Roughly the size of Ohio, the land of fire ice is a great place to observe change and contrast. The landscape varies from the lush treeless hills and valleys of the central highlands to the vast cliffs and black sand beaches of the south coast. Large populations of puffins, foxes, seals, and whales exist all around Iceland making it an important wildlife hotspot in the North Atlantic. We spent two weeks in Iceland mainly focusing on the West and South of Iceland exploring the area from a range of activities.
We spent the first two days on the two major peninsulas of the West, Snaefellsness, and Reykjanes. We explored the volcanic areas on the peninsula further south and studied the varied geological activity. Later, on the other peninsula, we walked through a lava tube and hiked around in the area. Then, I spent some time photographing Common and Grey seals on a rocky beach in the area. Over the next week, we thoroughly explored the Southern Coast of Iceland. My favorite experiences were hiking around some of the most secluded waterfalls glacier trekking and ice climbing. The glacier that we explored is a great demonstration of recent climate change and can be seen in the film, Chasing Ice. It is melting alarmingly fast both in length and width. Crude melting detectors have been placed all over the glacier and in the one we checked there has been around 20 feet of melt in three months. If there is a similar consistency of melting around the whole glacier that is unbelievable amounts of water falling off the glacier, especially due to the density. We also spent a lot of time around the puffins of the southernmost point of the country.
At the end of the trip, we focused on the Golden Circle, near Reykjavik, and the Westman islands. In the Westmans, we explored the various islands via speedboat. Birds such as the northern gannet and Atlantic puffin breed here in huge numbers where food is plentiful, and living conditions are ideal. The highlight of the excursion was an encounter with a family of orcas. We found them while they were hunting and they came all around the boat, as close as a few feet. These beautiful animals are massive and seeing their dorsal fins and hunting techniques is truly impressive. In Reykjavik, we also went whale watching to see porpoises, lots of minke whales, and a humpback whale logging and breaching, very different behaviors not usually associated with one another. On the landscape side of things we watched the geyser, more waterfalls and went snorkeling in between two tectonic plates. This water is some of the clearest on the planet and visibility is unbelievable. Lastly, we descended into a volcano, the only one in the world accessible to humans. Iceland is a fantastic demonstration of adaptability in flora and fauna and has the distinction of being one of the most varied countries on the planet.