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Best Place in Ireland to go on Holidays - West Kerry, Ireland S.W.

Great Blasket Island

a humpback in west kerry photo by nick massett

Grey seal colony on Blasket Island beach

Irish Marine Wildlife log

"To the Waters and the Wild"

Best Place in Ireland to go on Holidays - West Kerry, Ireland S.W.

In the present uncertain times many people are thinking where is the best place to go on holidays in Ireland especially for hill walking, hiking, boating, pony trekking, angling, dolphin, whale and bird watching and other healthy activities in the Great Outdoors which we commonly refer to here in West Kerry as the Green Gym.
Apart from activities like walking, cycling, swimming, pony trekking, rock climbing etc. just being out in the clear fresh mountain and sea air, both of which are in plentiful supply in West Kerry, is very good for you and it may have something to do with the plentiful supply of negative ions in the air by the seaside and just like "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" it has been acknowledged for centuries that being beside the seaside or "up the hill" [even a big hill like Carrauntwohill (!)] is just plain good for the body and soul.


During the present crisis [17.03.2020] it is beginning to look like we may not be running our regular tours in April, and possibly not until early May, and we will simply have to see how the situation evolves. Our two boats M.V. "Blasket Princess" and M.V. "An Blascaod Mór" and our team are ready to go but will await a clear signal that it is safe both for our team and for our visitors to resume business as normal. In the meantime we are still accepting bookings as normal for the rest of the season from May to the end of September and visitors can be assured of a safe and clean boat with a high level of sanitary awareness and high standard of cleanliness with all recommended protocols adhered to. Our refund policy remains the same as  always. We have a "no quibbles" refund policy and in the event of any cancellation the money is refunded back to source. 
So we would appreciate any intending visitors to book now for your marine tour later in the summer as normal in the safe knowledge that we have a clear refund policy in case of any change of mind, but also hopefully that you will not need to cancel your booking and will have a  chance to see the wonderful marine wildlife that is still abundant around the Blasket Islands  and Dingle Bay as described below.

What to expect on your Boat Tour around the Blasket Islands and Dingle Bay

At the moment the surface sea water temperature is about 8 degrees Celsius as mid-March is the time of year when the sea is at its coldest off West Kerry and at its warmest in mid-September at about 17.5 degrees Celsius. This is the sign to our migrating animals, both marine and avian, that the year is turning with lengthening days and the seasons of warmth and abundance fast approaching. Puffins are on the wing from east Canadian waters towards their summer breeding grounds on the outer Blasket Islands and some Manx shearwaters have already arrived here from their wintering quarters off the coasts of Brazil and Uruguay to share with their Canadian friends the scarce and prime nesting property, or burrowing property to be more precise as both species live underground in burrows, sometimes disused or even occupied rabbit burrows - rather than in nests. It is not entirely uncommon, especially where suitable real estate is scarce, for puffins, Manx shearwaters and rabbits to share the same burrow system
Of course Manx shearwaters are not really related to any of the Alcidae family of Auks - Puffins, Guillemots or Razorbills - as they belong to the distinctive Procellariformes or "Tubenose" family, like our Fulmar petrels and Storm petrels and the Albatrosses of the Southern hemisphere, but to add to the confusion they are  the original  "Puffins" as their Latin name is "Puffinus puffinus" and the anglicised word puffin derives from the Anglo-Norman word for a fat, salted, fledgling shearwater(!). Likewise  the now extinct Great auk "Pinguinus impennis" inadvertently gave its name to the so called penguins in the Southern Hemisphere when they were first discovered in South America by Spanish sailors who referred to them as "Penguinos" because of their visual similarity to the then living and flightless Great auk "Penguinus impennis" which was hunted to extinction because of its lack of flight and lack of fear of humans - the most dangerous species on the planet! - and allowed itself to be herded onto ships for slaughter. There are penguins on the Galapagos islands, Humboldt penguins along the coasts of Peru and Chile and other species of penguins including Gentoo penguins (as in Dingle Ocean World Aquarium) on the Falklands, Tierra del Fuego and around the Magellan Straits.
In days of yore shearwaters also suffered the same fate as pufflings (young puffins) as the young of both - and also storm petrels - were prized by the islanders as a rich food source, both for their dietary oil and monetary value, and they were salted down in barrels in great numbers and even exported to the fish market in Billingsgate, London.
Nowadays, we find it strange when we hear of live and exotic animals for sale in the food markets of China and south east Asia but less than a century ago markets like Billingsgate in London would have been full of live animals [hens, ducks, geese, rabbits, pigeons, but hopefully no live bats (!) although hedgehogs were a common item on the country menu in those days (!) and all variety of salted and cured birds alongside buckets of live fish and eels and large baskets of seabirds eggs. Thankfully nowadays puffins and shearwaters  are no longer on the menu (apart from Iceland and Norway) but of course  their main food supply consisting of sand-eels and sprats and also capelin - when they go out on the vast Atlantic  for their winter  sojourn - are under threat and their lovely home on the outer Blasket islands is one of the last refuges for these iconic birds, which you can see if  you take the 4  hr. Afternoon Eco Marine Tour or the 7 hr. All Day Tour [ including a 3 hr. landing on Great Blasket island] with Blasket Islands Eco Marine Tours from Ventry Harbour in West Kerry, 4  miles west of Dingle town.

