Photography of whales outside Skjervøy, Northern Norway
©Georg Sichelschmidt

Whale safari - how to photograph whales

It can be hard to get good photos of the whales. The boat rocks on the waves, whales swim around non-stop and everything is bit exciting. Maybe you even feel a bit seasick. Here are few tips to consider when you are taking photos of the whales and dolphins. 
If your camera has “sports” mode, change to that. It might also be an idea to shoot on multiple shots mode. If you use manual settings, use the fast shutter speed time. 

  1. Check that you have the image stabilization on if your camera has one. 
  2. Gimble and other stabilators are great on the boat, just make sure you know how to use them before you go. 
  3. Waterproof casing is not a must, but it gives you some extra peace of mind. If your camera can take underwater photos, you can be up for some truly unique shots. 
  4. Stay calm. Breath and focus. Usually the whales stay around for a few minutes, so there is no panic with the camera. 
  5. See how the whales move and try to understand the patterns of movement. Great photo moments are when whales breach out of the water, lobtail (swing their tail over the water) or surface to breath and blow out air and vapor. See more information about whale behaviour here.
  6. Many people attempt to get close-up photos of whales. Often those have been taken with a large zoom, so if you have a basic point and shoot camera, pay more attention to getting great photos of a larger view. Try to keep the horizon on level, see if there are other boats, shoreline or anything else on the photo, which makes the photo more interesting. 
  7. Always remember that it is not allowed to disturb the animals. Photographing the whales can only be done from distance and only for short periods of time to avoid causing them stress. 

Photographing whales, just as photographing any animals, can be demanding, but with that one great shot, it is all worth the pain. Next time you are visiting Northern Norway and get a great photo of whales, share it with us! Just tag us on Facebook or Instagram @visitlyngenfjord and we might share your photo too! 

Book your whale safari with Visit Lyngenfjord:

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FAQ Whale watching safaris in Northern Norway and Skjervøy area

Whales follow the herring, which is their main feed. The herring typically moves to our coast around mid to end October, which is when our whale season begins. Whale watching tours are organised until the end of January, when the herring start moving further out to the sea. Best time to see the whales in Skervøy is from end of October to end of January.

In the last years, there have been so many whales on the shores near Skjervøy, that we are tempted to say that yes! you are guaranteed to see the whales in Lyngenfjord region. However, whales and herring are wild animals, and many factors such as weather, which we can't control, also impact on the success of your tour. Even if you would not see the whales, our region's breathtaking beauty is worth of seeing from the seas, so we highly recommend taking a wildlife safari. 

Lyngenfjord region and Skjervøy are just a short drive outside from Tromsø. Many whale safaris from Tromsø also take place in the Skjervøy archipelago. Sometimes a whale or two is seen from the shores of our fjords, but if you really want to maximize your chances, book one of the whale safaries from Skjervøy or Sørkjosen.

No. As the whale safari is happening in the winter time and partially during the polarnight, you will receive a thermal suit, which will keep you warm, before heading out on the boat. Remember to dress warm underneath, we recommend wool and good shoes. There are different boats for the whale safari - the RIB boats f.ex. are open boats where you are out in the elements. If you freeze easily pick a tour with a boat with the possibility to go inside and get warm.

All our members who offer whale safari provide you with a thermal suit. We recommend that you dress warm, so you do not get cold and can enjoy the experience. Warm baselayer, wool is good, warm shoes, gloves/mittens and a warm cap is something you should bring with you. And don't forget your camera to capture moments from this unforgetable day - a telephoto lens will make it easier to get closer. Read more about photographing whales here.

Yes, a whale safari is also a nice family experience. A boat with a cabin is a good option, if your kids are below 120 cm/12 years. Older children manage to hold on in a RIB boat.

There are mainly two types of boat. One is a more closed boat where you can be inside and outside. Most operators use a RIB (rigid-inflatable boat), so you get closer to the whales. A RIB, is an open boat and you are always outside. If you have dressed warmly and have warm shoes, this is not a problem. You will also get a thermal suit before heading out for the whale safari.

No, even as the whale safari partially takes place during the polar night season in Skjervøy, it does not mean it is completly dark here. Even on the shortes days before Christmas we have a few hours of daylight where it is possible to see orcas, killer whales, humpback whales, porpoise and other wildlife on a whale safari.  

All our whale safari operators follow the latest hygiene and safety routines every step of the way and have also received an approval from the municipality to run whale safaris. Follow the detailed instructions you receive before the start of the whale safari to minimize the risks of infection.

Two whale species in particular have been observed off the coast of Skjervøy: humpback whales and orcas (killer whales). Learn more about whale behaviour here.


Orcas have strong family bonds and their groups often remain together for several generations. The orca has a black body with a large white patch above and behind the eye. The orca is the largest member of the oceanic dolphin family. The orca’s diet consists of fish (such as herring), seals, sharks and dolphins.

  • The orca is the whale species with the largest dorsal fin. Male orcas can be up to 2 metres high. The average lifespan of female orcas is 50 years, but they can be up to 90 years old.

Humpback whales

Humpback whales can live alone or in small groups. The humpback whale is stocky and strong, has black dorsal colouring and (as the name suggests) an obvious hump on its back. It catches herring by opening and filling its mouth. It can catch an entire school with a single mouthful!The humpback whale is very acrobatic and is known for its spectacular jumps above the surface! The humpback whale also produces a unique and complex song.

  • Did you know that female humpback whales are the largest? They can grow up to 19 m long and weigh 40 tonnes! The typical size is 12-14 metres and 25-30 tonnes! That’s huge!

Even if there are companies who offer swimming/snorkling with the whales, this is not something we recommend. We encourage our partners to follow the guidelines made by the industry itself, which you can read here. 

Selv om det finnes tilbydere som tilbyr å svømme/snorkle med hval, anbefaler vi det ikke. Vi ønsker at våre leverandører skal følge de bransje retningslinjer som er utarbeidet av bransjen som du kan lese her: 

FAQ - Practical info for visiting Skjervøy

The Lyngenfjord region can offer many different winter activities such as dog sledding in the Reisa valley, snowmobile safari in Rotsunddalen, visit a sami camp, try a snow shoe hike or experience the northern lights in the evening.

Skjervøy and Storslett can also offer other activities such as:

We've also made an overview of the afternoon and evening activities here

Both in Skjervøy and in Sørkjosen you will find several options for accommodation. Check all the option for accommodation in Skjervøy here and for Sørkjosen here. You will also find an overview further down on the page.

Check also our combinded whale safari and accommodation package offers here.


After having been out on a whale safari, you are probably hungry. There are several cafés and restaurants to choose from in the nearby area. In Skjervøy you can f.ex. have dinner at Maritim Hotel SkjervøyPå Hjørnet Kafe or Kasjotten. In Sørkjosen you'll find f.ex. På Taket Kafe and in Storslett Bios Cafe. We can also recommend Solvind Restaurant at Spåkenes.