Whale til on a whale watching trip near Aasiaat

Whale Safari in Aasiaat

By
Lisa Germany
Verified Local

Aasiaat is renowned as a key whale watching spot in Disko Bay. Joining a tour dedicated to finding and observing these beautiful animals is also a great way of seeing more of the archipelago.

Almost every open boat tour in Greenland begins by donning a bulky flotation suit. The reason is twofold – to help save your life if you fall in and, more urgently, to keep you warm in the (at best) brisk Arctic air! 

Guests in flotation suits boarding an open boat in Aasiaat

Suitably attired against the cold, my fellow whale watchers and I boarded our vessel for a 3-hour sail to find the world’s largest animals near Aasiaat.

Whale Graveyard

Our first stop was a “whale graveyard”.

Whaling used to be a huge business in Greenland. And although commercial hunting for whales stopped around 50 years ago, you can still see bleached bones in areas where the old whalers would bring them ashore to butcher.

Whale bones under the water near Aasiaat
Surrealist painting?

It was like looking at a surrealist painting as we hung over the side of the boat and tried to distinguish the bones from rocks, silently begging forgiveness for the past.

Looking at whale bones at the whale graveyard near Aasiaat

We sailed on past small islands where Greenlandic Sled dogs were allowed to roam freely as they awaited the winter snow

Greenlandic Sled Dogs roaming free on an island near Aasiaat
Greenlandic Sled dogs waiting for the winter

And past a derelict “pirate” ship (actually a fishing trawler) that had beached itself when it misjudged where the deep part of the channel was in the fog.

Derelict and grounded ship near Aasiaat
Oops

Whales ahoy!

It took us about 30 minutes to reach where the Humpback whales were last sighted. There were 6 of them and we spent the next hour following them at a respectful distance – listening for their blows and trying to anticipate where they may resurface.

Whale blows near Aasiaat
Whale blows against the low-lying islands that make up the Aasiaat archepelago
Whale tale on a whale watching tour near aasiaat
Humpback whale tails have characteristic markings that identifies the individual

As always, whale watching is a game of patience, but we were well rewarded, and simply being out on the water is a joy in itself.

Whale til on a whale watching trip near Aasiaat

The settlement of Akunnaaq

Our quest for whales had brought us quite close to Akunnaaq – a small settlement of 70 people – so Søren decided he’d call in briefly to refuel.  There are other tours departing from Aasiaat that specifically visit this village, but ours was to be just a pitstop.

Approaching Akunnaaq settlement near Aasiaat on a boat tour
Approaching the small settlement of Akunnaaq

As with all Greenlandic settlements, Akunnaaq is incredibly picturesque – it’s brightly coloured houses overlooking our approach to its dock

Settlement of Akunnaaq near Aasiaat
Coming into the dock in Akunnaaq. I’d love to come back and have some hours in this settlement

and two of its young residents playing and fishing in the quietest of quiet towns. Apparently, when the large icebergs are near, all you can hear is the hum of the generator for the settlement and the cracking of ice.

Kids on the dock at Akunnaaq near Aasiaat
Kids fishing from the dock at Akunnaaq near Aasiaat

Return to Aasiaat

Our trip back to Aasiaat was along a different route and much faster than our trip out to the whales.  We passed a handful of big icebergs that had floated across Disko Bay from Ilulissat, though Søren said that there were far fewer than normal around Aasiaat this year.

Enormous icebergs against a sunset near Aasiaat
Icebergs and sunsets

As always, the brilliantly painted houses and apartment blocks of Aasiaat welcomed us back

Colourful houses of Aasiaat lining Disko Bay
Aasiaat houses
Apartment buildings along the Disko Bay in Aasiaat
Aasiaat apartment buildings

to our final destination – the dock of the Aasiaat Sømandshjemmet (Seamen’s Home).

Aasiaat Seamens home somandshjemmet

Plan your trip to Aasiaat

Million thanks to the wonderful Søren at the Aasiaat Sømandshjemmet for this amazing excursion. Although we didn’t see a huge number of whales or icebergs, it was a brilliant tour around the nearby archipelago and thoroughly enjoyable.

Aasiaat is one of the least-visited major towns in Greenland, but that simply means that you’ll be one of the first to get to know it! Check out Guide to Greenland’s comprehensive resource to get started on planning your visit.



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