Words cannot begin to describe the grace and magic we experienced as National Geographic Explorer danced between islands in the archipelago of the Westman Islands on the final morning of our voyage. We spotted a cluster of northern gannets from the bridge, which clued us into a pod of long-finned pilot whales. We enjoyed them for a nice amount of time before continuing on our way. As we approached the Westman Islands, a flock of feeding gannets led us to killer whales. They were feeding on a mackerel bait ball, and we got close enough to hear them breathing. The bow, the bridge, and the top deck were filled with excited observers as we watched the whales, and time simply stopped. The moment was utterly sublime, something that will never be forgotten.
We hesitantly said farewell to the majestic sight and continued on our way to meet the pilot boat. With the guidance of Captain Peik Alto and the local pilot, we sailed into the narrow harbor opening of Heimaey, Westman Islands as the sun broke through the clouds. Heimaklettur, home cliff, welcomed us with a stunning vista of Icelandic sheep balancing on sheer cliffs.
Our afternoon was spent touring the tiny island of Heimaey, home island. Some guests chose the scenic panoramic tour, which stopped at amazing vistas and lookout points, including one of the windiest points in the northern hemisphere. We visited the southern tip, Stórhöfði, a bird blind on the southernmost point, and we stopped at the Eldheimer Volcano Museum, which artfully portrays the history of the 1973 Eldfell eruption. Some of us chose to climb up the Eldfell Volcano through a layer of dense fog towards the top. We took in views of the new lava that nearly shut down the harbor, which would have meant an end to the town of Heimaey.
We enjoyed our last day together with the Captain’s Farewell cocktails and spent the evening reminiscing about the multitude of adventures we experienced in the last nine days. After dinner, we got close to the island of Surtsey, one of the world’s youngest islands! Every day is unlike the rest, and every day is full of surprises. Tomorrow, we will scatter in different directions, going our separate ways, but holding close some fabulous and everlasting memories. What a time to be alive!