Discovering Iceland’s Iconic Wildlife: A Must-See Guide for Nature Enthusiasts

When we think of Iceland, we immediately imagine its breathtaking landscapes, majestic waterfalls and hot springs. But did you know that this island is also full of exceptional wildlife? During your stay in Iceland, you will have the unique opportunity to observe emblematic animals, true treasures of this Nordic territory.

Legends and beliefs around Icelandic wildlife

Iceland, although known for its natural wonders, is also rich in an ancestral culture populated by myths and legends. These stories, often centered around wildlife and natural elements, reinforce the intimate connection between Icelanders and their environment.

Behind each creature that populates this earth there is often a story, a story passed down from generation to generation. Take for example the orca. In certain Icelandic legends, this animal is the incarnation of marine spirits who came to guide the souls of sailors lost at sea to their final resting place. Their presence in Icelandic waters is not only a spectacle for the eyes, but also a reminder of the power of the elements and nature.

THE puffin, with his almost comical appearance, is sometimes considered the guardian of the cliffs. The ancients say that this bird would be a messenger between the world of humans and that of the spirits of the sea. Its bright color and agile flight distinguish it as a sign of good fortune for those who come across it.

THE reindeer, introduced to Iceland, have also found their place in local folklore. It is said that these animals were sent by the Norse gods to remind people of the need to respect the earth. Their movements across the island are said to be a sign of the seasons to come and the need to be in harmony with nature.

As to beluga, his appearances are rare and precious. Some Icelanders believe that this animal is a spiritual guide, coming to show the way to those seeking answers. Its white color links it to the spirit world, and its presence in the Icelandic fjords is considered a sign of blessing.

The Northern Lights: Iceland’s natural spectacles

Beyond its remarkable wildlife, Iceland offers breathtaking natural phenomena, including the Northern Lights, these marvelous curtains of light that dance in the night sky. Although not directly related to wildlife, the Northern Lights are intrinsically linked to Iceland’s wilderness and its identity.

Also called “Northern Lights,” the Northern Lights are the result of collisions between charged particles from the Sun and Earth’s atmosphere. When these particles meet oxygen and nitrogen, they create this unique light show. Green, purple, pink and sometimes red hues mingle to create an unforgettable picture.

Iceland, thanks to its geographical position close to the Arctic Circle, is one of the best places in the world to admire this phenomenon. The ideal time to observe the Northern Lights is from September to March, when the nights are longest. It is recommended to move away from city lights and look for a dark place with a clear view of the sky. Certain places, such as Thingvellir National Park or the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, are particularly popular with Northern Lights enthusiasts for the purity of their skies.

If the spectacle of the Northern Lights is mainly visual, we must not forget the sensory experience that accompanies it. The silence of Icelandic nature, the crunch of the snow underfoot and the feeling of cold on the skin intensify the magic of the moment.

Iceland’s hidden biodiversity: an underwater exploration

Even if Iceland is often associated with its terrestrial landscapes and its emblematic fauna, we must not forget the importance and richness of its seabed. Icelandic waters, bathed by the warm Gulf Stream and the cold Arctic currents, offer unique marine biodiversity that deserves to be highlighted.

The mysterious world of kelp forests

Kelp forests, or kelp forests, form true underwater oases in Icelandic waters. These giant algae, which can reach up to 20 meters in length, create a rich and diverse ecosystem. Between their fronds, a multitude of species find refuge, from small shrimps to colorful fish. Kelp forests play a crucial ecological role, providing habitat for many species, but also by regulating carbon dioxide present in the water.

Luminescent creatures of the deep

Iceland, with its deep waters, is also home to bioluminescent creatures, which produce their own light. From small organisms, such as plankton, to abyssal fish, this bioluminescence offers an underwater spectacle reminiscent of the magic of the Northern Lights. This adaptation, in addition to being fascinating, has a specific function for these creatures: attracting prey, camouflaging themselves or even communicating.

The importance of coastal wetlands

The Icelandic coastline is punctuated by wetlands, estuaries and salt marshes. These environments, although sometimes neglected, are essential for marine fauna, particularly for juvenile fish which find there a refuge from predators and an abundant source of food. These areas are also the stopping place for many migratory birds.

The volcanic imprint on marine fauna

Volcanoes are inseparable from the image of Iceland. Often we think of the impressive landscapes they carve on the surface, but it is also important to recognize their influence on marine life. Underwater eruptions shape the ocean landscape and directly influence the marine ecosystem.

Hydrothermal fields: cradles of life

Underwater eruptions create hydrothermal fields where super-hot, mineral-rich water escapes from the ocean floor. These areas, despite their extreme conditions, support specialized and adapted life. Thermophilic bacteria, which thrive in these warm waters, form the basis of an ecosystem that nourishes species such as shrimp and crabs. These organisms have evolved unique adaptations to survive in such a hostile environment, providing a window into the ability of life to flourish in extreme conditions.

The role of eruptions in water renewal

When a volcano erupts underwater, it can cause considerable water movement. These upheavals renew surface nutrients, attracting a multitude of plankton. This peak in productivity in turn fuels fish and marine mammals, creating a chain effect that can boost marine life for months after the eruption. It’s a reminder of how land and sea are intrinsically linked in Iceland, with geological forces directly fueling biological wealth.

Protection of underwater volcanic sites

Given the ecological importance of underwater volcanic areas, efforts are underway to protect these delicate ecosystems. Researchers and conservationists emphasize the need to preserve these habitats for research, but also to ensure the long-term health of Iceland’s oceans. Iceland’s volcanic footprint is not limited to its mountains and geysers; it is also found in the depths of its waters, influencing wildlife in unexpected ways.

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