Gentle Giants

Imagine encountering whales in wild nature. This is what we do at Gentle Giants and welcome you aboard with us.

Gentle Giants offers whale watching tours and other exciting seafaring adventures from the famous whale watching town Húsavík by Skjálfandi Bay, in the north of Iceland.

Our company was founded in 2001 when eleven experienced and diverse individuals in Húsavík decided to combine their years of expertise in a variety of fields to establish a new travel and tourism company in Húsavík. They restored an old oak boat, originally used for fishing and whale hunting, and put it back into use sailing visitors around Skjálfandi Bay searching for whales – not for hunting but for watching. The huge effort grew into a giant success and Gentle Giants has ever since employed great staff and enjoyed a rapidly increasing number of passengers.

The company is proud of its originality and background, owned by Stefán Guðmundsson and his family. He is also the CEO, marketing manager and a captain. Stefán has strong roots in the bay and has been a fisherman since childhood. We were born by the bay of Skjálfandi and our ancestors too. Read more about our 150 years of family history in the bay.

Gentle Giants operates a fleet of traditional Icelandic oak boats, modern RIB speedboats and a fiberglass boat. This gives us the possibility to offer you all kinds of adventures at sea, whether scheduled or private tours. Our staff consists of both local and international people of all ages with various backgrounds and experiences.

Gentle Giants’ goal is to make every guest a happy one. We are proud to receive the Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor for the sixth consecutive year: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. It confirms and underlines that we are surely on the right track in outstanding service and delivering a great experience.

Office:
Habour Side
640 Húsavík

Website

Arctic Sea Tours

Arctic Sea Tours offers whale watching from Dalvik close to Akureyri in North Iceland. There are two option to go out whale watching, with and old traditional fishing boats where you can also fish on the same tour or in a fast and safe Rhib whale watching boat. Arctic Sea Tours is the only operator offering suspension seats on a rhib which are scientifically proven to provide better Shock Mitigation than any other seats.

We also have a variety of other sea adventures such as sea angling (fishing), and day tours out to the Arctic island Grimsey! Our location is 66°N close to the Arctic circle which lies just north of Iceland and through Grimsey island.

We operate licensed oak passenger boats, equipped according to strict standards set by the Icelandic Maritime Administration. We emphasize on personal service and small groups of passengers. We do our best to make your tour a special one and provide you with an unforgettable experience. We care greatly about the environment and animals around us and treat them with respect and caution, and ask that our visitors do the same.

LOCATION

Arctic Sea Tours ticket office is located just above the harbor on a street through Dalvik called Hafnarbraut 22 next to the petrol station N1 – when you drive through the town of Dalvik you will see our ticket office on the main road just above the harbor close to petrol pumps of N1, on the house there is a big orange sign with “Arctic Sea Tours logo and whale watching” that will lead you to us. If you can not find it you can call us at 00 354 7717600

Office:
Hafnarbraut 22
620 Dalvík

Website

Uses of the Icelandic sheep

Meat Production

Icelandic lamb is a wonderfully flavorful, exceptionally lean meat from animals raised with no antibiotics and no added hormones. In Iceland, the Icelandic lamb is almost exclusively bred for Icelandic meat production. As previously mentioned lambs are not fed grain or given any hormones. Lambs are slaughtered at four to five months, weighing between 70 to 90 pounds (32 to 41 kg).
The muscle has a high proportion of Omega-3 fatty acids and iron, giving the Icelandic meat its wild game flavor. The distinctive taste is a result of the wild pastures; the grass and the aromatic and spicy herbs on which the lambs graze. Some subtle differences have been noted between the meat from lambs grazing in the highlands, the lowlands, and by the seashore. The meat is very tender and has a fine texture due to its high amount of red muscle fibers, which is influenced both by the breed and its grazing habits. Given the organic farming methods, Icelandic lamb is considered to be among the best in the world.

