RIB Express Tour – All about a tour on our RIB Dagmar

April 8, 2022

Aside from our Classic Whale Watching Tour on our boats Andrea and Lilja, you also have the option to book a RIB Express Tour with our rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RIB) Dagmar. Custom-built in the UK for our company in 2017, she is a speedy beauty that can seat up to 12 passengers plus captain and guide, and allows for a wonderful 2-hour roundtrip in our Faxaflói bay. This can be handy if the 3 to 3 ½ hours of our Classic Whale Watching Tour does not fit your schedule. 

Dagmar is equipped with suspension seating, or “shock seats”, for extra safety and comfort while on board. All of the seats are thus extremely comfortable and bounce along with the movement of the boat, cushioning the impact with the waves even at very high speed. These seats have been proven to be the best kind of seating for a RIB, thus making our company’s boat the most comfortable ride out of all the other RIBs starting from the Reykjavík harbour! 

For further comfort and safety, all passengers are given cosy, warm flotation overalls to wear over their clothes, as well as googles and gloves, plus a non-disruptive life vest. That way, comfort is guaranteed on board! Here you can read an article to know how to dress for a whale watching tour. We kindly ask you to show up 30 minutes before your scheduled departure, since staff – usually the captain and the guide who will be on your tour – will help you get settled with all of these items. After you check in with one of the Special Tours offices, you should go to one of the little wooden huts at the west side of the old harbour (on Ægisgarður street) which bears our sister company’s name Reykjavík By Boat. This is where our staff will prepare you for your journey. There is also a restroom here if you want to use it before putting on the overall, which we recommend, as during the cruise there will be no access to a restroom. When all passengers have arrived and are suited and life-vested up, we will walk to the boat together, where everybody can choose their preferred seat. There should be something for everybody – the more adventurous ones may sit in the front, while those who prefer a little bit less movement may sit further towards the back. 

While we are cruising, it is best to stay seated in your chosen seat, but when we stop at sea and the captain or guide tells you that it is safe, it is fine to walk around carefully to get the best view. Feel free to bring your camera, mobile phone and/or GoPro to take photos or videos! They should be absolutely safe on board. 

With Dagmar’s extraordinary speed of up to 32 (~59 km/h) knots, there is more than enough time to pay a visit to one of the puffin islands, Akurey, situated on the way out into the bay. The puffin season in Iceland is from May to late August. Since the boat is also very narrow and streamlined in shape, it can get extremely close to the island, allowing for some bird-watching as the puffins fly in and out of their nesting burrows on the island towards the sea for fish-hunting. Sometimes, the puffins sitting on the sea surface get extremely curious and come really close to our RIB, so that you can admire their colourful beaks in all their beauty! Read this article to learn all about Puffins near Reykjavík.

Cute little puffin having a swim before feeding on our Puffin Express tour

After a stop at the puffin island, we head out to sea. Dagmar can reach the summer feeding grounds of the whales, dolphins and porpoises in about 20 minutes, but whales have been sighted very close to the harbour before, so it is good to keep an eye out as soon as we get going! Since the guide and the captain will be seated behind the passengers during the cruise, you can always point in the direction where you see something of interest, should our experienced crew have missed it. If you raise one arm in the air during any time of the tour, we will always stop going fast and the guide will come to you to inquire whatever it is you want to ask, or if you have any issues. 

Once a cetacean – whale, dolphin or porpoise – has been spotted anywhere, we will head towards it and go down in speed as we approach the zone where the animal last came to the surface. While still maintaining a respectful and legal distance, there should be plenty of opportunities to get some good views of these fascinating animals. Since Dagmar is so low and close to the water surface, you will be almost at eye level with these animals when they come up for a breath.  

