Snorkeling with whales: orcas & humpback whales in Skjervøy, Norway

Snorkeling with whales: orcas & humpback whales in Skjervøy, Norway

Boat Tour • Whale Tour • Snorkeling Tour

from AGE ™ Travel Magazine
Released: Last update on 4,2K Views

Snorkel with orcas and humpback whales!

Whale watching is wonderful and often downright magical. And yet – have you ever wished you were next to them? Not on the protected boat, but free in the cool water? Wouldn't it be amazing to see the whole whale? The full extent of his elegance? Underwater? In Skjervøy this dream becomes reality: in the winter season you can admire orcas and humpback whales in the wild and, with a bit of luck, snorkel with the whales.

For years, the city of Tromsø was considered a mecca for whale watching and snorkeling with orcas in Norway. Then the orcas moved on: They followed the swarms of herring north. Since then, the small town of Skjervøy, about 3,5 hours' drive from Tromsø, has been an insider tip for snorkeling with whales in Norway.

From November to January, snorkeling with orcas and humpback whales is possible in the protected fjords near Skjervøy. Fin whales and porpoises are also rarely spotted. So let’s get into your drysuit! Take the bold plunge into your personal snorkeling adventure and experience whales underwater in Skjervøy.

Experience orcas while snorkeling in Skjervøy

“A group of orcas has turned and is coming directly towards us. I excitedly watch their sword-shaped dorsal fins and quickly adjust my snorkel. Now it's time to be ready. Our skipper gives the command. I slide into the water as quickly and as quietly as I can. I stare in awe through my diving goggles into the dark Norwegian water. Two orcas glide past below me. One turns his head ever so slightly and looks up at me briefly. A nice feeling. As we are about to climb back into the boat, our skipper gives a signal. Something is different than before. More orcas are coming. We stay. Air bubbles roll past me. A single dead herring floats towards the surface. My heartbeat quickens. Hope. An orca swims past me – incredibly close. Then he slides into the depths. More air bubbles. First songs. And suddenly there is a huge shoal of herring below me. I'm cheering inside. Yes, today is our lucky day. The orca hunt begins.”


Would you like to experience the hunt of the orcas? In the AGE™ experience report you will find all our experiences snorkeling with whales in Skjervøy and many beautiful photos of the hunt: With diving goggles as a guest at a herring hunt of the orcas

AGE™ has four whale tours in the month of November Lofoten Oplevelser took part in Skjervoy. We experienced the fascinating encounter with the intelligent marine mammals above and under water. Although the tour is called “Snorkeling with Orcas in Skjervøy”, you also have the best chance of snorkeling with large humpback whales. Ultimately, the sightings of the day will decide where you jump in the water. No matter whether we were able to experience the beautiful killer whales or the massive humpback whales underwater on a tour in Skjervøy, snorkeling with the whales was always a unique experience that touched us deeply.

Before your whale tour you will be with one Dry suit and all the necessary equipment. As soon as you are prepared for the cold Norwegian winter, let's get started. Well packed, you board a small RIB boat with a maximum of eleven other adventurous people. Whales are often spotted just beyond the harbor of Skjervøy, but sometimes a search is necessary. Please also be aware that whale behavior or weather sometimes makes snorkeling impossible. We were lucky: we were able to see humpback whales every day while whale watching in Skjervøy and saw orcas on three out of four days. We were also able to actually get into the water and snorkel with whales on all four days in Skjervøy.

It is particularly important to always be ready to go and have your snorkel ready in case you suddenly go into the water. The encounter with migrating orcas or humpback whales underwater often only lasts a few moments, but they are unique and will remain in your memory. Many people dream of snorkeling with hunting orcas in Skjervøy. However, finding eating orcas is a matter of luck. On the fourth tour we were actually able to experience this highlight in person: a group of orcas hunted for herring for a good thirty minutes and we were right in the middle of it. An indescribable feeling! Please remember that whale watching is always different and remains a matter of luck and a unique gift of nature.

Wildlife ViewingWhale Watching • Norway • Whale Watching in Norway • Snorkeling with Whales in Skjervøy • Orca herring hunt

Whale watching in Norway

Norway is a fantastic destination for whale fans all year round. In summer (May – September) you have the best chance of spotting sperm whales in Norway in the Vesteralen. Whale tours, for example, start from Andenes. In addition to the giant sperm whales, orcas and minke whales can sometimes be seen there.

