Northern Norway: Day 7: Andenes-Svolvaer

In this day’s plan was participating in the whale safari in Andenes and after that driving to Svolvær. We didn’t schedule a lot of driving because we weren’t sure how long the whale safari would last and we didn’t want to arrive in Solver in the middle of the night.

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Route of the day: Andenes-Svolvær

The things didn’t really go according to the plan at all. Andenes is famous for successful whale safaris because the sea near Andenes deepens very steeply and there the whales like to be. They promise that if don’t see any whales on their safari they will refund your money or you can participate in a new safari the next day. There are three whale safaris per day in July and before it there is a guided museum tour (which takes almost an hour and a half) during which a guide tells you about whales. Only after that you are allowed onto the boat and to leave for the whale safari.

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Hvalsafari office

Our goal was to be on time for the first museum tour at 9:30 and the safari at 11. When we turned up at Hvalsafari office at 8:45 there was already a huge line, which moved forward really slowly. When we finally reached the sales clerk, all the sports for the first safari were sold out, but there was room on the next one with the museum tour at 10:30 and safari at 12:00. They promised that safari will take 3-4 hours. We thought about it a little bit and decided that yes, we will take it and have time to drive to Svolvær. We were asked to wait so that they could register the people, who have cleverly booked the safari in advance. We went to wait outside and it turns out that during those 30 min or so which we spent waiting in line, the weather has changed from sunny and clear to very foggy. The visibility was just a few tens of meters.

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Fog
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No more sea visibility

At this point we started to be really concerned that the entire safari would be cancelled, but the people at the reception kept convincing us that it will take place. We paid 890 NOK (approx. 112€) per person and started to wait for our museum tour, which was scheduled to start at 10:30. During the waiting time the weather wasn’t getting any better and Andenes was still being shrouded in thick fog. Then at 10:30 we were split into three groups according to language (German, Norwegian, and English) and we were off to the museum tour. The tour was pretty interesting, but not the main reason for us remained the whale safari. After the museum tour ended we noticed that the first group, whose museum tour began one hour before ours was still there and not at the boat sailing towards the deep part of the sea. The person at the reception told us that the captain sailed to the sea to check on the weather there and he’ll notify whether the safaris are possible today. Then we waited for a few hours more with everybody getting more and more nervous. The staff also seemed stressed because all the tourists were stressed and keep asking questions. They also needed to sell tickets to new people showing up and also sell some merchandise and to answer the phone. It looked like everything was just a huge chaos. There was a flow of conflicting information (e.g. we’re waiting for the info at x o’clock and then there was no info to tell) or they just shrugged and said that we must wait for the captain.

Then finally at around 2 o’clock we received information that the first group was set to depart on safari at 15:00. This is the group that was supposed to leave at 11:00. The next group (=our group) will be informed whether we can leave at 15:00. At that point I went to the desk to ask for our money back because if we needed to wait until 15:00 just to get the information whether we’ll be able to leave on safari or not, then we would depart probably at 16:00 and we would get back around 20:00 and after that we’d still have more than three-hour ride ahead of us to reach or next destination. In addition to that they told us during the museum tour that the safari sometimes lasts up to five hours and not the 3-4 hours, which was the normal length of the safari. In front of us was a couple, who asked to change their tickets to the first group and apparently some people in the first group cancelled, so they were bumped to the earlier departure. We decided to ask for the same thing we succeeded. I think that we got the last places for the earlier departure. We started walking towards the harbor, which was located within 10 min walk from the office.

When we arrived to the harbor the ship was just arriving back from the sea.

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One boat and a lot of tourists

We finally left from Andenes harbor and I was sure that we won’t see any whales at it was still very foggy.

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Visibility from the boat

The trip to deeper sea lasted approximately one hour. They served tea and bisquits on the boat. It was also rather cold despite the fact that we were wearing full biking gear and I once again would be very happy with a hat. I ended up wearing my neck guard as a bandana to protect my ears from the wind. There were some warm fishing jump suits available for people and I would’ve worn one for sure if I wasn’t wearing my biking gear with all the possible layers.

Finally we reached potential whale spotting waters and then we sailed for about half an hour until we spotted the first whale. It was pretty close, but what was visible is the water fountain and then the tail when the whale dived. About 20 min later we spotted the same whale once again with the same results. After that I was sure that we’re heading back, but we floated for a half an hour more and spotted another whale really close to the boat. At the point you could see a bit more of a whale itself in addition to the fountain and the tail. 🙂 The photos turned out bad because I was trying to look at the whale with my own eyes and not just through the camera lens. My main concern was that we didn’t disturb the whales on our safari and it didn’t look to me that they really took any notice of the boat.

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Whale
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Whale diving

So we spotted a couple of whales despite the visibility being less than stellar. Around the time we spotted the last whale I noticed that the second group was floating next to us and they were looking at the same whale. Our group travelled on a rather old boat while this group travelled on a fast catamaran, so their trip took much less time than ours.

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Catamaran

We headed back to Andenes and the catamaran group stayed to spot some more whales. On the way back a couple of passengers became sea sick and threw up, but the rest of the trip back was uneventful. They also served some basic bread and hot vegetable soup, which tasted for the most part like salt. It was already quite late and we didn’t get much to eat during the entire day, so we ate the soup and bread.

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Whale safari outcome

When we sailed back to the Andenes harbor around seven o’clock the second group on their catamaran caught up with us and they arrived at the same time as we did despite leaving an hour later. So if you don’t like to spend time on a boat, I warmly recommend selecting a tour on a catamaran.

When we finally picked up our stuff from the hotel the clock was around seven thirty. Luckily the trip to Svolvær went without incidents, so even though it was a bit foggy the weather continued to improve the southern we got. Finally even the sun came up. This was probably the best part about driving in Norway in July is that the sun always shines and there’s no need to worry about not seeing the road in the dark. The visibility is always great (unless there’s fog). 🙂

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On the way to Svolvaer
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Late night sun

We were supposed to have dinner on the way, but it was a) Sunday and b) late, so all the places along the way were closed. We were exhausted when we finally reached Svolvær around ten thirty in the evening and got the keys to the hotel and asked where we could park the bikes. Then we had to find a parking spot for the bikes in a rather full parking garage, but luckily there’s always room for a couple of bikes where the cars don’t fit.

When we finally got our things to our room and changed our clothes the clock was already eleven p.m.  Then we started looking for a place to eat and it turns out that everything is closed in Svolvær at this hour. We went to the hotel bar, but the kitchen has already closed, but the woman at the bar served us nachos with salsa. We were really hungry, but all the restaurants were closed and even the shops were closed already and most of the shops were closed on Sunday anyway. When she heard about our situation she served us nachos for free and also offered some dried cod as a snack. 🙂 Then we got a beer and a Coke and ate our nachos. I also ate the dried cod while boyfriend became nauseous just from the smell of it. 🙂

This hotel was the most expensive one of the entire trip. We paid 1420 NOK (approx. 178€), but at the time of booking there was nothing else left. We expected pretty high standards from this hotel and we weren’t disappointed. We stayed in a separate building, which was really clean and the design was really nice. The breakfast next morning was abundant and very very tasty. There was even a guy frying omelets according to the people’s wishes.

Finally some photos of our hotel room, which wasn’t very big, but was really nice.

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Thon Hotel Lofoten

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Thon Hotel Lofoten

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