Of course, it depends on the animal how much it wants to show itself. Some of them are just not in the mood for antics and keep minding their own business with the boats around, just showing the tops of their backs as they come up for breath in between longer dives. Sometimes, however, we get extremely lucky and the animal is in a playful and curious mood and it may start showing more of its body by sticking out fins, its tail, or its entire body out of the water with a breach! This is surely the most breath-taking behaviour of cetaceans that humans get to experience. However, it can also be amazing to just watch the animal do its thing, swimming and diving in certain intervals, to learn more about the natural behaviour of each different species, and to simply marvel at its size and beauty. The guide will be around whenever we stop and explain all of the behaviours we get to witness, as well as provide lots of extra information about all of the different species of the bay. 

Dagmar offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the whales in their summer habitat from up close. Some of the whales and dolphins seem to have started to enjoy the attention they receive from our boats, and sometimes come towards us out of their own volition and appear to do some human-watching. They are always gentle and careful whenever they come close to our boats, so you never have to worry about there being any danger. The most magical moments happen whenever we can stop Dagmar’s engine entirely and there is a whale, or possibly several cetaceans, swimming around us, checking us out while we rejoice at getting such good views of them! Sometimes they even come within touching distance, although as this is wildlife, we would be at our best behaviour if we refrained from actually trying to touch them, since you never know how the whales might react. Still, an extra sense that you may not have expected could be part of the experience of whale watching: sometimes, when they exhale close to us, or in the right wind direction, you may smell their fishy breath! Especially minke whales are known to have a bit of a smelly breath, which earned them the nickname stinky minke. 

Of course, there may be tours during which the cetaceans are simply not in the mood to show themselves at all. If a tour is not successful, that is, if there are zero cetacean sightings during the entire 2 hours of the tour despite the best efforts of the crew, you will get the chance to try again, this time on our Classic Whale Watching Tour, which is usually held on Andrea. Just e-mail our office to reschedule for any date after the unsuccessful tour. This possibility to re-try will be available for as long as our company exists, so you will be eligible to go whale watching with us again for free even years after your first tour. That way, you may get to cruise Faxaflói bay two times on two different boats, and you can compare the two experiences for yourself! 

Every morning, the sea conditions are evaluated by our experienced captains, so keep an eye out in your e-mails for possible cancellations on the set day of departure. Since Dagmar is more sensitive to the movement of the sea, it could be that the weather conditions do not allow us to take her out on certain days, while bigger boats may still be able to go out. The wind in Iceland can be rough, even in the height of summer! If the weather still allows for Andrea to go out on the days where the RIB Express Tour is cancelled, you will be offered to re-book your tour for the Classic Whale Watching Tour (and you will get reimbursed for the difference in price). You can also choose to try your luck with Dagmar again on a different day, subject to availability. Just call or e-mail our office and tell us what you prefer. If you absolutely cannot make it again during your stay and your trip keeps being cancelled, you are eligible for a complete refund. 

As if all of this wasn’t great enough, you will also be given a free ticket to go to the Whales of Iceland museum in the harbour after your trip. Located in Fiskislóð 23-25, 15 minutes walking distance from the old harbour where our boat tours start, you will find this museum which displays 23 life-sized models of all of the whale species that have been seen in Icelandic waters. Here, you can experience the true size of these animals out of the water, by standing right next to or underneath these fascinating creatures in ocean-atmospheric light. The museum is open from 10 am – 5 pm and plays a documentary at 11 am and 2:30 pm which lasts 60 minutes. There is also an option for a guided tour in English at 10:30 am and 2pm included in the ticket. If you come at any other time, free audio guides will be handed out to you in a variety of different languages. 

As for the tours on Dagmar, they are offered from April 15th onwards until the end of October each year. During the time of reduced social contact, the tours are offered at 11am and 2pm each of these days. Private tours are available upon request. The tour is only offered for children from 10 years onwards, younger children unfortunately cannot join us on the RIB Express Tour for safety reasons – they are more than welcome on our Classic Whale Watching Tour, though! If you have any more questions about the tour, feel free to reach out to us via phone or e-mail. 

We look forward to having you on board! 

Written by Sophie Kass