Our Sea Safari boat trips offer the ideal platform for Whale, Dolphin, Porpoise, Seal and Basking Shark watching in West Cork.
Whale and Dolphin Watching in West Cork
Nearly one third of the world’s known whale, dolphin and porpoise species have been recorded in Irish waters. The waters off the West Cork coast offer some of the best whale watching in Europe, with over 12 catacean species being seen here over the past number of years.
Our 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.
The Minke whale is usually the first of the whales to appear, putting in an appearance around May and staying until late October or early November. 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.
During August the second largest animal on the planet, the Fin whale starts to appear off the West Cork coast. 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, although they do start to arrive off the coastline in August. 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 and Harbour Porpoise Watching
The Common dolphin is resident off the Irish coastline for most of the year, although best sightings around the Baltimore area are from mid to late July when the mackeral come inshore. They are often found in large, active schools and readily approach boats to bow and wake ride beside them. 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. They are extremely energetic and acrobatic, and often give spectaular leaping displays.
Rissos dolphin have also been seen off the West Cork coastline but sightings are less common than that of the other dolphins.
Harbour Porpoise can also be seen in the bays and harbours all year round and although they don’t give exciting, energetic displays like the dolphins, nevertheless they are a lovely sight to see. They are the most commonly seen of all marine mammals in the West Cork area. We go Seal spotting during all of our boat trips, where we visit seal colonies. Atlantic Grey Seals and Common/Harbour seals are to be seen on shores and islands around the Baltimore area. The waters around Baltimore and Roaringwater Bay has been designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), where all wildlife and Grey and Common seal populations are protected under the wildlife act. Baltimore Sea Safari is one of the only operators in the area to be granted a Notifiable Action Permit to carry out seal watching by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
Sightings of the basking shark, which is Ireland’s biggest fish and the second biggest in the world, can be seen off the West Cork coast between April and 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. With adults averaging 8m (27 feet) in length and weighing around 7-8 tons, seeing them glide gracefully past the boat is an amazing sight.
Whilst on our Baltimore Sea Safari trips also keep a lookout for Mola Mola 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.
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.
Refer to our photo and video gallery to see images and videos of some of the wildlife that we have encountered.
Code of Conduct
Baltimore Sea Safari adhere to and operate under the guidelines issued by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in Marine Notice #15 of 2005 and by the code of conduct from the Irish Whales and Dolphin Group (IWDG). Our seal watching is carried out under the seal watching guidelines set out by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
Mícheál Cottrell, skipper of Baltimore Sea Safari, also completed the Marine Wildlife Tour Operators course run by the IWDG in 2008.
We pride ourselves in our ability to provide maximum viewing for our passengers without disturbing or interfering with the whales, dolphin, seals and other wildlife that we may come across.