In winter (November - January) there are particularly many orcas and humpback whales to see in the north of Norway. The top destination for whale watching and snorkeling with whales in Norway is now Skjervøy. But many tours also continue to depart from Tromsø.

There are several providers for whale watching and snorkeling with orcas in Skjervøy. However, some providers focus on classic whale watching and others on snorkeling with whales. Price, boat type, group size, rental equipment and duration of the tours differ, so it makes sense to read reviews beforehand and compare the offers.

AGE™ experienced snorkeling with orcas with Lofoten Opplevelser:
Lofoten Oplevelser is a private company and was founded in 1995 by Rolf Malnes. The company has two fast RIB boats for daily use and more than 25 years of experience snorkeling with orcas. The RIB boats are around 8 meters long and allow a trip in small groups of a maximum of 12 people. Lofoten-Opplevelser equips its guests with high-quality dry suits, neoprene hoods, neoprene gloves, mask and snorkel. The additional provision of warm, one-piece undergarments increases comfort significantly.
As one of the pioneers of whale tourism in Norway, Rolf knows the behavior of the animals inside out. In Norway there are no rules for whale tours, only guidelines. The personal responsibility of the providers is therefore all the more important. The most important thing, besides a good portion of luck, is a good skipper. A skipper who brings his guests close enough to the whales without endangering them. Who offers his snorkelers the best possible experience at all times and still keeps an eye on the behavior of the animals. A skipper who enjoys the beaming smiles of his guests with every success and still breaks off when in doubt and lets the animals go. AGE™ was lucky to find such a skipper at Lofoten-Opplevelser. 
Wildlife ViewingWhale Watching • Norway • Whale Watching in Norway • Snorkeling with Whales in Skjervøy • Orca herring hunt

Facts about snorkeling with whales in Skjervøy

Where does snorkeling with orcas take place in Norway? Where does snorkeling with orcas take place in Norway?
Snorkeling with orcas takes place in the fjords near Skjervøy. The small town of Skjervøy is located in the northwest of Norway on the island of Skjervøya. The island is connected to the mainland via a bridge and is therefore easily accessible by car.
Skjervøy is around 1800 km from Oslo (capital of Norway), but only around 3,5 hours by car from the well-known tourist resort of Tromsø. If you don't have a car, you can get from Tromsø to Skjervøy by boat or bus. Snorkeling with orcas used to be available in Tromsø, but since the animals moved on, they can be found in the fjords of Skjervøy.
You will find the Lofoten-Opplevelser winter base camp directly at the harbor below the Extra Skjervøy supermarket. For navigation, it is best to use the address Strandveien 90 in Skjervøy.

When is snorkeling with orcas possible in Norway? When is snorkeling with orcas in? Skjervoy possible?
The orcas usually stay in the fjords near Skjervøy from the beginning of November to the end of January, although the times vary slightly from year to year. Find out about the current situation from your provider in advance. The Lofoten-Opplevelser snorkeling tour in Skjervøy starts between 9am and 9:30am. As of 2023. You can find current information here.

When is the best time to snorkel with orcas in Skjervoy? When is the perfect time for... Snorkeling with orcas?
December is usually when the most orcas are on site, but lighting conditions are better in November and January. Remember that Norway only has a few hours of daylight in winter and the polar night in December. It's not pitch black all day, but the dim light makes it difficult to take good photos and reduces visibility underwater.
Windless, sunny days are best. Ultimately, snorkeling with whales always requires a large amount of luck. In principle, every winter day from November to January can be the perfect day.

Who is allowed to snorkel Skjervøy with whales? Who can snorkel with whales in Skjervøy?
You should feel comfortable in the water, be able to use a snorkel and diving mask and have a minimum level of fitness. The minimum age for snorkeling is stated by Lofoten-Opplevelser as 15 years. Up to 18 when accompanied by a legal guardian. For the small RIB boat trip with whale watching without snorkeling, the minimum age is 12 years.
Bottle diving is not allowed because the air bubbles and noises produced by bottle diving would scare the whales. Freedivers in wetsuits who are not afraid of the cold are welcome.

