The silence of Iceland: Wildlife

We had booked a stay at a horse ranch up north, west of Akureyri, ahead of time but were disappointed to learn that the owners were not opening for rides for a few weeks. While we soaked in a hot springs pool nearby that evening, my son, in conversation with friendly locals, got a recommendation to another riding stables. Our hosts called ahead for us and booked our rides for the next day.

Icelandic horses are unique, gentle, long haired beauties. In addition to the classic gaits—walk, trot, canter, gallop—Icelandic horses have a very smooth four-beat fast gate called tölt, and a flying gait where the left legs touch ground together and then right legs, a graceful flight to behold. Our horse trek leader did not permit us to sample the faster gaits, but gave us a demonstration on his own horse. Other breeds of horses are not allowed to enter the country, and any Icelandic horses who leave for competitions are not allowed to return, to guard against diluting the strain.

Adam and me on Icelandic horses, northern Iceland
This was one of my best-selling photos when I had my work in galleries and shops
Adam and friend

Wild reindeer herds were a common sight and, of course, herded sheep. Seals bobbed their shiny heads up in the Glacier Lagoon and along sea coasts.

Sheep coming up to the fence to say hello
Seal, Glacier Lagoon
Seals along the coast. They were watching us while we were watching them.

Most plentiful were birds—not a keeper of silence! A goal on this trip was to see the elusive puffin, rare except in extreme northern climes. On a northern outcrop of Snaefellsjökull National Park’s peninsula, we boarded a bird-watching boat ride from the coastal town of Stykkishólmur and headed north among small islands. We slowed to observe a variety of raucous birds along the way.

Chattering gulls
Nesting couples
Arctic swans on the beach
Birds flying, Hvitserkur

When we reached the farthest destination of the cruise, we entered puffin territory. Their black and white coloring reminds one of small penguins, punctuated with bright orange beaks—they are adorable! Part of the auk family, puffins feed by diving underwater for small fish. They fly close to the water’s surface, as if hovering along, and appear to be flying on the sea itself as they take off and land—quite entertaining.

Taking off

On the return trip, a special treat was prepared. The crew lowered nets, dragging them behind us, scooping up sea life. Then they raised the nets on board and dumped them out, sorting them into edible creatures and throwing back the rest. On the table were chopsticks, wasabi, and soy sauce. Viking sushi!

The crew sorting their catch
Sea urchin sushi

This is the third and last of three posts about Iceland. Read the previous posts: The silence of Iceland: City and The silence of Iceland: Nature.

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Published by rkrontheroad

Writer, photographer, traveler

48 thoughts on “The silence of Iceland: Wildlife

  1. I’m with you and the puffins. Iceland is definitely on my list and your photos are magnificent! Happy New Year Ruth! May we get to launch ourselves into the world again in 2021.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ruth, thank you so much for your pix and posts. What beautiful scenery everywhere you look. Add the awesome wildlife and what perfection! I especially love the horses and puffins. Crystal has been looking forward to visiting Iceland. I forwarded her your blog. I’m sure that will get her even more inspired to travel there. Happiest New Year. I can’t wait to turn the page on the old one. Best wishes and blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You got some great pictures of the wildlife. The first time we visited Iceland we were there for three weeks and only saw reindeer once, but they were so far away to get any decent pictures. It’s always so much fun watching the puffins. They are so adorably awkward.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Awesome photos, you captured them well! Nature at its best – animals are consistently photogenic. We don’t get to see them much where I am so these photos of animals freely going about make me happy.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Those horses are realy remarcable, must be great to ride them. Your pictures are very nice and your story is interesting. I see that there is a lot more than this article so I would be pleased to follow your blog.
    Kind regards,
    Rudi (Belgium)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. wow what a beautiful post! we we were meant to go to iceland for the first time last summer but it was cancelled because of the coronavirus, but the plan was to see the wildlife like you saw! your photos are amazing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for visiting and your comment! You’ll definitely have to get there when things open up again. Please do check out my other Iceland posts: City and Nature.


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