Puffins on the Fly, Iceland

Seabird Photography at Incredible Grimsey Island

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Far from Iceland’s bustling tourist activity, tiny Grimsey Island sits directly on the Arctic Circle.  Lying 25 miles (40 km) north of “mainland” Iceland in the vast and tempestuous North Atlantic, Grimsey attracts vast numbers of colonial seabirds to nest on its precipitous cliffs—including tens of thousands of highly photogenic Atlantic puffins.  Though the island is packed with birds, the tourists are few, and tourist facilities are scarce. 
"This was a fabulous trip that exceeded my expectations. Joe and Daniel provided a very personal experience, catering to the different levels of experience for all participants."
- K. Cochran
Each spring, as throngs of breeding birds converge on Grimsey, the setting is one of the most spectacular nesting colonies to be seen in the Northern Hemisphere. The island is ringed on all sides by towering crumbling cliffs and populated by this impressive and accessible Atlantic puffin population. Due to its exposed position far out into the Atlantic, there is always a breezy side to the island that usually provides ideal conditions for puffin flight shots.
Though puffins are clearly the stars of the show, we also expect to photograph common and thick-billed murres, razorbills, black guillemots, northern fulmars, red-necked phalaropes, arctic terns, black-legged kittiwakes, snow buntings and nesting shorebirds.
Our trip is timed to coincide with the middle of the Atlantic puffin nesting cycle. Now, the chicks are hatching and the adult birds are foraging for numerous small fish to feed their voracious hatchlings dwelling deep in their underground burrows. Backlit puffinDuring the course of the nesting season the parents may bring as many as 2,500 fish to their solitary chick. A prize photo is a bird with numerous small sand eels draped from its colorful bill—and we will have lots of opportunities to do this. Other puffins, still awaiting their chick’s appearance, spend more time loafing on the cliff—and they allow prolonged shooting opportunities. At this time of year, puffins frequently stand just outside their clifftop sod burrow, often among tiny but prolific bouquets of dwarf wildflowers, as they scan for predators.
On this photo tour we get right to our shooting location by minimizing travel time. We fly from Reykjavik to the airport nearest to Grimsey and then transfer to the island by ferry. On Grimsey, we have our own large 4X4 vehicle that gets us to all points of the island quickly and efficiently as weather and puffin activity dictate—and cut down on time spent hiking with our big lenses.
Puffins gathered on cliffIf you’ve ever wanted to work on photographing one really charismatic species—along with a variety of others to add to the excitement—with enough time to thoroughly capture it with your camera, then this trip is for you. The photography and the warm Icelandic hospitality, coupled with Grimsey’s natural beauty, the cry of the seabirds, and the smell of salt air, blend marvelously in this concentrated “summer” puffins photo tour.


Compelling Reasons To Travel With Us

Iceland’s Grimsey Island offers spectacular accessibility to one of the northern hemisphere’s most endearing birds.  Atlantic puffins rank high on the bucket lists of many nature photographers and are the darlings of thousands of Instagram posts.  Many tours to Iceland visit small puffin colonies for a few hours in the summer with limited photo access—often at midday when light is harsh and most birds are at sea, foraging. What sets our Puffins on the Fly–Grimsey Island photo shoot apart from the rest?  Plenty!
Unparalleled Experience
Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris has more than 25 years of experience offering dozens of Iceland photography tours—more than half of them focusing on puffins and other seabirds.  Daniel Bergmann is a photo journalist who has published several Iceland photo books and is an expert on Iceland’s birds and Joe Van Os Flying puffinhas had more than 40 years of experience photographing all the world’s puffin species across the northern hemisphere.  We know Iceland well and deliver you to a spectacular wildlife area far off the beaten tourist track.
Fly Across Iceland
It can take quite a bit of time to reach some of Iceland’s most spectacular photo locations.  On this tour we fly across Iceland from Reykjavik to an airport close to Grimsey, eliminating two day-long drives.  The airfare for this flight and the return flight to Reykjavik is included in the tour price.
Total Immersion in Puffin Photography—Just Steps From Your Door!
On this exciting photo tour we are privileged to stay in a cozy island guest house exclusively chartered for our group’s use.  The guest house is immediately across the street from a spectacular puffin nesting area with thousands of birds.  With almost 24 hours of daylight there is always something close by to photograph.  We bring our own chef with us who provides delicious meals at the guest house while working around our varied shooting schedule.
Our 4x4 vehicle takes us where others can't goTour Transportation
While on Grimsey we have our own modified 4x4 sprinter van on the island which easily negotiates the island’s primitive dirt tracks.  The van provides a dry shelter in case of a sudden squall, gear storage in the field, a place to sit, and greatly reduces hiking to remote spots with heavy gear.  Weather permitting, a chartered boat trip around the island lets us get close to floating rafts of birds and possibly a whale or two.
When you consider all the essential details that we’ve combined to make your trip comfortable, safe and very photographically productive—starting from our office and continuing into the field—we know you’ll choose our exceptional Puffins on the Fly photo tour.


