Photographer Chronicles a Magical Week of Swimming With Orcas in Norway

Swimming with Orcas in Norway by Dan Zafra

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.

Photographer Dan Zafra spent a week photographing orcas in the Norwegian Arctic.

Swimming with Orcas in Norway by Dan Zafra

Together with a small group of photographers, he sailed through fjords to watch orcas as they hunted fish.

Swimming with Orcas in Norway by Dan ZafraView Over Tromso, NorwaySailing in Norwegian Fjords

Each day, he spent hours observing their behavior.

Orca in the Norwegian ArcticSwimming with Orcas in Norway by Dan ZafraOrca in the Norwegian ArcticOrcas Tail Rising from the Water

And, when the opportunity presented itself, even jumped into the watch to swim with the orcas.

Orca Eating Bait UnderwaterOrca Swimming Underwater in NorwayOrca Swimming Underwater in NorwayOrca Swimming Underwater in NorwayOrca Swimming Underwater in Norway

Zafra called the experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Orca Swimming Underwater in Norway

Capture the Atlas: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Dan Zafra.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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