Photographer Dan Zafra of Capture the Atlas is always up for a new adventure. And so, when the opportunity presented itself, he couldn't pass up the chance to spend a week photographing and swimming with orcas in the Norwegian Arctic. While these highly intelligent animals are found in all oceans and most seas, it's only in the fjords of Northern Norway that encounters are commonplace enough for groups to organize trips to see these animals.
After spending a few days in Tromso, Norway, which is known for its incredible Northern Lights, Zafra and a small group of travelers boarded a small buoy-laying vessel. This boat brought the group on a three-hour voyage through the fjords where they would spend a whole week with the orcas.
Everything was planned carefully to coincide with the annual orca migration. Each winter, hundreds of orca move toward the fjords in search of food and create the largest gathering of whales in the world. Against the dramatic winter landscape, Zafra spent his days framing photos of the orcas emerging from the water and waiting for an opportunity to get into the water.
“When the guides considered that it was safe to get in the water with the orcas and whales, we gently slipped off the side of the zodiac and got into an underwater world where we experienced one of the most privileged sightings on Earth,” Zafra writes. “The encounters were always unpredictable; sometimes, it was a quick look to see how the orcas were traveling underwater looking for food, while others, it was a longer encounter when they were curious and they approached us.”
During his time in Norway, Zafra spent hours each day observing these incredible animals and studying their behavior. This also included watching them hunt “bait balls,” which are densely packed schools of fish. Watching orcas and whales hunt and fish together in groups was, for Zafra, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
See some of his incredible visuals from this unique experience with the orcas.