The bird-puffin safari was high on our wish list during our Northern Norway roadtrip. This wish became reality on Andoya, an island that belongs to the Vesteralen archipelago. Near the village of Bleik there is a small island, Bleiksoya, where thousands of puffins nest. In addition to puffins there are also lots of other special birds. Upon arrival at Andenes the weather was great, therefore we directly went to the tourist office, so we could do and see as much as possible during our one and a half day on Andoya. When the tourist office employee checked if there was any place left for a midnight safari the same night, and she told us we could still join, we couldn’t hide our enthusiasm. We were going to watch birds and finally see puffins. And this all under the midnight sun! At half past nine p.m. we walk towards the lighthouse of Andenes, where we are given some warm suits, and at ten o’clock we leave for two and a half mesmerizing hours at sea.
We sail along small rocky islands, where we see several birds including gannets and oystercatchers. We leave Andenes and its red lighthouse and colored coastal houses behind us and sail towards the larger island of Bleiksoya, known for its immense puffin colony. But also sea eagles are flying around. When we are approaching the island there are plenty of puffins in the water. But very soon they fly away and the sky fills with these beautiful birds. Puffins are so fast and small and above all very cute. Did you know that these birds don’t get bigger than 30 cm? Because we are on a boat and the puffins move fast on the water and in the air, it’s difficult to take good pictures. But that’s okay, we have seen them with our own eyes and that’s a big wish coming true. The other birds also give a show. Big groups are flying above our boat and the sky turns yellow and orange. This is a magnificent spectacle. Our captain, who looks like a real captain with his grey beard and grey hair, throws a few fish into the water, to attract sea eagles. The eagles are floating above Bleiksoya, screening the water and looking for the right time to attack. And of course, the first eagle catches a fish. It’s great to see how this impressive predator captures its prey. It doesn’t take long before the rest of the fish get caught by other sea eagles. It’s very impressive to see them fly towards the water so quickly, and with the same speed they fly back into the sky. Next, we sail further up the coast, along deserted beaches. We see the rugged Hoyvika Beach, which we almost reached the same afternoon on foot. On this beach there is a house of more than 200 years old and we are told that people still lived there a fee decades ago, completely isolated from civilization.
During the trip a specialist tells us more about the birds. About the white-tailed eagle that eats two puffins eat a day. How? They wait above their burrows and when the puffin comes out, they attack. That’s what they call fast food for sea eagles. In addition, we are told that two puffins always mate for life unless one of them dies, of course. Puffins can reach forty years old and only start pairing at six years old. Furthermore they only come to land to breed, between late april and late August, after that they leave for the wide open sea, where exactly is a mystery. In this area there are also birds that closely resemble the Atlantic puffin, these also belong to the puffin family but have no red beak. From a distance it’s hard to distinguish them.
Can you see the puffins on the first three pictures below?
And the sheep on this picture?
Next, we sail back, under a radiant midnight sun and an endless blue sky. The sun barely goes down and is still shining brightly. The sky fills with yellow and orange tones and it’s magical. On the last stretch the boat races towards Andenes so we see the coast passing by rapidly. The whole experience of going on a bird safari under the midnight sun is special. During this eternal golden hour the light is beautiful. Everything looks different. Everything you experience is more intense and everything has a magical touch. At half past twelve the safari has come to an end and we walk back to our hotel thinking it’s only eight p.m. After four days in Northern Norway I’m still not used to the never ending days here.
Have you been on a bird safari and/or have you seen puffins?