Program of the Orca Expedition in Norway

EXPEDITION / COURSE IN ORCA BIOLOGY

Orca Expedition in Norway
Strømsholmen Sjøsportsenter and Pierre Robert de Latour with Alessandro De Maddalena

 

INTRODUCTION

The Expeditions / Courses in Orca Biology in Norway are operated by Strømsholmen Sjøsportsenter. The expeditions are hosted by Captain Olav Magne Strömsholm with Pierre Robert de Latour and Professor Alessandro De Maddalena, three of the world’s foremost orca experts. The participants will encounter orcas in their habitat and learn about biology, ethology and ecology of these predators. All guests can snorkel with orcas as there is no scuba qualification required. There is space for a maximum of 12 participants. Participants must land at the airport of Tromso, Norway, and leave from the same airport.

 

THE HOSTS

Strømsholmen Sjøsportsenter has worked with orcas (Orcinus orca) from 1991. Captain Olav Magne Strömsholm has been the first operator to offer snorkeling and freediving with orcas in Norway. His team is composed by experienced dive instructors and dive masters. Pierre Robert de Latour is rescue diver, orca specialist and underwater guide. He has hosted many orca expeditions with Strømsholmen Sjøsportsenter, with a total of over 5,000 dives with orcas.

Alessandro De Maddalena (Milan, 1970) is one of the world’s foremost shark experts. He’s a researcher, writer, illustrator, photographer and expedition leader. He earned a Master of Natural Science, M.Sc., from the University of Milan. His Thesis was on the presence of the great white shark in the Mediterranean Sea. He is an Adjunct Professor of Vertebrate Zoology for the post-graduate course in Marine Sciences at the University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy. He’s a collaborator of Apex Shark Expeditions, (South Africa), of Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions (Australia), of Strømsholmen Sjøsportsenter (Norway), and has hosted over 30 expeditions with them. During these expeditions he gives courses in biology of sharks (in South Africa and Australia) and orcas (in Norway). He’s also the curator of the Italian Great White Shark Data Bank, a founding member of the Mediterranean Shark Research Group, a Regional Investigator of the Global Shark Attack File, and an Ambassador of the Undersea Soft Encounter Alliance. He is the author of 20 books on sharks, 35 research reports in peerreviewed scientific journals and 80 articles in popular and professional magazines, published in 17 Nations. He has also given many lectures on shark biology at many universities, museums and diving associations in Europe.

 

COST OF THE PACKAGE

The cost includes:

− 6 expedition days on board the ‘Sula’,

− 6 night accommodation on board the ‘Sula’,

− observation of orcas and other cetaceans (especially humpback whales) from the boat,

− snorkeling with orcas (everyone can do it),

− possibly scuba diving along the coast (only for divers qualified for scuba diving with dry suit),

− course in biology, ethology and ecology of orcas taught by Professor Alessandro De Maddalena,

− all meals and soft drinks on board.

NOT INCLUDED: flights, taxi, accommodation on land, meals on land, alcoholic beverages, extra activities in Tromso, dive gear, insurance.

MEETING WITH THE GROUP

Participants will communicate to Alessandro De Maddalena full information about their arrival at Tromso Airport. Please provide flight number, date and time. Usually the staff of Strømsholmen Sjøsportsenter will pick up the guests at 2pm in front of Scandic Ishavshotel, Fredrik Langes gate 2, Tromso Harbor, and will take them to the Sula, usually moored in Kaldfjord.

COURSE IN BIOLOGY, ETHOLOGY AND ECOLOGY OF ORCAS

The course will be taught by Professor Alessandro De Maddalena. The lectures will be held on board the Sula, for a total of approximately 7 hours of lectures. Every day the lectures are taught in english, french and italian. Moreover during the entire expedition, Alessandro De Maddalena, Pierre Robert de Latour and Olav Magne Strömsholm will be available to answer to all participants’ questions. Course program includes: evolution, classification, identification, size, coloration, morphology, swimming, anatomy, reproduction, habitat, distribution, movements, social behaviours, predatory strategies, diet, relationships with humans.

OBSERVATION OF ORCAS FROM THE BOAT AND BY SNORKELING / FREEDIVING

Strømsholmen Sjøsportsenter’s boat is the Sula. We’ll be on board for 6 days and 6 nights. The Sula is a 27 meter boat with a qualified 6 member crew. The boat has living room, dive suit drying room, washing machine, tumble dryer, 2 cabins with 4 beds, 5 cabins with 2 beds, and one cabin with 3 beds (cabins have upper and lower beds), 3 toilets, 2 showers, and all cabins have washbasin with warm and cold water. We will sleep on board in the cabins, and we’ll have bedclothes and towels. The guests will need to share the cabins. All meals, and soft drinks on board are included (we’ll have a professional chef on board). On board there are 220 V two pole power sockets (CEE 7/4, German “Schuko”, Type F).

