CELEBRATING TWO DECADES AT GENTLE GIANTS
Two decades at Gentle Giants at the age of "only" 32. Not only is this a big birthday year for the company celebrating twenty years but also indeed for our team member Daniel, who has been a part of the team since the very beginning and with passion taken part in the whole successful development step by step. Here he recalls some of the highlights of the exciting journey at GG.
Where to start? GG has been a part of my life since I was 12 years old. From one oak boat and five staff members to eight boats and 50 staff members 20 years later – what an adventure!
It all started back in 2001 when the company Hvalaferðir was founded in Húsavík. With one oak boat Faldur, my father and brother were guiding on board, and thanks to my international background and language skills, I got a job from an early age distributing brochures and cleaning the boats. Tourism in Húsavík was at an early stage back then, the whole whale watching concept quite new.
In 2004 the current CEO and owner Stefán joined the game and rebranded the company into Gentle Giants. A lot of developments followed such as a new Ticket Center in cute little huts, new boats added to the fleet and so on. But always keeping the family team spirit.
Around those years I was mainly in the Ticket Center as well as guiding on board the boats. In my early days of guiding, minke whales and white-beaked dolphins were the main sightings. I remember the excited feeling of seeing my first humpback – out there on Skjálfandi Bay on a calm beautiful June evening, together with my brother and we spotted a huge blow in the distance which we had never experienced before. In the early humpback days, I used to take a big sign out on the street in front of our Ticket Center saying "humpback in the bay".
Since then, humpbacks have become the main stars and often in huge numbers. As well as all kinds of species such as blue whales, orcas, pilot whales, sperm whales and so on. The variety has changed a lot since I started and I can almost tick the box of having spotted all the most common whale species around Iceland. It is fun reminding new team members how the whale status has changed over the years, from the standard being a "two minke trip" to a "10 humpback trip". Of course it is good to keep in mind that this is unpredictable wild nature and no tours ever the same.
My most memorable trip as a guide – wow they are many and especially the humpback encounters. But the one that stands out is when I was guiding on board our boat Sylvía together with captain Kalli waiting for two blue whales to come up from a dive. I am standing on deck talking to my passengers. The boat is completely drifting and engines off. Suddenly I look down and straight into the massive blow holes of a blue whale, it gently touches the boat, then the head comes up on the opposite side of the boat and the tail on the other side. You can imagine how big they are those largest animals on earth, when boat Sylvía is just over 17 metres and the whale can be double the size. I have probably never screamed so much of excitement as then.
2011 is a memorable year as then we got a new Ticket Center as well as started the RIB speedboat adventure. Tourism in Iceland was increasing fast and in a few years, we had five RIB speedboats which opened up a lot of possibilities – and much fun to work on. The feeling of cruising around the bay with the wind in your hair experiencing wildlife at its best.
Quite early I became the assistant manager of the company and have actively participated in the company development. My tasks have included sales and marketing, website work, human resource management, travel shows, maintenance, staff training, book keeping, IT developments and basically a bit of everything which is the fun thing in such a small but big company. No days have ever been the same and always interesting tasks to accomplish. With some pauses while living abroad in Sweden for studies and tourism work, I have still always been on the side of GG in one way or another, working distance and then moving fulltime back home in 2017 and working for the company on a year round basis.
When we started all these years ago, the season was only from June-August but gradually extending on both sides. Now before COVID, the season was running from March and throughout November. It has been great to see all the changes in the tourism industry how things have developed and interacting with our guests from all over the world. Seeing Húsavík being an unknown location into becoming a world-famous whale watching destination, the Whale Capital of Iceland, and how the whale watching has changed Húsavík to the better for the local inhabitants.
My biggest highlight in those years is without doubt the great team who make Gentle Giants. It has been so nice and interesting to work with people from all over the world, with different backgrounds, get to know them and share experiences while all working together with the same aim of creating unique and high-quality experiences for our customers. Dedicated team and luckily with a steady core of people returning year after year – becoming lifelong colleagues and friends. It is a real family company with a great spirit and a privilege to work in such an international environment.
One of the main strengths in the company in my opinion has been the steady management and streamlined decision-making over the years. With Stefán, me and a few other great people in the management steering the ship, the focus has always been clear and step by step growing and improving the company. I have learned so much and it has also shaped me who I am today. It has been a fantastic journey to see my "baby" grow from being a tiny whale watching company in Húsavík to the successful business as it is today, known worldwide and servicing thousands of customers.
All the things that we have accomplished in those years have been amazing. When looking over the whole operation today in Húsavík: fancy headquarters Flóki, two oak boats, five RIB boats and a fibreglass boat, big maintenance workshop, Ticket Center and cosy RIB dressing area and last but not least, good facilities in Flatey Island.
On a personal note, Gentle Giants has also had a great impact on my life. In 2008 came a young Swedish girl to work as a guide. She very soon became my girlfriend and then in 2013 we got married in Naustavík in Kinn Mountains, GG making it possible for us to have such an incredible international wedding in a dream location in Skjálfandi Bay. She has stood by my side in this journey and before we know it, our young daughter (who is already a whale-lover), may be wearing a blue jacket and ready for action?
Finally I want to thank all my great colleagues and friends at GG throughout the years for a wonderful adventure, the boss and owners Stefán and Hanna Sigga and last but not least, all our customers and collaborators in the industry. I am very thankful for this time and look forward to the next twenty years full of new opportunities in the blue team!
Check out the photo slide show below:
20 years at Gentle Giants
Two decades at Gentle Giants at the age of "only" 32. Not only is this a big birthday year for the company celebrating twenty years but also indeed for our team member Daniel, who has been a part of the team since the very beginning and with passion taken part in the whole successful development step by step. Here he recalls some of the highlights of the exciting journey at GG 💙 Check out the photo slide show and read the full story here: https://www.gentlegiants.is/news/2021/12/07/celebrating-two-decades-at-gentle-giantsPosted by Gentle Giants Whale Watching on Tuesday, December 7, 2021