Early morning visitors on National Geographic Explorer’s bridge during our passage from Húsavík to the Skálanes Nature Reserve saw several pods of five white-beaked dolphins. One pod expressed an interest in riding our bow wave, but veered off at the last minute. We also saw several minke whales, along with the usual sea birds: fulmars, skuas, puffins, black guillemots, and Arctic terns.

The cloudy morning gradually morphed into a beautiful sunny day, perfect for the afternoon activities.  One activity was a visit to the Skálanes Nature Reserve, a 1250 hectare (3000 acres) private nature reserve that includes habitats and ecosystems representative of eastern Iceland. The reserve also houses at least 80 archaeological sites, revealing continuous habitation from settlement of Iceland (over 1000 years ago) to modern times. Staff at the reserve cheerfully explained the area’s rich cultural history, as well as guided hikes to the viewing platform for the famous Bird Cliffs.

The second activity was a two-hour Zodiac tour of the local seashore. A highlight was floating at the base of the Bird Cliffs, bathed in sunlight, pitching and rolling in the swell, and listening to our naturalists describe the geological and biological features.

After dinner, we listened to the ‘The Arctic Terns,’ an ephemeral band formed by merging ‘The Spice Boys’ (talented musicians from the ship’s crew) and our guest band Árstíđir (Ragnar and Daniel) in their first and only performance. A good time was had by all!