West Cork is a truly amazing place for getting up close and personal with some of the largest and most spectacular creatures on the planet. Every winter large baleen whales congregate off the South West coast – with a lot of activity focussed off the headlands of West Cork.
On Friday I was lucky enough to head out on a Whale Watching Trip with Colin Barnes out of Union Hall. We saw a total of five cetacean species on the trip: Fin Whales (Balaenoptera physalus), Minke Whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena and more than a hundred Common Dolphins (Delphinus delphis).
A Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) surfaces not far from the boat
A common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) appears, riding the bow-wave created by the large whale
… and behaves exactly as it would when bow-riding a boat, demonstrating, perhaps, the origins of this curious habit.
We had an amazing trip – the second best I’ve ever been on (my best whale watching trip ever was one four years ago, also with Colin Barnes off the West Cork coast). We saw literally dozens of fin whales blowing all around us, about half a dozen minke whales, four humpbacks, the occasional porpoise and a hundred or more common dolphins. One of the highlights was seeing three different species of whale swimming together – two fin whales, a humpback, and two minke whales in one place. Amazing!
A humpback whale and fin whale surface together just off Galley Head, West Cork
This is the best time of the year to see large baleen whales off the Irish coast… November, December and January are when you get peak whale activity. So if you want one of the most spectacular wildlife experiences on the planet, get in touch with Colin (who incidentally also does gift vouchers, if you’re looking for an unusual Christmas present).
Ireland really is a hotbed of cetacean activity at this time of year – but enough of my wittering, here are some more photos. Judge for yourself:
A selection of photos from an amazing whale watching trip
Like any wildlife watching experience, this sort of activity can’t be guaranteed, but if you’re out on the right day it really is mind blowing. I’ve been whale watching all over the world… and some of the very best of it is right here on my doorstep in West Cork.
That, I think, is AWESOME!
For more information on Whales and Dolphins in Ireland, including species profiles and a comprehensive, searchable sightings database check out the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group website. If you want to head out on a trip, just give Colin Barnes a call. It costs €50 per adult for a four-hour (and sometimes a little longer) trip, with the chance of encountering one of nature’s most awe inspiring spectacles. I think that represents great value….