Do you like sightseeing excursions by boat? Yep, sure do!
Do you like bird watching? Yep, sure do!
Do you fancy eating raw scallops and sea urchins only seconds after they’re pulled out of the sea? Oh my god yes, where do I sign up?!
As soon as we heard about Seatours’s Viking Sushi excursions out of Stykkisholmur harbour in North West Iceland, we knew we had to sign up. And it proved to be one of our most amazing experiences in Iceland; impressive in a country with so much to see and do!
The sea excursion runs throughout the summer months. The standard and short versions are much the same; a difference of an extra half an hour out on the water; both take you out to the same local islands to view birdlife and unusual geological formations (with fascinating local mythology to explain them) before treating you to the “sushi” experience.
The best fit for our itinerary was the shorter option which turned out to be perfect; any longer, and the cold winds out on the sea might have felt more of an endurance test; as it was, the beautiful sights followed by the sushi kept our minds off the chill factor.
Although the sun was shining, the air was cold. As we gathered speed, a scurry for gloves and scarves was accompanied by muttered regrets about not wearing warmer clothing. Chatting to other guests, we huddled on benches around the open front deck, admiring the coastal landscape as we headed out to sea.
The first island we approached was a nesting site for black-legged kittiwakes – adults have yellow beaks and black only at the end of their tail feathers; juveniles have black beaks and additional black markings around their eyes, on the back of their necks and along their wings as well as the tail tips. They made their nests in the natural hollows and on the ledges around the cliff edges. Moving around the island, a geological fascination of sweeping upright striations in the rock drew our attention.
The next island was the focus of a local myth. Lodged into a natural crack in the island was an immense boulder, said to have been hurled by an angry mountain troll in protest at being disturbed by local church bells. The clincher to the tale, so our guide insisted, was that the boulder has since been tested and is not of the same rock as the rest of the island.
Moving on again, we found a colony of shags on a series of rocks jutting out of the water.
Finally, it was time to lower the plough net to the ocean bed. A few moments later, the crew winched it back up, opened it and let the contents spill out onto the metal counters below.
There were about 20 of us on the excursion and we crowded around as two crew members quickly started opening the scallop shells and offering plump raw scallops on the half shell. A little wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger were provided, though they quickly ran out. Most of the other tourists politely tried a scallop or two, but seemed nonplussed by the raw seafood and wandered away again. Only a few were willing to try the sea urchin roe, though I did persuade a few more to give it a go, and they enjoyed it.
But I was in absolute heaven and laughed to one of the crew members that I’d happily carry on eating as long as she was willing to keep opening them and she seemed very happy to do so. I must have eaten at least 20 enormous plump scallops; they were so deliciously sweet and fresher than I’ve ever had before. I had the roe of four or five little sea urchins too!
Apparently I missed a sighting of a white-tailed eagle that Pete (not a fan of scallop or sea urchin roe) spotted while I was gorging on the sashimi feast. I was far too happy to feel much regret!
More on our Iceland trip.