Wool Production

Even though the Icelandic wool counts for little of the income from sheep in Iceland (less than 15%) it is the wool for which they are known. The Icelandic fleece has an inner and outer coat typical of the more primitive breeds with the fine undercoat being called Thel, and the long, coarser outer coat called Tog. Icelandic fleeces tend to be open and not very greasy. Due to the length of fiber, the openness of the wool, the natural colors and the versatility, fleeces are usually sold through specialty markets to hand spinners. The thel is down-like, springy, lustrous and soft. The longer tog coat is similar to mohair, wavy or corkscrewed rather than crimped and is wonderful in worsted spinning. At present this wool is not suited for the industrial market in North America, both because of how rare it is and also because of its unique nature. The natural colors vary from snow white through several shades of grey to pitch black as well as several shades of morrit to brownish black. Some individuals will also show mouflon, badgerface patterns with several combinations of color and patterns. Bi-colored individuals are also fairly common.
The wool Icelandic sheep produce has no counterpart in the world. Evolving over 1100 years of exposure to the sub-Arctic climate, Icelandic wool has a distinctive combination of inner and outer fibers. The outer fibers are long, glossy, tough and water repellant, while the inner ones are fine, soft and insulating, providing a high resistance to cold.

Skins

The lamb skin of the Icelandic sheep is excellent as a pelt skin. That is in part due to how relatively few hair follicles they have. Fashion clothing, mostly coats, as well as sheepskin rugs has long been manufactured from the pelts. These items usually demand a high price on the world market.

Taking a dog to Iceland

Dog in Iceland

Flying with pets can be a daunting task. Flying with dogs can be even more difficult.  Bringing your dog to Iceland can be quite complicated and can take an immense amount of planning and preparation work. Requirements for taking your dog to Iceland can be quite strict and include several forms, an import application fee, and four weeks of quarantine. Also, completion of these various vaccinations and forms can take several months, so if you want to take your dog, plan early.

Import applications for dogs and cats are available from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority. After the application has been sent in with proofs of health and treatments, it will likely be approved within 2-3 weeks. Then, you must take care of the import fee (about 20,000 ISK) and schedule the quarantine in Iceland for your dog or cat.

It is important to read over all the requirements regarding necessary vaccinations (e.g. rabies, parvo, distemper), examinations, medical treatment etc. since some have to be completed well in advance of taking your dog to Iceland. The blank form for the Certificate of Health and Origin by the Chief Veterinary Officer of Iceland is the only certificate that will be accepted.

Flying with Dogs: At the Airport

The District Veterinarian inspects all pets at the Airport of Entry upon arrival to Iceland and ascertains that they do not have any symptoms of infectious diseases. It is necessary that all Import permits, required Certificates and a positive comment from the Chief Veterinary Officer of Iceland are on hand.

The dog must be transported from the country of export to Iceland without coming in contact with other animals. If the dog comes from a country without rabies, transport through a country with rabies is not permitted unless the dog remains in the international zone of the airport.
Countries without rabies (dogs and cats who have remained in a country without rabies 6 months prior to importation) do not have to be vaccinated against rabies: Australia, Faroe Islands, Finland, Great Britain, Hawaii, Ireland, Japan, New-Zealand, Norway (Svalbard not included), Sweden.

Please note that Iceland renews animal import regulations every year. By the time you travel, there may be slight procedural changes for dogs. Always check for official updates before taking your dog to Iceland.

For a complete checklist on flying with dogs to Iceland, see:

http://www.mast.is/library/Lei%C3%B0beiningar/ChecklistIportationofdogsandcatstoiceland.pdf

Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority

Austurvegi 64
800 Selfoss
Iceland
Tel: +354 530 4800
www2.mast.is

Rettir – Sheep Roundup

What is it?

If you’re visiting Iceland in the fall, catching the annual sheep roundup or “réttir, “is one activity in Iceland you do not want to miss. During the month of September famers in Iceland come together in a joint effort to round up sheep from the mountains. The annual event is one that has been handed down as a tradition among the Icelanders for ages.

The tradition of driving sheep to the mountains in the summer came from the necessity of survival. Many of the fields surrounding the farms were used to produce hay for the livestock for winter feeding, and it was necessary to find a new location for sheep to graze during the summer. It turned out that the mountains would be a perfect location, offering the sheep the opportunity to graze freely on the abundant highland vegetation.