Check out Joe Van Os' trip report from our latest Puffins on the Fly photo tour
For trip questions or to enroll give us a call at (206) 463-5383

Tour Itinerary

Day 1
Depart from the US.  Most flights from the US are overnight flights that depart in the afternoon or evening and arrive the following morning at Keflavik International Airport (KEF).  However, some flights depart the US earlier in the day and arrive at Keflavik (a distant suburb of Reykjavik) late at night, requiring an additional hotel night and expense, in Keflavik or downtown Reykjavik.
Day 2 (Jul 5 or Jul 12, 2022)
Arrive this morning at Keflavik (KEF) and transfer to the downtown Reykjavik domestic airport Reykjavíkurflugvöllur (RVK).  Easy transfer details will be sent upon enrollment.
Puffin in flightA short afternoon domestic flight delivers us to Akureyri where the tour leaders meet the group.  We check in to our hotel and meet for dinner. (D)
Days 3–7
After a short drive we board a small ferry at Dalvík on Day 3 and set sail to Grimsey, located 25 miles (40 km) off Iceland’s north coast and home to one of Iceland’s largest puffin colonies, as well as one of its largest arctic tern breeding sites.  Only 60 people live in Basar, the island’s small fishing village.  A visit here is reminiscent of the rural life in times gone by.
After disembarking the ferry we settle into our comfortable guesthouse and then begin our island explorations.  Grimsey is a mere 2-square-mile (5 square km) speck in the vast and turbulent North Atlantic.  Although Grimsey is located on the Arctic Circle, the North Atlantic Current brings some warmth from the Gulf of Mexico, promoting a surprisingly mild climate despite its northerly position.  A pair of razorbills in IcelandThis serenely beautiful bucolic island is ringed by one giant bird colony.  Puffins are easily photographed at numerous locations at almost any time of day, and fulmars, murres, razorbills and kittiwakes nest on these same cliffs.  Due to its exposed position, the windswept island provides particularly noteworthy opportunities to photograph puffins in flight.  They are joined in the air by a throng of other colonial nesting seabirds that are found here in large numbers.  Also vying for our attention are the nesting oystercatchers, sandpipers, plovers, terns, wagtails, wheatears and buntings that are widely distributed across the island.
Depending on the weather, a two-hour boat trip is planned during our visit to photograph puffins, murres and razorbills floating on the water as well as landscape shots of the bird cliffs from below.  (BLD)
Day 8
After a final photo session we take the ferry back to the mainland in the late afternoon and then drive and overnight in Akureyri. (BLD)
Day 9 (Jul 12 or Jul 19)
We fly to Reykjavik domestic airport Reykjavíkurflugvöllur (RVK) this morning. From there you can  transfer to Keflavik International airport (KEF) by bus or taxi.  We arrive in time for most participants to catch international flights homeward. (B)
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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Puffins on the Fly, Iceland

Jun 27, 2022 - Jul 19, 2022


A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place for you on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.


All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposit only, we accept Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Final payment of the trip fee is due 120 days prior to departure and must be paid by check or bank transfer. Trip deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable.

We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time cancellation fees in the following amounts apply:

If Written Cancellation is Received:
90 days or prior:
89 to 61 days prior:
60 or fewer days:
Cancellation Fee:
100% of deposit
50% of trip fee
100% of trip fee

No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason whatsoever. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

Protect your travel investment and purchase a trip insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. A trip insurance brochure will be sent with your enrollment confirmation. A CANCEL FOR ANY REASON policy is available.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. “Meatless” meals are normally available at most locations. Due to the remote nature of many photo locations, and the growing diversity of today’s dietary trends, participants requiring special food items are encouraged to bring their own.

Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, applicable health advisories and reading list. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or e-mail address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or e-mail messages to info@photosafaris.com.

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific costs that are included in your trip fee. Generally these costs include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides abroad, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Single accommodations are available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodations or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises, if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations, but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea are included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger (trip participant) in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motorcar, motor coach, boat, ship or aircraft or other conveyance, and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts, bankruptcy or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay, cancellations or changes in flights or other tour services, and by force majeure including sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine, epidemics and outbreaks, or other causes.  All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in flight schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure due to low enrollment, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 3) At the company’s sole discretion, suspend or postpone any trip due to force majeure in which case the trip may be rescheduled, or a refund issued less any non-refundable deposits paid to tour component providers on behalf of the passenger, or a travel credit given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 4) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 5) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A Registration Form including the Enrollment Conditions and Release and Assumption of Risk sections must be signed by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington. Certain ship owners require the use of pre-printed ticket forms that limit the ship owner's and operator's liability. When such tickets are used, the passenger is bound by the terms of these tickets with respect to the passenger's legal relationship to the owners and operators of the ship, their agents (Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc.), and the ship's crew.

Puffins on the Fly, Iceland: Easy Activity Level

Four-wheel-drive vehicles and commuter aircraft.  Relatively easy walking over uneven tussock clumped ground.  Walk as far or as little as you wish.  Vehicles usually close at hand.  Photograph at the edge of steep cliffs.  24 hours of daylight.  Depending on the weather photograph into the wee hours when light levels are best. Sleep-in in the morning.
Trip Details
Multiple Departure Dates 2022
Fee: $5,995 from Reykjavik, Iceland includes internal tour airfare
Deposit: $1,000
Limit: 11 participants
Activity Level: EasyEasy

Tour 1: July 4-12, 2022
 - Two Spaces Available
Tour 2: July 11-19, 2022
 - Currently Full, Please Join Waitlist
Tour 3: 
June 27-July 5, 2022
Trip Just Added, Space Available

  • Five days of Atlantic puffin photography at one of the world’s premier puffin photography locations
  • Domestic flights across Iceland cut down on tour travel time
  • Trip timed to median puffin egg-hatching date and the photogenic adult delivery of fish to the chicks
  • Photograph puffins standing amidst profuse coastal wildflowers
  • Shoot thousands of nesting terns, murres, razorbills, fulmars and kittiwakes
  • Reside in a cozy island guesthouse within a short walk to photogenic seabird cliffs
  • Boat trip planned to photograph birds on the water
Tour Leaders
Joe Van Os

Joe Van Os

Daniel Bergmann

Daniel Bergmann

This trip provided unlimited access for us to view and photograph Puffins right in their habitat.
—T. McCullough