Obviously sightings of orcas are not guaranteed, but with a very long experience of working with orcas in Norwegian waters, the operator estimate a 99% probability to see orcas during the expedition. The expedition takes place during the high season of orcas in Norwegian waters, therefore we expect to see many of them. Keep in mind that because of the modest amount of daylight in this period of the year, the conditions are not adequate for taking easily high quality underwater photos. When orcas are sighted, they are observed from the boat. Weather permitting, we come closer to the cetaceans with a dinghy, so that it is possible to snorkel with them. Often the water is clear, sometimes with an amazing underwater visibility. This is an unbelievable opportunity, especially for professional underwater photographers, that is offered by very few operators in the world.  Strømsholmen Sjøsportsenter was the first norwegian operator to offer the opportunity to snorkel with orcas. Scuba equipment is not used to dive with orcas because it produces a lot of noise and bubbles. To snorkel it is necessary to use a dry suit. Anyone can do it, since no diving certificate is necessary. Usually the crew will divide the 12 guests into 2 groups of 6 guests each, so that they will take turns to be on the dinghy and to snorkel /freedive with orcas. Since the daily time on the dinghy is usually 2-3 hours, each group of 6 guests will be on the dinghy for 1-1,5 hours per day. This has to be done both for safety reasons and to avoid that guests are exposed to excessive cold.

Participants must keep in mind that orcas are potentially dangerous animals, it is therefore necessary to follow carefully the instructions given by the staff, do not touch the orcas and in general do not make anything that can threaten yours and other persons’ safety.

Sometimes, in the late afternoon, after the encounters with orcas, qualified scuba divers can scuba dive along the coast if they are qualified to use a dry suit.

Usually is possible to see even other animals, including other species of cetaceans, especially many humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), and various species of sea birds. In the case that orcas are not encountered or that planned activities have to be cancelled because bad weather does not permit it, the participants will receive no refund.

If some participant want to bring his own dive gear, camera, videocamera or other gear there is space enough on the boat. Dive gear can be hired onboard (please inquiry about the cost): dry suit, thinsulate underwear, mask, snorkel, fins, hood, glowes, booties, regulator, and aquaflot suit to be used on the boat as a protection from the wind and the rain. It is necessary that you let us know if you want to hire this dive gear which use is strongly suggested to be adequately protected from the cold.

TYPICAL DAY ON BOARD

We wake up at 7:30. We have breakfast at 8:00-8:30. The boat leaves at 9:00. We look for orcas and when we find them we approach them on a dinghy and we try to snorkel to observe them. Usually there is the possibility to use the dinghy for 2-3 hours (this means 1-1,5 hours for each group of 6 guests). We come back to Sula and we have lunch. When the sun comes down we come back to the same harbour or we choose another harbour in the area. Lectures on orca biology are held in the afernoon. Sometimes it is possible to scuba dive in the late afternoon (keep in mind that it’s dark). We have dinner at 18:00. Sometimes at night is possible to observe the Aurora Borealis or northern lights.

EXCHANGE

Automated teller machines where it is possible to withdraw Norwegian Crowns (NOK) are available at the Tromso Airport. It is suggested to activate the SMS transaction notification service for your card. You will be notified about your transactions in real time that you make on your credit card or bancomat and this will enable you to identify any fraudulent transactions taking place on your card.

MEALS

All meals and soft drinks are provided complimentary on board.  Alcoholic drinks on board, and meals on land are NOT included in the cost.

INSURANCE

Please note that travel insurance is not included. It is wholly the participants responsibility to obtain adequate travel insurance.

PASSPORT AND VISA

For entering in Norway it is necessary to have a passport with validity of at least 30 days after the date planned for your return to your Country. Don’t forget to bring the same identity document that you used to purchase your fly ticket. Also check at the local Norwegian Consulate.

VACCINATIONS

No vaccination is compulsory to visit Norway.

TEMPERATURE AND WEAR

During our staying in Norway it will be Winter. The daylight is very limited. The average air temperature ranges from -10 to +10°C. The average water temperature is +5°C. At sea it can be very cold and windy. Weargear for the trips is not provided by the operator. Therefore it is fundamental to bring clothing that protect adequately from cold and wind. It is suggested to bring a warm waterproof jacket to protect from the wind and cold, long pants, cap, glows, wool tights, boots or other waterproof shoes, swim-suit, suntan lotion. We also reccomend that you bring polarized sunglasses. It is suggested to wear in layers, so that if the temperature raises it is possible to uncover gradually. For dive gear see ‘Observation of orcas, snorkeling and diving’.

SEASICKNESS MEDICINE

It is important to prevent sea sickness, because it is sometimes reported during these boat trips. We suggest two medicines to prevent sea sickness: Stugeron (cinnarizine) or Dramamine (dimenhydrinate). Stugeron works very well; a tablet taken the night may be sufficient, but if needed it is possible to take a tablet even in the morning (or half tablet the night and half tablet in the morning). Be aware that alcoholic beverages can cause strong sea sickness.

PAYMENT TERMS

A non-refundable deposit of NOK 8000 to be paid upon booking. The balance of the monies to be paid by 60 days before the expedition start.

CANCELLATION POLICY

If a participant decide to retire from the expedition, the deposit will be not refunded, while the rest of the payment will be refunded only if the participant is forced to retire for illness and provide medical documents to prove it. In case of late arrival or no arrival, the participant will receive no refund.

 

Dates, costs and spots left for all the expeditions are available at this page:
http://www.alessandrodemaddalena.net/uk/expeditionscourses/

 

CONTACTS

E-mail: alessandrodemaddalena@gmail.com
Website: www.alessandrodemaddalena.net
Facebook: www.facebook.com/alessandro.demaddalena.1