One of the volunteers here told me that an eagles eyesight is so good that it’s the equivalent of a human standing on the roof of a ten story building and seeing an ant on the ground floor!! I didn’t know how true that was, but I was about to get an idea of their talents on an eagle safari. It’s one of the most popular trips our hosts offer in winter, and because there was space on the rib boat, we were allowed to join. Unfortunately it was one of the coldest days we’ve had in Norway with temperatures well below zero and a frigid wind that felt like it was burning my skin, especially when the rib boat was at full speed.
Soon after setting off our host spotted a couple of eagles which he threw fish out for. We waited for less than a minute for one of them to swoop down and grab the fish with its talons. It was done so effortlessly; the body arched, the feet pointed down and the 2 meter-wide-wings glided the bird into the perfect position. Once the eagle had the fish, it flew back to its island to enjoy its feast. They’re very territorial so they return to the same nest every year and even stick with the same partner for life, unless one dies in which case they’re back on the dating market in a flash.
We gradually moved around all the snow covered islands, passing little red and white lighthouses and stopping whenever we spotted eagles. One female eagle came really close to us and was the money shot for me seeing as I don’t have a good zoom on my camera.
We made our way into the Hellfjord and by this point I was completely frozen. We whizzed past dramatic snowy peaks on either side of us until we reached the temporary end of the fjord – where the sea had frozen over. We couldn’t go any further at this time of year so I got my camera out and just as I was snapping a photo our host said we had to be totally quiet so we could enjoy the silence. I wasn’t prepared and didn’t even have my gloves on so my hands were throbbing from the cold, but I didn’t dare be the noisy person on board so I just froze like I was in a game of musical statues. Hellfjord is one of the few truly remote places left in the world, with no inhabitants, roads or even planes flying overhead so it was extremely quiet with just the sound of sloshing water under the ice. As soon as we were allowed to move and make noise I packed my camera in a dry bag, pulled my hood right down to my eyebrows, my balaclava up to the bags under my eyes and then I had to sacrifice one hand to press against my entire face to hold my goggles, hood and balaclava in place. I didn’t see much on the way back.
Luckily, there was space on another eagle safari a week later so I tagged along. I was a bit reluctant after how cold I’d been on the last trip but this one was so much better. I was helping our host get the guests on board, pulling the boat in with a rope while trying to grip my feet on the frozen jetty. We ended up seeing four eagles in one area, fighting over fish and each others territories which was interesting to see with a few mid-air fights. The eagles were in pairs, and they eventually flew back to their own islands and as they did we heard a loud squawking noise and it was the sound of a couple mating!! Our host has been doing these tours for 10 years and he’s never witnessed them mate before! It was over very quickly and just involved the guy on top flapping his wings about, well, I’m sure there was more to it than that but let’s keep it simple.
We cruised along the calm sea and watched the sun pierce lines of light through the clouds. Just as we pulled up to talk about the geography of the area we spotted two dolphins!!! I was so excited and watched in amazement as they did synchronised swimming, bobbing up and down through the open sea. Eagles are cool, but I was like a kid at Christmas when I saw the dolphins, especially as they’re quite rare around here so it was a total surprise.
The Hellfjord was a completely different scene from my last visit. The sea was so calm inside so all the mountains were reflected on the surface. Due to there being no wind, our host pulled a seriously tight turn at the end of the fjord which I hadn’t anticipated and I almost fell out the boat. There was a reason for the turn though, the big wake it caused went under the sheet of ice covering the back end of the fjord and made an unusual tinkling glass sound.
I was really enjoying the trip so far, I was warm and comfortable, we’d seen dolphins and shagging eagles and when I thought it couldn’t get any better a curious seal came really close to our boat and then poked its head up next to the frozen fish we’d just thrown out. What a great way to end the day!