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Whale watching in Ireland the best place to see whales and dolphins

Whale watching in Ireland the best place to see whales and dolphins

2015 was a fantastic year for whale watching in West Kerry with record numbers (20 plus) of humpback whales frequenting the waters north and west of the Blasket Islands off the Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry and later in the season north and west of the Skelligs (Skellig rock / Skellig Michael and Little Skellig) and off Bray Head, Valentia Island, much to the delight of visitors making the boat trip over from Portmagee to the remains of the 6th century hermitage on the top of Skellig Michael (600 steps), soon to be made famous again in Star Wars - The Force Awakens.

Prior to this season there were 36 individuals on the database of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group for humpback whales in Ireland, annotated as.. HB IRL followed by a number, as in HB IRL 23, but after this whale watching season when all the interrogation and confirmation of the photo identification of the various tail fluke and dorsal fin shots is completed and catalogued, we expect this number to at least increase to about 20 more individuals. This represents a new record for humpback whale sightings in one year in Ireland, the majority of them north and west of the Blasket Islands and Dingle Bay, and does not include repeat sightings of previously identified individuals.

Despite all this activity the number of days when sightings were recorded were few relative to the number of tour days, from April 1st to October 31st, although of course there were plentiful sightings of other species especially Minke whales (our most frequent sightings), common dolphins ( biggest numbers per sightings), bottlenose dolphins (not including Fungie the famous resident Dingle dolphin), Risso's dolphins - a memorable day when four white Risso's dolphins were plainly visible underwater as we sailed alongside; lots of basking sharks; seabirds including puffins, gannets and shearwaters; grey seals hauled up on the White Strand and by Carraig Fhada; and possible sightings of Bluefin tuna at the end of the season! All in all a wonderful year for taking an eco marine tour from Ventry Harbour around the Blasket Islands!

Nature's Wildlife Lottery - Go for the big "prize" or take many small ones?

Over the years our boat trips have evolved from a ferry service to the Great Blasket Island from Dun Chaoin (Dunquin), to a sightseeing tour around the Blasket Islands archipelago especially viewing Cathedral Rocks ( like a vast Gothic Cathedral in the ocean hewn out of the old red sandstone rock by the forces of nature) and the lighthouse on Tiaracht (The Western Isle), the most westerly lighthouse in Europe. Our trips then evolved into marine wildlife tours, as through interaction and talking to our visitors we became more interested in our own local wildlife and marine habitats. Nowadays there is a big emphasis on dolphin and whale watching but a word of warning to our visitors. Megafauna, like basking shark and humpback whales, are just one small part of our marine ecosystem here, big in size but small in proportion to the number of other species we regularly encounter on our boat tours. Their temporal presence here is migratory rather than breeding mode and the spatial relevance of their sojourn around the Blaskets and Dingle Bay is a sort of rest and feeding area on a highway stretching from Norway and Iceland to possibly the Cape Verde Islands or the West Indies (we think) depending on which turns they take furthe down the route. This is very exciting as the breeding grounds of the "Irish" humpback whales have yet to be discovered and at the moment is merely guesswork and surmise! As a result of this migratory mode their presence here is transient and elusive and we can never guarantee sightings of mega fauna on all of our trips.

For 2016 we hope to again offer specialised whale watching trips for those visitors who just want to see whales and are not relly interested in the rest of our marine ecosystems. In gambling terms they want to take part in Nature's Wildlife Lottery and put all their chips on the black square and either win all - see a humpback whale or two - or lose all - see a lot of undulating ocean. On such a highly specialised trip they will not see the seals at Carraig Fhada, the puffins at Inishvickillaun, or gaze at the spectacular Cathedral Rocks or wonder how the lighthouse at Tiaracht and funicular rail track from the jetty at the bottom to the lighthouse at the top (the steepest in Europe) was built.

Personally we recommend spreading your bets in the Great Nature Lottery  and taking our Afternoon Eco Marine Tour and there is still a possibility of seeing large whales if they are within the scope and time frame of the tour..... On the other hand it is exciting to be single minded and go for the trip with the best chance of an encounter with a humpback whale....

It's your money and your choice, please place your bets on the table!......

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