The SEA LIFE Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary was created in partnership with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) and is one of the world’s most active developments in the care and protection of marine life. It’s located on the tiny Icelandic island of Heimaey, the only inhabited island in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Here’s everything you need to know about the new sanctuary.
Two new beluga whales
There are two beluga whales being introduced to the new sanctuary – Little Grey and Little White. They are both female, 12 years old, originate from Russia, weigh in at almost a ton each and measure around 4 metres long. Little Grey is playful and curious with a mischievous side that often sees her squirting water at her handlers, while Little White is rather shyer and more reserved.
The whales’ journey
The two beluga whales, Little Grey and Little White, will be carefully transported more than 6,000 miles from their current home at the Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai to Heimaey Island. This logistically challenge will take more than 30 hours and make use of a special chartered cargo plane which will carry them safely from Pu Dong International Airport to Reykjavik.
The sanctuary is enormous
When opening in April 2019, the sanctuary will occupy the 32,000-square-metre Klettsvik Bay on Heimaey Island. The waters are more than 30 feet deep allowing plenty of space for the belugas to deep dive, swim and explore. Sheltered from the harsh Icelandic weather, the bay will allow scientists to carefully manage and monitor the beluga whales from.
Welfare of the whales
The welfare of the whales is the sanctuaries number one priority. Local veterinary experts in China will be ensuring a smooth transition, while world renowned specialists in marine welfare and behaviour will ensure their mental and physical well-being. The Arctic waters in Icelandic are considerable colder than what they are currently used too. A higher calorie intake will ensure the two whales put on extra blubber and be prepared for the colder open waters.
Introducing the whales to local fauna
During the first phase, both beluga whales will be slowly introduced to the local wildlife including shellfish, crabs and sea kelp. This introduction is important to help them adjust and interact safely with their new environment.
It’s not all about the whales
While the whales will inevitable be the stars of the show, they aren’t the only reason to visit the sanctuary. Here, you’ll find an excellent Puffin Rescue Centre where you can get up close to these amazing creatures. Learn about their life on Vestmannaeyjar, their importance to the islanders and how the sanctuary is looking to protect them for future generations.
It’s right around the corner
If you’re staying with us at the Guesthouse Hóll, you’re in luck because the sanctuary is just a few minutes away. If you make a booking, get in touch and we’re more than happy to organise your tickets, transport to and from the sanctuary and organise your boat trip to the sanctuary bay or the visitor centre.