Puffin paradise: Sæheimar Aquarium

After a long and exhausting ferry kerfuffle (see travel note below), Emma and I landed on Heimaey Island, the largest of the Vestmannaeyjar islands and the home of several thousand people and Iceland’s largest puffin colony.DSC_9256DSC_9254We knew the local celebrity puffin, Tóti, lived at the Sæheimar Aquarium, so it was our first stop. For Emma, it was love at first sight. DSC_9268DSC_9273DSC_9274Tóti was born 6 weeks later than the other pufflings, and so by the time he was strong enough to make fly, the rest of the colony had already left the island for the open seas. The staff at the Aquarium took him in and cared for him for the season (the staff take care of injured birds and stranded chicks, most of which are rehabilitated and released). When the next breeding season came around, the staff prepared to release him into the wild, and had put him in a pool with some live fish for him to practice hunting. Tóti simply played with the fish for a while before padding over to his feed. It became clear that Tóti may not make it in the wild. He has stayed on at the Aquarium as celebrity puffin, much to the delight of thousands of visitors. DSC_9278DSC_9282DSC_9279DSC_9281DSC_9284DSC_9290DSC_9291IMG_9278.jpgDSC_9296If you can tear yourself away from the charming little guy, you can check out the rest of the small aquarium, which includes several tanks of fish, which were also quite cool, but Tóti definitely steals the show. DSC_9260DSC_9258DSC_9257Travel notes: We had major issues getting on and off the island. The beginning of May is not peak season, so the ferry service is less frequent. There are two ports that you can leave from: THORLAKSHOFN (ÞORLÁKSHÖFN) which is the winter port and Landeyjahöfn, which is the summer port. Our ferry out was supposed to go from Landeyjahöfn but was rerouted to leave from Thorlakshofn due to high winds. Since it is over an hour to drive between the two ports, we missed that ferry and had to find a new place to stay. On our return to the mainland, the ferry was once again cancelled with little warning, and we were stranded on Vestmannaeyjar for the night. I think this is a little bit more straight-forward in peak season, however, it seems that the ferry service is a little bit unreliable, so if you go to visit the puffins, be sure to give yourself adequate time to make the journey, understanding that the ferries may or may not be running.

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