How much does snorkeling with whales in Skjervøy cost? How much does a whale tour cost with the provider Lofoten-Opplevelser in Skjervoy?
Whale watching in a RIB boat including snorkeling with orcas costs NOK 2600. The price includes the boat tour and equipment rental. Drysuit, one-piece undersuit, neoprene gloves, neoprene hood, snorkel and mask are provided. Accompanying persons receive a discount.
  • 2600 NOK per person for whale watching in RIB boat & snorkeling
  • 1800 NOK per person for whale watching without snorkeling
  • 25.000 – 30.000 NOK per day private rental per boat for groups
  • Lofoten-Opplevelser does not guarantee sightings. However, the success rate for sightings of orcas or other whales has been over 95% in recent years. Snorkeling is usually possible.
  • If your tour has to be canceled (e.g. due to a storm), you will receive your money back. The provider offers an alternative date subject to availability.
  • Tip: If you book three tours per person or more, a discount is sometimes possible after prior consultation with the provider via email.
  • Please note possible changes. As of 2023.
  • You can find current prices here.

How long can you snorkel with orcas? How much time should you spend on the whale tour? plan on?
In total, the whale tour lasts around 4 hours. This time also includes a short briefing and changing into drysuits. The actual time in the RIB boat varies depending on the day and group and is around three hours.
The tour depends on the weather, waves and whale sightings, so AGE™ recommends booking two to three tours and also planning a time buffer for bad weather.

Is there food and toilets? Is there food and toilets?
Toilets are available at the meeting point at the Lofoten-Opplevelser base camp. There are no sanitary facilities on the RIB boat. Meals are not included. Tip for afterwards: You can buy fish cake, a delicious regional finger food, in a local shop right at the harbor.

Sights near Skjervoy? Which sights are nearby?
The area offers one thing above all: whales, fjords and peace. The top activities in Skjervøy are whale watching and snorkeling with whales. If the weather is good and the solar wind is right, you can also admire the northern lights near Skjervøy in winter. Tromsø, around 240 kilometers away, offers numerous tourist activities.

Experience snorkeling with orcas in Skjervøy

Snorkeling with whales and orcas in Skjervøy is a special experience A special experience
Whale watching in a small RIB boat and a courageous jump into the cool water to see orcas and humpback whales is an experience that lasts.

Good to know: experience whale watching in Skjervoy Personal experience whale watching in Skjervøy
practical example: (Warning, this is purely a personal experience!)
We took part in four tours in November. Logbook Day 1: Humpback whales from afar - long boat ride - lots of time with an orca family; Day 2: Great sightings right in the first bay - lots of time with humpback whales - orcas at the end; Day 3: Difficult visibility due to waves - no orcas - many humpback whales up close - a whale right next to the boat - got wet from the blow; Day 4: The main attraction is the herring hunt of the orcas - occasionally also sightings of humpback whales.

Good to know: Experience snorkeling with orcas in Skjervøy Personal experience snorkeling with orcas in Skjervøy
practical example: (Warning, this is purely a personal experience!)
We were able to go into the water on all four tours. Logbook Day 1: Orcas migrating – 4 jumps, three successful – brief sightings of orcas under water. Day 2: So many jumps that we stopped counting - almost every jump was successful - brief sightings of migrating humpback whales or orcas under water. Day 3: Migrating humpback whales - 5 jumps - four successful. Day 4: Our lucky day - stationary, hunting orcas - 30 min non-stop snorkeling - listening to the orcas - experiencing the hunt - goosebumps feeling - orcas very close.

You can find photos, stories and an audio track with orca calls in the AGE™ field report: Wearing diving goggles as a guest during the orcas' herring hunt

Good to know: Is snorkeling with orcas in Skjervøy dangerous? Isn't snorkeling with orcas dangerous?
Orcas eat seals and hunt sharks. They are the true kings of the sea. They are not called killer whales for nothing. Is it a good idea to swim with orcas of all people? A valid question. Nevertheless, the concern is unfounded, because the orcas in Norway specialize in herring.
Orcas from different regions have very different feeding habits. There are groups of orcas that eat marine mammals and others that only hunt salmon or only herring. Orcas do not like to deviate from their usual food and are more likely to starve than eat anything else. For this reason, snorkeling with orcas in Skjervøy is safe. As always, of course: don't pressure, never touch. These are not cuddly toys.