During the fall in Iceland the farmers head up to the mountains to herd the sheep, usually on horses or four wheelers with a few Icelandic sheep dogs to help out. The sheep are then brought down to the Réttir – the sorting site – where they are first put together in a large corral in the middle but later sorted into smaller pens that belong to the Icelandic farms in the area. This traditional search for Icelandic sheep is great fun and attracts people from the surrounding towns, friends and families, but also complete strangers who just like to join in on the fun and help out.

At the end of sorting the Icelandic sheep, they are herded to their respective farms and sometimes the farmers will throw parties to thank the helpers, serving traditional Icelandic meat soup and other Icelandic delicacies. In some places there’s a dance in the evening where happy, Lopi-wearing sheep sorters will celebrate the day’s success.

How can I participate?

Many tour companies in Iceland offer special guiding trips for the annual sheep roundup. Although many packages include other sites along the way, it is well worth the entire experience. While some trips require you to be an experienced rider, many other tours are suitable for everyone. Enjoying the unique and traditional customs of Iceland such as participating in “réttir“ is a great experience and will leave you with a strong sense of Iceland’s wonderful culture and history.

Icelandic Sheep in General

History and Background

The modern Icelandic Sheep is a direct descendant of the sheep brought to the island by the early Viking settlers, in the ninth and tenth century. It is of the North European Short Tailed type, related to such breeds as the Finnsheep, Romanov and the Swedish Landrace, all of which are descendants of this type of sheep which was predominate in Scandinavia and the British Isles during 8th and 9th century. Of these the Icelandic and the Romanov are the largest, classified as medium size.
Very few attempts have been made to change the Icelandic sheep through the centuries with outside crossings. The few attempts that were made resulted in disasters brought on by diseases introduced through the „new blood“. As a result producers drastically culled all animals which were results of crossbreeding. As a consequence all effect of other breeds was eliminated. It is now illegal to import any sheep into Iceland. As a result of these factors improvements to the breed have been done by selective breeding within the breed itself. Genetically the Icelandic sheep is the same today as it was 1100 years ago. It is possibly the oldest and purest domesticated breed of sheep in the world today.

Characteristics

The Icelandic sheep are of medium size with mature ewes weighing 150-160 lbs. and rams 200-220 lbs. They are fine boned with open face and legs and udders. Similar to that of mountain sheep, the breed has both polled and horned individual of both sexes but it is primarily horned. Icelandic sheep are not particularly tall but broad and have an excellent conformation as a meat breed. Life expectancy is long, healthy ewes commonly lambing until they are 12 to 14 years old in Iceland. The Icelandic sheep’s wool is dual coated and comes in many natural colors, even though the white color is most common.

Temperament

The Icelandic breed is not a docile breed. They are alert and fast on their feet. Most of them are very individualistic with a poor flocking instinct. They tend to spread out which makes them good users of sparse pasture. They are good browsers and seem to enjoy eating brush and wild grasses. The ewes are good mothers and high milk producers which is not surprising considering they were also used as milk animals until the middle of the twentieth century. It has been reported they are aggressive toward other sheep and will usually dominate in those situations. Behavior in Icelandic sheep has been compared to that of feral or early domestic animals.

Icelandic Sheep Dog

History of Icelandic Sheepdog

The Icelandic Sheepdog is the only native dog of Iceland. It is descended from the ancient Nordic Spitzdogs and was taken to Iceland by the Vikings, together with their sheep and horses, more than 1,100 years ago. The Icelandic Sheepdog and its method of working adapted to the local terrain, farming methods and the hard struggle for survival of the Icelandic people over the centuries, making it indispensable in the rounding up of livestock on the farms. The dogs were of vital use to the Icelandic people, thus demanding the utmost in character, frugality and health in their breeding.
The breed suffered several setbacks during the 19th century and came close to extinction. First, many dogs became severely infected with tapeworms due to direct contact with infected sheep. The infestation was serious and widespread. It even entered the human population and affected several percent of all people who were living in Iceland at the time. The second disaster was a major distemper epidemic that killed roughly three-quarters of the entire Icelandic dog population in the late 1800s. After that, the government enacted a law to impose a tax on the ownership of dogs. As a result of that tax, Icelandic Sheepdogs became extremely rare. Records indicate that many Icelandic farmers offered sheep and even horses in trade for a single Icelandic Sheepdog, because they could not manage their livestock without them. Fortunately, the breed ultimately was saved through the efforts of a few dedicated Icelandic and English dog fanciers.

