My mum asked for one souvenir from Iceland: a photo of a puffin.
I must admit that I didn’t want to leave Iceland without seeing one, either. My original plan for going on a puffin and whale-watching tour out of Reykjavik had been eclipsed by the opportunity to go inside of a volcano, and I wondered if I had missed out on being able to see a puffin altogether.
On my mum’s birthday, our tour guide took us along the southern coast of Iceland, stopping at cliffs that overlooked the rough sea. Rock formations jutted up out of the water in shapes that reminded me of London Bridge and the Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road back home.
Each time a bird flew past I’d peer at it through my camera’s zoom, hoping to see that distinctive red beak and a flash of white underbelly, but all I saw were gulls. Our tour guide was not optimistic: the previous tour they had only seen three puffins. It was quite likely we wouldn’t see any.
The next stop was ostensibly to walk to another lookout for a view of some basalt columns, but it was also a well-known spot for puffins. And just a few steps away from the car park, there they were, sitting perfectly still, posing obediently while we scrambled to take photos of them.
Our guide marvelled at how many there were. I like to think he knew they were there all along, and wanted to build up the suspense and surprise us!
We tore ourselves away from the puffins and carried on towards the next stop: a black sand beach with basalt columns (it was easy to see how the columns had influenced the design of Hallgrimskirkja back in Reykjavik).
Here, we were being truly spoiled: there were puffins galore floating on the water.
Later that day, still excited by having seen puffins, I sat in the lobby of the Puffin Hotel, wished Mum a happy birthday on Skype, and e-mailed her her present.