear/thinsulate = NOK 2,500/person
      • Week 45 – 01.11. – 07.11.2025 (Including marine biology course*),  12 spots available
        • Course Program : Classification, size, coloration, morphology, swimming, anatomy, reproduction, habitat, distribution, movements, social behavior, predatory strategies, diet, relationships with humans.
      • Week 46 – 08.11. – 14.11.2025 / 12 spots available
      • Week 48 – 22.11. – 28.11.2025 / 12 spots available

 

For further information (and the terms and conditions) on bookings 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 orcas, 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 Does an Orca Expedition Boat Looks Like?

Bergsund

whale safari Norway

The Bergsund is a 27-meter-long boat that is 7 meters wide and has a depth of 3.5 meters. It is designed to accommodate guests with six 2-men cabins located below the deck. The boat also has five toilets and five showers to provide convenience and comfort to the guests.

The Bergsund also features a lounge area with seating for up to 20 people, which is ideal for hosting lessons or lectures during the trip. Additionally, the lounge area is equipped with a TV screen for entertainment purposes. One unique feature of the Bergsund is the hot tub, which is perfect for relaxing and enjoying the scenic views during the trip.

Sula

swimming with orcas

The Sula is a spacious vessel measuring 27 meters in length and 6 meters in width, boasting a depth of 3.70 meters. It is capable of accommodating up to 16 guests comfortably with its seven cabins. The sleeping quarters consist of three 2-men cabins situated below the deck, three 2-men cabins situated above the deck, and one 2-men cabin located on the top deck.

The vessel boasts a lounge area with ample seating for up to 16 guests, making it ideal for hosting lessons or lectures during the journey. The lounge is also equipped with a TV screen for entertainment purposes. Additionally, guests can indulge in the hot tub on board while soaking up the stunning scenery. The Sula also features three toilets and two showers, providing guests with convenient amenities.

Sjøveien – Most Luxury! 

best time for whale watching in norway

The Sjøveien is a stunning boat that boasts impressive specifications and features. At 40.65 meters in length and 8.00 meters in width, this boat is spacious and comfortable. It can accommodate up to 20 guests with a total of eight cabins, including two 2-men cabins with windows on the main deck, one suite with a double bed and a window on the main deck, one suite with a double bed and a window on the upper deck, and four 2-men cabins with port hole windows below the deck. Private rooms for a single person are also available on this expedition

Each of the cabins on the Sjøveien comes equipped with a private bathroom, shower, and toilet. This ensures that guests can enjoy the privacy and comfort they need during their trip.

The boat also features a lounge area with seating for up to 24 people, which is perfect for hosting lessons or lectures during the trip. The lounge area is equipped with a TV screen for entertainment purposes.

What Is The Best Season To Swim With 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.  

swimming with orcas

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 reviews 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  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 local operators 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 Alta pick up point. However, there is a free pick-up service from Thon Hotel Alta 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.