Whale Safari in Aasiaat
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!
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.
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.
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.
We sailed on past small islands where Greenlandic Sled dogs were allowed to roam freely as they awaited the winter snow
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.
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.
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.
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.
As with all Greenlandic settlements, Akunnaaq is incredibly picturesque – it’s brightly coloured houses overlooking our approach to its dock
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.
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.
As always, the brilliantly painted houses and apartment blocks of Aasiaat welcomed us back
to our final destination – the dock of the Aasiaat Sømandshjemmet (Seamen’s Home).
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.