Whale and Dolphin Watching
Baltimore Sea Safari offers the best value whale and dolphin watching boat trips in West Cork. Our Sea Safari boat trips depart Baltimore twice daily as we tour the coastline in search of whales, dolphins, porpoise, seals, basking sharks and any other marine wildlife that may be in the area. Our boats afford passengers the best viewing platform for whale and dolphin watching on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Whale & Dolphin Watching in West Cork
The waters off Baltimore in West Cork offer some of the best whale watching in Europe, with over 12 catacean species being seen here over the past number of years.
Baltimore Sea Safari boat trips offer an ideal opportunity to view these mammals up close, whilst touring the spectacular unspoilt West Cork coastline. Our skipper has years of experience working in the waters around Baltimore, and in that time has gained a knowledge of the areas where whales, dolphins and other wildlife are most frquently to be found. We have a good working relationship with fishermen, ferrymen and other boat operators in the area and with a group sharing of information on fresh sightings of wildlife, the chances of seeing these amazing creatures is greatly increased. During all of our boat trips we operate good wildlife watching practices and try to limit any disturbance to the wildlife that we encounter to a minimum. Only leave a wake and take only photos and memories!
We also have an on-board Hydrophone that we use (when conditions are right) for listening to dolphins as they feed and play.
Whale watching off Baltimore, Ireland
Minke whale watching off Baltimore, West Cork. Minke whales usually the first of the whales to appear off Baltimore, putting in an appearance around late April and staying until November or early December. The smallest and most abundant of the rorquals (Baleen whale), It is the most frequently seen of the whales around our coastline. The Adult females average 8-8.2m (27 feet) and can weigh 5-15 tonnes.
Fin whale watching on the Wild Atlantic Way in West Cork. During late August the second largest animal on the planet, the Fin whale starts to appear off the West Cork coast, usually its late September or early October before we see them in close to the Baltimore coastline, when they come in to feed on shoals of Herring and Sprats. At up to 24m (80 feet) in length and weighing in at 45,000-63,500 kgs (50-70 tons) they are not a sight to be missed.
September to December is the best time of the year for whale watching in this area, both for the diversity of species and for the number of animals seen, as they follow sprats and spawning herring inshore. This is also when the best sightings of the Humpback whale occurs.
Humpback whale watching in West Cork They usually start to arrive off the coastline in August. Over the last few years we have had good sightings of Humpback whales inshore earlier than normal, with good sightings in March in 2013, then in May and June in 2015 and 2016. The Humpback whale is the most acrobatic of the whales, and there is no better sight than watching a 25-30 ton, 11.5-15m (37-49 feet) mammal as it goes through an acrobatic routine of breaching, fluking, tail-slapping and pectoral fin slapping.
Dolphin watching off Baltimore
Dolphin watching in Baltimore, West Cork The short-beaked Common dolphin is resident and can be seen off the Irish coastline for most of the year, although there is a noticeable increase in sightings around the Baltimore area are from mid to late July when the mackeral come inshore. As the name suggests they are the most commonly sighted dolphin off the Irish coastline, They are often found in large, active schools and readily approach boats to bow and wake ride beside them.
Bottlenose Dolphins in Baltimore, West Cork. Sightings of the larger Bottlenose dolphin are not uncommon here in summertime, as they can be seen feeding and travelling through the local bays and harbours. In April 2014 a bottlenose dolphin named ‘Clett’ travelled to this area from the south coast of England and made the waters around Baltimore and Roaringwater Bay its home for several months. ‘Clett’ thrilled all who came across him with his extremely energetic swimming and often giving spectacular acrobatic leaping displays. In September ‘Clett’ toured up the west coast of Ireland to Scotland before returning down the Irish sea to its home patch on the South of England.
Rissos Dolphin in West Cork, Ireland. Rissos dolphin are seen off the West Cork coastline, but sightings are less common than that of the other dolphins. Usually they are seen close in to shore as individuals or in small family groups. They have a distinctive bulbous head, their body colour is usually light grey to white, with body scratches and scarring that are the result of interactions between individuals.
Harbour Porpoise are the smallest and shortest lived of all cetaceans, they are also the most commonly seen cetacean off the West Cork coastline. During our boat trips we regularly encounter them in the bays and harbours. They are to be seen all year round, usually as individuals or in small groups of 2 to 3 animals. Although they don’t give exciting, energetic displays like the dolphins they are a lovely sight to see. Our area of operation Roaringwater Bay is designated as a special area of conservation (SAC) for the protection of habitat for the Harbour Porpoise.
Seal watching off Baltimore
Seal watching in West Cork We visit seal colonies during all of our boat trips. In Ireland we have only two types of seals, the Atlantic Grey Seal and Common/Harbour seal and both can be seen on the shores and the islands in our area of operation around Baltimore, Roaringwater Bay and the Ilen River. The Common seals arent common and the grey seals are not all grey, but all Grey and Common seal populations are protected under the wildlife act. Because this area is an SAC Baltimore Sea Safari is the only operator in this area to be granted a Notifiable Action Permit by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to carry out seal watching.
Basking Shark watching Sightings of Basking shark which is Ireland’s biggest fish and the second biggest in the world, can be seen off the West Cork coast between end of April and the start of July. The basking shark, so called because of their feeding behaviours, are gentle giants. They move through the water so slowly that they look like they are basking on the surface. They are passive feeders, sifting through plankton as they swim slowly through the water with their mouths open. They are bigger than the Great White shark with adults averaging 8m (27 feet) in length and weighing around 7-8 tons, but they are gentle giants. Just watching them glide gracefully past the boat is an amazing sight.
Wildlife watching off Baltimore
While on our Baltimore Sea Safari trips also keep a lookout for ‘Mola Mola’ Ocean Sunfish which are the worlds largest bony fish and Leatherback Turtles, both of which can often be seen drifting along in the summer sun.
The West Cork coastline also has thriving populations of common seabirds, and recieves regular visits from some less familiar species. These include the Sooty Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Corys Shearwater, Wilson’s Petrel and Skua’s. Late summer is the best time of year for birdwatching. Puffins are a regular sighting in early summer as they drift along on the surface of the sea. We see Curlews, Grey Herons and Little Egret within the estuary of the Ilen River.
Rare birds are not uncommon in the area, our most recent visitor in early 2009, was an Ivory Gull from arctic Russia, which followed a local trawler from 60 miles offshore into Baltimore Harbour and stayed for a week.
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We operate our daily boat trips from the Ferry Pier in Baltimore. However, trips can also be arranged from other West Cork ports on request.