Good to know: Is snorkeling with orcas in Norway very cold in winter? Isn't snorkeling freezing cold in the Norwegian winter?
A dry suit is included when snorkeling with whales in Skjervøy. This is a special diving suit with rubber cuffs. It keeps your body dry while you swim. The air trapped in the suit also acts like a life jacket: you can't sink. The water temperature was surprisingly pleasant with the rental equipment. However, it can still get cold on board due to the wind.

Interesting information about whales

Facts about orcas What are the characteristics of an orca?
The orca belongs to the toothed whales and there to the dolphin family. It has a distinctive black and white coloration and grows to around 7 meters in length. The unusually high dorsal fin is larger in the male than in the female and is called a sword. Orcas live and hunt in groups and are highly social.
Orcas are food specialists. This means that different orca populations eat different foods. Orcas in Norway specialize in herring. They propel the fish upwards with air bubbles, keep them in small schools and then stun them with the flapping of their fins. This sophisticated hunting method is called carousel feeding.

Link to more facts about orcas You can find more facts about killer whales in the orca profile

Facts about humpback whales What are the characteristics of a humpback whale?
The Humpback Whale belongs to the baleen whales and is about 15 meters long. It has unusually large fins and an individual underside of the tail. This whale species is popular with tourists because they are often very lively.
The humpback whale's blow reaches a height of up to three meters. When descending, the colossus almost always raises its tail fin, giving it momentum for the dive. Typically, a humpback whale takes 3-4 breaths before diving. Its typical dive time is 5 to 10 minutes, with times of up to 45 minutes being easily possible.

Link to more facts about humpback whales You can find more facts about humpback whales in the humpback whale profile 

Link to more articles about snorkeling with whales AGE™ Whale Snorkeling Reports
  1. Snorkeling with whales: orcas & humpback whales in Skjervøy, Norway
  2. With diving goggles as a guest at a herring hunt of the orcas
  3. Snorkeling and Diving in Egypt

With diving goggles as a guest at a herring hunt of the orcas: Curious? Enjoy the AGE™ testimonial.
In the footsteps of the gentle giants: Respect & Expectation, Country Tips for Whale Watching & Deep Encounters

Wildlife ViewingWhale Watching • Norway • Whale Watching in Norway • Snorkeling with Whales in Skjervøy • Orca herring hunt

This editorial contribution received external support
Disclosure: AGE™ services were discounted or provided free of charge as part of the Lofoten-Opplevelser report. The press code applies: research and reporting must not be influenced, hindered or even prevented by accepting gifts, invitations or discounts. Publishers and journalists insist that information is given regardless of the acceptance of a gift or invitation. When journalists report on press trips to which they have been invited, they indicate this funding.
Texts and photos are protected by copyright. The copyright of this article in words and images is entirely owned by AGE ™. All rights are reserved. Content for print / online media can be licensed on request.
The content of the article has been carefully researched and is based on personal experience. However, if information is misleading or incorrect, we assume no liability. If our experience does not match your personal experience, we assume no liability. Since nature is unpredictable, a similar experience cannot be guaranteed on a subsequent trip. Furthermore, circumstances can change. AGE™ does not guarantee topicality or completeness.
Source reference for text research

Information on site, interview with Rolf Malnes from Lofoten-Opplevelser, as well as personal experiences on a total of four whale tours including snorkeling with whales in a dry suit in Skjervøy in November 2022.

Innovation Norway (2023), Visit Norway. Whale watching. Experience the giants of the seas. [online] Retrieved on October 29.10.2023, XNUMX, from URL:

Lofoten-Opplevelser (n.d.) Homepage of Lofoten-Opplevelser. [online] Last accessed on December 28.12.2023, XNUMX, from URL:

More AGE ™ reports

This website uses cookies: You can of course delete these cookies and deactivate the function at any time. We use cookies in order to be able to present the contents of the homepage to you in the best possible way and to be able to offer functions for social media as well as to be able to analyze the access to our website. In principle, information about your use of our website can be passed on to our partners for social media and analysis. Our partners can combine this information with other data that you have provided to them or that they have collected as part of your use of the services. Agree More information