Gjesværstappan Nature Reserve was established in 1983, due to its vast population of nesting seabirds during the summer, and it consists of 3 main islands: Storstappen, Kjerkestappen, and Bukkstappen*.* This nature reserve is home to almost 1 million puffins, coming here from the vast ocean to nest from April to September. This is one of the largest colonies of puffins in Northern Europe. During the nesting period visitors are not allowed to set foot on the island, so this bird safari will be solely from boat.
I have booked my 2-hour bird safari from birdsafari.no and the ticket costed me 790 NOK, which is around 76 euros.
The safari boat leaves from the small harbour of the Gjesvær fishing village, which is surrounded by beautiful landscape and it is a must see if you visit Nordkapp.
The boat that we went with had a toilet and since we visited during the corona time in August 2020, we had plenty of space on the boat. There were maybe 10-15 passenger in total, which was great because I could move around in all directions with my big lens without bothering anyone.
After few days of rains we got very lucky and we experienced our safari on a very sunny and calm day. The landscape from the harbour was beautiful, with the mountains reflecting in the still waters of the fjord.
And of course the famous stock fish wooden racks were there as well...
The boat ride from Gjesvær harbour to Gjesværstappan took only 10 minutes as they said and even if the waters were calm the boat was still moving quite much, so these are not really my best pictures. It is quite a challenge to capture birds in flight when you are moving and your target is also flying really fast. Nevertheless, out of 3000 images that I captured some of them are actually focused. All the bird pictures in this article are captured with Canon 5D Mark IV camera and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, mostly at 400 mm. A lot of images are cropped quite a lot and I think a lens with a longer focal length would have been better for portraits. However, I don't know if I could have handled a longer focal length due to the wavy boat. The 400 mm proved also quite a challenge and quite many times I just had to rely on my camera and hope that from a full burst of images some of them would be properly focused.
As soon as we approached the islands we saw lots and lots of puffins in the water. This was not my first puffin safari, so I pretty much knew what to expect. I remember the first time I saw puffins in Mykines, I was so mesmemerised by the sheer number of them.
Most of them fly away way before the boat gets close enough to snap a good picture, but some of them linger on a bit longer to see what happens. After a while they dive in the water and you cannot see them anymore..
I actually have quite many pictures of these cute butts..
Unfortunately this is the closest you will get to these puffins during this bird safari. As it is not allowed to step foot on the island you cannot go and see them up close and personal as I did on Mykines island in Faroe Islands or on Lunga island in Scotland. Even so, I love puffins and I am happy to see them any chance I get! This was already my 4th puffin safari and I was still so very excited to see these goofy looking birds, so I am going to share even more images!
Unfortuantely for these puffins, there is a big winged predator around that is looking for easy meals: the majestic white-tailed eagle! Because of rocks and waves the boat cannot get that close to the island and the eagles blend very well with the rocks and landscape, making them sometimes very difficult to spot.
The white-tailed eagle is always the greatest attraction for most people on these safaris, but I actually have a another bird that I fell in love with when I saw it quite close on Mykines: the northern gannet.
This beautiful white bird with blue eyes and yellow head was the highlight of my trip. These birds were so far present only in Mykines and I haven't seen them in 2 years, so I was so excited when I saw a few flying around. As soon as the boat turned around the cliff I noticed that there were lots of them nesting and having chicks.
Here is a zoomed in version of the image above, where you can see some grey, fluffy chicks.
One went flying just over the boat...
Besides the gannets, on the lower rocks, closer to the water you can see lots of cormorants.
Kittiwakes are often present as well and here is no exception. There are between 5 000 and 10 000 pairs of kittiwakes nesting here every year.
On the other side of the island things were a bit different... Just as we turned the corner it suddenly got colder, windier and very wavy. Now it was really a struggle to hold my camera in position and everything was in a dark shadow. Even so, we managed to spot a seal by the rocks. Even if I saw glimpses of seals during these safaris, I never managed to see one up close. Maybe next time...
Besides these birds, you can also see razorbills, shags and fulmars. I was actually looking forward to see fulmars, but unfortunately I didn't see any on this trip. It might be that we visited a bit too late.
I was expecting some kind of feast for the eagles as there were in my previous safaris, but this time the eagles weren't fed by the organisers. Probably they felt there is no need as there are quite many flying around, but none of them were really that close as in the other safaris. Probably the best sarai for seeing eagles so far was the one from Lofoten.
As we went around the island a veil of clouds surrounded the peak of the island. There were lots and lots of puffins in the sky and you knew that their burrows are there in the grass, but it was way too far to see.
As we left we saw a pair of white-tailed eagles sitting on a rock quite close by. As the boat passed by, they both flew away. This was the closest encounter we got with the eagles.
Even if we didn't get too close to the birds this was a wonderful experience and I would definitely go on the bird safari again if I ever visit Nordkapp again! I won't miss any opportunities I have to see these birds and the bird safaris are always the highlights of my trips when travelling to the North! In my opinion 2 hours was enough to see everything there is to see and it was a nicely organized trip. After getting back to shore we found a really nice restaurant where we ate lunch, called "Northcape Seapark".