Description of Icelandic Sheepdog

The Icelandic Sheepdog is extremely healthy and strong.   There are two types, medium and longhaired.   Their coat is double, thick and therefore water repellant, which helped it survive Iceland’s harsh nature. The Icelandic Sheepdog has a very wide range of colors, with most dogs being tri-color. Usually a single color predominates, which covers the spectrum from cream through to black, usually with a white chest, white legs, white blaze and white tip on tail.   The most common color is reddish to golden brown with white markings; these markings are often edged with black. Dew claws usually occur on both front and hind legs.   According to the standard, they are mandatory on the hind legs and it is preferable for them to be double. Traditionally the dew claws on the hind legs were used by the dogs during the annual sheep roundup in the fall where the dew claws gave dogs an extra boost when climbing in high terrain to reach sheep.

Temperament of Icelandic Sheepdog

Icelandic Sheepdogsare tough and energetic. It is a hardy and agile herding dog that barks, making it extremely useful for herding or driving livestock in the pastures, in the mountains or finding lost sheep. The Icelandic Sheepdog is, by nature, very alert and will always give visitors an enthusiastic welcome without being aggressive. Hunting instincts are not strong. The Icelandic Sheepdog is cheerful, friendly, inquisitive, playful and unafraid. Most adore children and get along well with other dogs and pets.

Dog Sledding Tours

Holmasel
Selfoss 801
Iceland
Tel: +354 899 1791

www.dogsledding.is 
There is nothing like the thrill and excitement of touring Iceland’s incredible scenery on a dog sleigh.
If you are looking for an activity for your Holiday in Iceland why not share the beautiful sites and open spaces on the ride of a lifetime as a dog sled team guides you in a great adventure.

Dog Sledding in Iceland

Dog Sledding in Iceland

Experience the thrill and excitement of touring Iceland’s incredible scenery while dog sledding in Iceland. Share the beautiful sites and open spaces as a dog sled team guides you in a great adventure. It is both a chance to travel old school style and also to experience a form of travel that brings you into contact with nature in a unique and picturesque way. Dog power has been utilized for hunting and travel for hundreds of years. As far back as the 10th century these dogs have contributed to human culture.

Dog sled teams are put together with great care. Putting a dog sled team together involves picking leader dogs, point dogs, swing dogs, and wheel dogs. The lead dog is very treasured, and seldom will mushers ever let these dogs out of their sight. Indeed, trained lead dogs become part of the family household. Important too is to have powerful wheel dogs to pull the sled out from the snow. Point dogs are located behind the leader dogs, swing dogs between the point and wheel dogs, and team dogs are all other dogs in between the wheel and swing dogs and are selected for their endurance, strength and speed as part of the team.

Dog Sledding on Langjokull Glacier

The dogsleds are operated on the Langjokull glacier in the western part of the central Icelandic highlands. Currently dog sledding tours are offered all year long. After a 3-hour drive to the glacier from Reykjavík, you will be transported to the glacier itself either by 4×4 or by snow mobile. The tour lasts 45 to 60 minutes depending on the weight of the sled and the condition of the snow.

Dog Sledding without Snow

Dog trolley – sledding without a sled! In the autumn when there isn’t enough snow in the highlands and the glaciers are not safe for sledding, the company offers another kind of sledding experience. This is the ‘dog trolley’, a specially-built trolley that the dogs can pull like a sled. On these tours, passengers are given the opportunity to have a nice break in the middle of the tour, and then there is plenty of time for photography and dog-petting.

Dog Sledding for Everyone

For those hungry for an adrenaline rush, dog sledding tours offer a unique opportunity to combineadventure and sightseeing in one. Given that dog sledding is a year-round activity, you can do it any season, there are no age limits, and is suitable for everyone: couples, friends, or families.

You’ll experience the harmony between animal and nature in a totally silent landscape, where the only sound is the breathing of the dogs and the sled running softly along the ground. Sledding creates no air or noise pollution and is a life enhancing moment that you’ll treasure for a long time.Bring your camera and enjoy a dog sledding adventure on the glaciers of Iceland under the reigns of experienced guides.