In the east of Iceland you will find Hafnarhólmi, also known as Puffin Harbour. And that name has the port for good reason: there has been a large colony of Puffins, Puffins in English for years. During our Iceland tour, we couldn't resist visiting this port. Our base was Egilsstadir, a rather larger place, from which it would be a good hour to drive to the Puffin Harbour. On Tripadvisor I read that the trip was “not for the faintharted”: cheese, I like a challenge!
We left at the beginning of the evening, followed away number 947, and looked out our eyes. Again, as pretty much common in Iceland, your view is never the same for 10 minutes, we drove through greenery, through mountains, along the water, in the fog and in the sun. What a beautiful ride, with wonderful views of the fjords, where to our delight some whales gave away a free show!
Okay, you see them from afar, but at least we were sure these animals were not disturbed by boats that came to race when they showed their tail :-).
Quickly on to the Puffins: Puffin Harbour is at the end of the bordarfjordur. You'll be automatically directed to the port, using a sign here and there, and actually it's one long way.
Many Icelanders are proud of their puffins, and as far as I'm concerned, because what are beautiful birds?!
Puffins are not large: they grow about 30 to 35 cm long, with which, depending on their posture, they sometimes resemble a big duck. They are light birds: about 300 to 700 grams.
Known for the puffins is their beautiful beak. The beak is very colourful and impressively large. We only know the puffins with this coloured beak, but they only have these in the breeding season, and that is also the only time when we see the puffins on shore.
Puffins live at sea pretty much their whole life. There they are real fish eaters, and real hunters. In their large beak they can hold up to 40 fish at the same time, the yellow part you see at the beginning of the beak is stretchy, they can open their beak very wide (photo follows).
The only reason puffins come ashore is very simple: they need to be able to lay their eggs and hatch somewhere, and that's not going at sea.!
That's why, on average, in the second week of April, they come to the mainland of Iceland, always by the sea, where they dig burrows in the rocks, with their very strong beak. When you look at such a rock, it's like a big hole cheese. The rocks are hard, but apparently no problem for the puffins to crack, they burrows are deep: 1 to 2 meters! Deep in the rock, the little ones are safe.
Once landed, the puffins are not alone: a colony often consists of thousands of birds. It's very funny to see that when the animals leave for them, you think the area is empty, everyone is going to sea, but then a puffin pops up from different burrows :-).
When you see the puffins on land, it's hard to imagine they're at sea for almost their entire life, you wouldn't say they can fly well, but they can do that. With their bright orange legs, they fly out to sea, and back again. Those little wings must be very strong!
Back to Puffin harbour: Once you arrive, park your car in a large parking lot, from which you can see the puffins sitting. From there you have to go down a big staircase. There is a neat toilet at the bottom of the stairs, and through the port you walk to the area where the puffins sit.
To get to the puffins you need to pick up a wooden tap. This staircase is very easy to pass, but please note: it can be a bit slippery in rain. A viewpoint has been created on the plateau, and a shelter, which requires a contribution when you want to use it. The money benefits the maintenance of the place. I recommend you bring rain pants: it can blow pretty much in this place!
You can approach the birds close, even though you are (completely on trial)!) behind a fence. The birds are not afraid of humans, and will normally ignore you. It is highly advisable to try feeding or touching the birds: that beak is very strong!
As I wrote, the birds only have this coloured beak during the breeding season. The colour consists of eight pictures, which lose weight after the breeding season. The animals sometimes suffer when diving for fish. But nature solves that by providing the birds with a transverse toe on their legs: they use them to remove loose-fitting pictures.
The bird in the right picture shows how far its beak can open. He seems to scream, but this is not the case: puffins NEVER make noise. Only the boy sometimes makes a squeaky noise in the first few days to let you know you're hungry.
Above you can see the hole cheese that the animals made from a massive rock. And in the right photo: if you're out of luck, a bus with tourists is coming up: everyone wants to take pictures of the animals. it would make you shy:
We enjoyed these beautiful animals: and more people do that. The animals are hunted because there are (mostly) tourists who think puffin is a delicacy. the birds are threatened by this. Their numbers have declined drastically in recent years.! I don't have any need to taste puffin, I like to enjoy them when they are on land.
Finally, the road to puffin harbour. I read on Tripadvisor that it would be an exciting road. Now I am aware that as a professional driver I am not afraid soon, but to give you an idea of how the road is: see photos above. Unless it's been (been very wet) it seems like a great road to drive. Take your time. The road is being worked, keep that in mind. I suspect that when the full road is paved, it will get much busier in puffin harbour. Too bad, but understandable that more people want to admire these beautiful animals.
Do you want to make sure the birds are already on land before you make the trip?
You can find the website, under this name you can also find the port on Instagram.
Incidentally, the area is also very suitable for hiking: there are several hiking trails in this area.!
All photos are homemade with Olympus OMD EM1-mrk2, and Samsung mobile.
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