Travel & Adventure

Swimming with Orcas

Orcas on the surface
Orcas on the surface

I went to Norway in November 2022 to swim with orcas (meaninglessly called “killer whales”). Orcas are intelligent creatures that have a varied diet of fish, whales, seals and dolphins, but there is no history of them attacking humans in the wild. Some orcas would follow their prey, herring, to the Norwegian coast in winter.

Skjervøy, the base for the trip, is at 70°N, north of the Arctic Circle. In the six days that I spent on the boat in or near Skjervøy, the daily daylight hours dramatically decreased from two and a half hours to zero. There would be no sunrise from my last day in Skjervøy for another 51 days. Most of our water activities would be conducted in twilight. I spotted the sun exactly once while at sea.

Nine guests, including myself, boarded the M/S Mårøy (pronounced “maw-ray”), our transportation and residence for the trip. I figured out my gear for cold weather snorkelling on the first night. Woollen underclothing plus socks would cover most of the body. Over this would go an additional onesie. I would put on a waterproof drysuit, which would trap an insulating pocket of air next to the body, over these. The holes in the drysuit, for my palms and head, had tight elastic bands to keep them sealed next to my skin. Finally, gloves and hoods would cover my palms and head.

On the first morning, the Mårøy set off from Skjervøy. The seascape and the skies were the most colourful that I had ever seen. From the horizon, the sky lit up in rainbow colours. Mountains rose around us, lit in a gentle glow. Someone spotted the first tall, black dorsal fin of an orca rising above the water, along with a spray of water as the animal exhaled.

Cover of the April 2023 issue of The Teenager Today featuring Prabhat Koli, the world's youngest oceans seven swimmer

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Vijay Luiz has had adventures around Asia, Europe and Australia. He lives in Munich as a technology risk consultant. Follow him on Instagram @pitilesstraveller

Vijay Luiz

Vijay Luiz has had adventures around Asia, Europe and Australia. He lives in Munich as a technology risk consultant. Follow him on Instagram @pitilesstraveller