I hadn’t done a whole bunch of prep for our trip as far as having a huge To Do list and itinerary – I was travelling with others, and we were visiting people, so it seemed like there would be some figuring it out as we went along, but when I saw mention of PUFFINS in one of the guidebooks… MUST. SEE. PUFFINS! Lundi in Icelandic.
Which, although there has been a decline recently, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see, since there are thousands of nesting pairs during the summer months. You can go further afield, but there are also tours right out of Reykjavík Harbor. As soon as we got close to the first island, Engey, there they were!!! SO CUTE, sitting on the shore, coming in for a landing with their orange feet all splayed out, running along the water trying to achieve lift off, back on land all clustered up on rock. PUFFINS!!!
It was so neat to see them in the water, and swarms of them flying around. They are somewhat awkward, er, distinctive fliers, with a rapid – up to 400 bpm – of their wings. We saw one with fish in its mouth. There were binoculars available for us to take a closer look. From Engey we went to a smaller island, Akurey, where we were the only boat and there were EVENMORE puffins.
The guide was really informative. A few of the particularly interesting factoids: The average age is 20 years, but there have been individuals that have lived as long as 35. They mate for life but only spend the summers together when they are nesting (insert observation on how that might be what makes the “for life” possible here), the male comes back first and cleans out the nest hole. They have one young per year, it takes about a month to hatch, then another month or so in the nest/burrow, then they come out and fly away. I was thinking how cool it would be to see a puffling (although that does seem to beg for involvement of a catapult or slingshot) but it sounded like not even the guide sees them.
It really exceeded my expectations. Super super cool to see them in their natural habitat doing their puffin thing. (Alas I don’t have the greatest zoom on my camera, but you kinda get the idea.)
Alas, on the not so cool, they are also on the menu. Yes, that’s right. Not only can you go out and watch them, you can eat them. Which, yeah, I know, why should they get a pass because they are so cute, right? I suppose that just shows the arbitrariness and hypocrisy of what we decide is “OK” to eat, but I had no interest in having that experience of eating puffin.
There were all sizes of stuffed puffins – up to bigger than me! – and other puffinalia in the tourist shops. I tried but couldn’t resist a fridge magnet. The puffin made me do it…