By Andrea Romano
May 15, 2019
David Merron Photography/Getty Images

Animal lovers now have a new reason to visit Iceland.

Adorable beluga whales are a popular attraction to aquariums around the world, but like many other wild animals, they also risk losing their habitats due to human intervention such as population growth, new buildings along the coastline, fishing, and other problems that sea creatures face.

While the beluga whale is not technically endangered (except for one particular beluga population in Alaska), conservationists are working to keep this beautiful and lovable creature safe for the future.

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According to Lonely Planet, a conservation organization called Sea Life Trust in Iceland has created the world’s first open-sea beluga whale sanctuary and already has two beluga residents on their way.

The trust’s two 12-year-old female belugas, Little White and Little Grey, are traveling in June to Iceland after living in captivity at Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai, China, Lonely Planet reported. The two whales will find their new home in Klettsvik Bay on Heimaey Island where they can swim in the natural waters of the Beluga Sanctuary.

According to Thrillist, beluga whales can dive thousands of feet below the water but generally stay around 60 feet below. The waters at the sanctuary are about 30 feet deep but cover an area that’s close to the size of about six football fields (34,455 square feet). Though the whales will be in slightly shallow waters, they’ll be able to spread their fins, so to speak, as much as they like.

The whales are currently being acclimated to the icy waters before their trip, Thrillist reported. Though belugas are Arctic creatures, the two whales have been swimming their entire lives in far warmer waters than they would have in the wild.

After the whales are fully acclimated and settled in their new home, visitors will be able to view the whales between Aug. 1 and Oct. 30, according to Thrillist. Boat ride prices will begin at $50 USD. The sanctuary is also home to a population of puffins and its own aquarium as well.

More information on the sanctuary and its first two residents can be found on the Sea Life Trust website.