After spending their lives performing in captivity, a pair of beluga whales return to their natural habitat in the Arctic Ocean. As Thrillist reports, Little Gray and Little White will be the first two residents of a new beluga sanctuary in Iceland, the world’s first open water beluga sanctuary.
The two belugas are both females born about 12 years ago. They were removed from their native waters near Russia when they were babies and transported to the Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai, a Sea World-like attraction where marine animals perform for entertainment. Sea Life Trust, the organization behind the new whale sanctuary, has spent seven years organizing the animals’ trip to Iceland, and on June 19 they will finally arrive in their new home.
The Beluga Sanctuary is located in Klettsvik Bay on Heimaey Island off the south coast of Iceland. Little Gray and Little White will have an open ocean area of 34,455 square feet and 30 feet of depth to explore. Water temperatures will also be much closer to those beluga whales are naturally adapted to, but after spending so much time in China, whales need to acclimatize to their frigid new habitat. Currently weighing around 2,000 pounds each, beluga whales are given additional food to help them gain weight.
Instead of seeing them behind the glass walls of a pond, visitors to the sanctuary will be able to see whales in their natural environment. From August 1 to October 30, boats will take tourists around the bay where the whales live. Tickets start around $ 50.
The featured residents are yet to arrive, but the Whale Sanctuary officially opened this spring. The attraction also houses a visitor center with an aquarium and a puffin sanctuary, both now open to the public.