The Arctic has long been known for its outstanding wildlife watching and dramatic landscapes. It offers numerous diving opportunities, but the real highlight is snorkelling with orcas in the middle of the Arctic winter!
Here are our top 12 reasons you need to go there now...
1. Go snorkelling and freediving with wild orcas
Swimming with orcas is a life-changing experience. Go Arctic liveaboard diving in northern Norway and you can snorkel or freedive with them to your heart’s content during 3 and 6-night orca safaris.
These huge predators are mesmerising to watch as they pass by and often travel in family groups, giving you the opportunity to see adults with their young.
2. Spot humpback whales over your morning coffee
If you like your morning coffee or tea on the wild side, it doesn’t get much better than enjoying a brew whilst scanning the horizon for humpback whales.
Daylight hours are limited during the Arctic winter and the Sula crew are up on the bridge looking for orcas and humpback whales at the first sign of light.
You can join in from the warmth of the boat, watching the sun turn snow-dusted mountains pink as humpbacks hang out nearby. It’s an idyllic way to start your day.
3. Watch huge herring bait balls in action
Hundreds of orcas gather in the waters off Tromsø each winter, following the migration of their main food source; Norwegian spring spawning herring.
This abundance of herring is a spectacle in itself and you can watch enormous herring bait balls swirling below your fins. It’s not uncommon to see the orcas hunting and feeding off these mega bait balls whilst you’re there.
4. Make orca-loving friends and laugh at the snow in your fins
There’s no two ways of saying this: snorkelling in the Arctic winter is cold, very cold, and you’ll need a sense of humour.
Whilst waiting for orcas, you’ll spend a good amount of time sitting on an open dive tender exposed to wind chills of -15°C and ready to jump in to ‘warm up’ in the 2°C water.
The sheer cold and amount of snow in dive fins is enough to make even the hardiest of divers huddle close. You’ll share more than a laugh or two about why on earth you thought this was a good idea.
A few seconds with the orcas though and you’ll be back on the tender raring to get going again, ready for your next icy jump overboard.
5. Eat some of the best food of your life
There’s good food and then there’s Sula food. This liveaboard has some of the best food we’ve ever tasted, served in abundance at every opportunity.
Foodie fans take note. You’ll be hard pushed to find a better dive safari chef than aboard the Sula. He can cater to any dietary requirement with ease and in style.
6. Spend time with a world class expert on orca behaviours
Pierre Robert de Latour is a renowned orca behaviour expert and delivers fascinating lectures about orcas during each Sula orca safari.
Passionate about his orca family, he will deepen your orca understanding and guide you in the water to get the best encounters you can imagine.
Stay close and follow his lead. Pierre knows exactly where to go and he doesn’t hang about.
7. Become an Undersea Soft Encounter Alliance marine mammal diver
As part of your evening lectures with Pierre, you’ll learn all about the correct protocol for swimming with orcas and become Undersea Soft Encounter Alliance (USEA) certified.
USEA is a global network providing the opportunity to snorkel with marine mammals around the world and focuses on respecting the wellbeing and wild nature of these animals.
By the end of your Arctic safari you will be certified by USEA for marine mammal snorkelling.
8. Watch the Northern Lights dance overhead
As you’ll be cruising remote fjords in your search for orcas, you’ll be far from any light pollution, allowing you to see the Northern Lights at their finest.
Imagine the night sky filled with swirling flames of bright green and pink and you get the idea. It’s incredible.
9. Explore remote snow-covered islands deep in the Arctic winter
Pack a pair of snow boots and you can go exploring on land during the evenings when the Sula is moored up.
You’ll get to see picturesque islands and walk through tiny communities far from the modern world.
Keep your eyes on the ocean, as orcas have been seen at night under the light of the moon.
If you’re feeling particularly active you can even go for a run. Just don’t forget to wear your ice cleats and layer up.
10. Discover Tromsø; an Arctic winter wonderland
You won’t want to leave your liveaboard after a week swimming with orcas but if it’s any consolation, Tromsø has lots to offer visiting tourists.
If you like snow, you’re in luck. This pretty city is blanketed in the white stuff for 9 months of the year and it can reach up to 6 meters deep.
Being an Arctic city, the streets and roads are kept well cleared of any snow.
Walk the waterfront and city centre to find intricate snow sculptures, cosy eateries and breweries tucked down side streets.
There’s a striking cathedral to visit and the views from the top of town are unbeatable.
11. Take a road trip to the iconic Lofoten Islands
If you have some time to spare, head out to the much-photographed Lofoten Islands.
This island archipelago has graced the covers of many travel magazines around the world and is truly beautiful in winter.
You can reach the islands easily by bus, by hiring a car or hopping on a regional flight.
If you’re going by bus or car, keep an eye on the forests fringing the roadsides. You’re likely to see moose foraging in the snow.
12. Experience Norway’s friendly welcome, pristine wild spaces and easy travel
Wherever you travel in Norway, take a moment to enjoy this famously hospitable country and the easy travel it offers. Ask locals for recommendations and go with the flow.
There are numerous regional flights throughout Norway that will connect you to vibrant cities, wilderness areas teeming with wildlife and waterfall-draped fjords.
Pack your winter clothing and enjoy.
This article was written by divers and writers at LiveAboard.com