Join Helge at sea, and you are guaranteed to see whales

Skipper Helge Hellesund (68) fell in love with Andøya and the whales in the sea off its coast. If you join him on his boat, you are almost guaranteed to experience the giants of the sea up close.

For more than ten years, this cheerful Western Norwegian native with a resounding laugh has taken tourists on whale safaris in the waters off Andøya. He has since expanded his operation to include bird watching and fishing trips, as head of tour operator Wild Ocean. He has spent most of his life at sea. Ever since he finished his navigator training, he has always been at the helm, whether onboard tankers, fjord cruises, fishing boats, or express boats.

Life changed by chance 

The whale adventure on Andøya started by chance in 2008. That's when the company Helge worked for in Vestland County sold a catamaran to Hvalsafari AS in Andenes. The catamaran needed to be transported north, and it was Helge who was assigned to sail the vessel up the Norwegian coast.

"That's how I arrived in Andenes for the first time. To test the vessel, the company took me out on whale safaris and around the coast. It was extremely beautiful. When the job was finished, I went home to Bergen and didn't think much more about it," says Helge.

Find your hotel during your stay in Norway. Click here


A close up to the killer whales

Just a few meters from Helges boat, a killer whale is swimming by.

At that point, the captain was not aware that this particular job would come to change his life. The following year, the phone rang one day out of the blue. The company that had bought the vessel was struggling to find a qualified crew for the catamaran. They wondered if Helge might be interested in working a season as their captain.

He was.

"It was a lot of fun and gave me a craving for more. So when the phone rang in 2010 with the same request, it wasn't hard to accept," says the captain.

Besides fantastic scenery and a new, exciting captain's job, the Western Norwegian had another reason to travel to the north.

"I met a woman with whom I now have two young children. It made the choice even easier. So I just moved north and bought a house. It cost the same as a double garage in the south of Norway, so it didn't require too much thought," he says with a chuckle.

Find your hotel during your stay in Norway. Click here

Started a fishing adventure

While Helge was working with taking tourists on whale safaris in the sea around Andenes and Andøya, he founded the company Wild Ocean and started taking visitors out to Bleiksøya to look at the approximately 80,000 puffins that breed on the island each year.

The trips quickly became popular, but on every trip, Helge was asked the same question: Is there anyone who wants to take people on a real fishing trip up here?

"Yes," the captain thought, "I can."

"It quickly became a success. I would have liked to have done even more of it," Helge told Picolo.

At the same time as he runs whale watching, bird watching and fishing trips, Helge still works as an express boat captain in Bergen and commutes south every two weeks for work. The plan was therefore to offer fishing trips exclusively in the summer on a hobby basis during retirement, but it can be challenging.


Eagle in flight

After many request from visitors, Helge started his own ocean safari company, Wild Ocean. Other than whales, you get to see other wildlife.

Fishing tourists from all over Europe

"I see that people are already booking trips for late autumn and winter already now, in the summer. What was originally planned as a small hobby project as a sideline has expanded throughout the year - which is a lot of fun."

"I usually say to guests: We're done fishing when you get bored. They rarely understand what I mean until we have the boat full of fish," says Helge, before bursting into laughter. 

Helge provides all the fishing equipment, and visitors keep as much fish as they can take home. The fishermen come from all over Europe, young and old, with the majority being Norwegians and Swedes. The experienced captain has noted a special trend.

 "There are many people who have taken a trip themselves who had so much fun that they want to give away a fishing trip as a gift to mom or dad. That's really great. Among other things, there were some folks last year who had given their father a fishing trip as a Christmas gift after having been on a trip themselves. I was worried that the weather would be bad when they arrived, but it was amazing. They ended up with 12-15 kilograms of skrei (Arctic cod). They were in heaven and have promised to come again," says Helge eagerly.

imageHelge Helelsund

Perfect Northern light

According to Helge Andøya and Andenes is one of the best and most beautiful places to observere the northern lights in Norway.

Swimming with killer whales

In addition to fishing trips with a guaranteed catch, it is not surprising that whale watching is one of the most popular activities in the area. Humpback whales, fin whales and long-finned pilot whales are just some of the species that swim around in the sea off Andøya.

According to Helge, you are almost guaranteed to see whales on a trip. In fact, the company Helge is a skipper for, Hvalsafari AS, actually gives you your money back if you do not see whales on the trip.

"If you are on a whale safari, I would say that you have a 98 to 99 percent chance of seeing whales. In other words, it's a pretty safe bet. On nature safaris with RIBs, it's only a bonus if you catch whales," says Helge.

On whale watching, there are also great opportunities to experience killer whales up close. In recent years, a trend has emerged where tourists choose to jump into the cold water with the animals. It's a trend Helge isn't a big fan of.

"It is said that killer whales are so intelligent that they don't make any mistakes, but one must not forget that they are wild predators. Swimming with them is not recommended, and something I don't like because you can see that the animals don't like it. My advice would be to not take any chances and simply enjoy the sight of these amazing animals in their natural habitat."

I've experienced wild moose eating apples out of my hand.

imageHelge Hellesund / Privat

Fell in love with Andøya

The captain fell in love with Andøya at first sight.

A normal day at work

In other words, fantastic nature experiences on Andøya are hard to miss.

Besides love, what is so alluring about Andøya?

"Nature itself!"

 "And, of course, the rich fishing here. As an avid hobby photographer, it's an absolutely fantastic place to be – summer and winter. Lots of nice walks and mountain hikes. I've experienced wild moose eating apples out of my hand. I don't think you'll find that in many other places."

"If you ask me, Andenes is one of the finest places in Norway to experience the northern lights. It's absolutely fantastic in our clear skies," insists Helge.


Beautiful Andøya

It´s easy to understand why Helge loves the nature in Andøya.

With seawater in his blood and over 40 years of experience from the sea, it is therefore perhaps not surprising what the captain responds when we ask what his best tips for experiencing Andenes and Andøya are:

"It must be to get out onto the sea - preferably on both whale watching and fishing trips. I would start with a RIB trip to Bleiksøya in the morning to look at the bird life. Then a whale safari around 12.00, before finishing with a fishing trip in the evening – preferably under the midnight sun. That is a perfect day," concludes the cheerful captain.

Find your hotel during your stay in Norway. Click here

Offers from Alps Resort

Book a trip to the alps

Choose your personal holiday home from 30+ ALPS RESORTS in Tyrol, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia or Bavaria. Some of our holiday homes, apartments and glamping resorts are dog-friendly and can also be booked with a private pool or sauna.

See offers


Holiday homes, apartments & glamping

Looking for a time-out? Our holiday homes, apartments and glamping resorts in the Austrian and Bavarian Alps meet everyone's vacation needs! But don’t just take our word for it, come see for yourself!


Ski Holidays in Austria at ALPS RESORTS

Looking for a perfect home-away-from-home for your ski holiday in Austria? Located right next to the piste or valley lift station, our holiday homes and holiday apartments are the perfect base for your next ski getaway in the Austrian Alps.