The Vestmannaeyjar Puffin Patrol
In late August/early September on Vestmannaeyjar, an island just south of (mainland) Iceland, small winged creatures descend upon town. Confused, baby puffins mistake the lights of the town for moonlight on their maiden voyage down from the dramatic cliffs that surround the area (below). Instead of heading out to sea to learn to fly, they wind up landing in town, next to a bakery or in a brightly lit shipyard. In a manmade world, they hide, petrified of their failed instincts.
That is where the Puffin Patrol comes in. Every night for a few weeks in early Fall, children from the village fill the streets from nightfall until late, armed with boxes, scanning the streets for puffins. When they discover a terrified puffin, they place him/her in a cardboard box and take the puffin home, where it will sleep in darkness until the morning.
It is not particularly difficult to find these baby puffins, and driving around the streets with my two and three year old children provided a lasting memory for our family. We stayed up late, cruising the streets like vandals, peaking in cardboard boxes to inspect the occasional captured puffin. I even ran over my phone - completely destroying it.
The puffins stay the night with local children, and the next morning, a queue forms at the local Aquarium where a scientist documents each puffin and sends them safely out to sea, where they learn to fly and live happily ever after. It is an awesome thing to experience.
Vestmannaeyjar is a great place to visit overall. I ate some of the best fish of my life, which is of course fresh from the surrounding ocean. We also really enjoyed exploring the volcanic rock and its small but intriguing town. There are interesting playgrounds for kids, black beaches, and even a pretty cool looking golf course.