Basking Shark, Minke Whales, Common Dolphins, Humpback Whales approaching Ireland S.W................

News Flash!!! First Minke Whale of Irish 2020 Whale Watch Season just spotted off Slea Head, Co. Kerry!   17.03.2020  Two Minke Whale on 20.03.2020..
First Basking Shark of Irish 2020 Whale Watch Season spotted off Park Mór Point, Ventry Harbour 08:00 am on 09.04.2020.............

Cetacean sightings from Slea Head, Co. Kerry were few and far between in the winter months of November, December, January as most of the whales, dolphins and (Basking) sharks had either gone out to deeper waters for the winter months and / or warmer waters further south and  south west to breed. On a clear day you may see some of our annually resident cetacean the Harbour porpoise, who is our smallest cetacean on the bottom end of the scale to our largest cetacean the Blue whale, who never comes closer than the edge of the continental shelf but this is only about 60 miles west of the Blasket Islands which is only about the same distance as Dingle to Limerick, so in calm settled weather it is possible to go out there and back on a day trip. These are referred to as "pelagic trips" and are usually very interesting for bird watchers especially when we have some nice smelly "chum" to spread in our wake. But it is always difficult to find suitable weather and sea  conditions  and also to find suitable clients for these  exciting trips as it is a long time to be sea sick in a boat!

As surface sea water temperatures rise towards 11 degrees Celsius vast phytoplankton blooms begin to spread in the warming waters which are now mineral rich after the winter storms have churned up the minerals from the sea bed and the strengthening sunlight and longer days encourage plankton growth followed by vast swarms of zooplankton consisting of miniscule animals feeding on the vegetable growth. In turn all this is Soup for Basking Sharks!

There is a brief period of about 6 weeks at the start of the season when the surface sea water temperature is about 11 degrees Celsius, usually in May / June, when we can come alongside these behemoths as they graze open mouthed beside us with their huge mouths agape. Hopefully we will be fully operational in May / June to observe this spectacle and some of their more bizarre courting and mating rituals!

Inshore, vast shoals of sand eels come to the surface also to feed on the plankton blooms. Since the sprat shoals have been decimated over the last couple of years by over fishing by greedy industrial style mid-water trawling ( not by inshore artesian type fisheries), sand eel numbers are greatly increasing as they no longer have the shoals of sprat predating on them. This is an example of how the dislocation of one keystone species in the natural web of life affects all other species in the web, as well as other natural phenomena, either advantageously or dis-advantageously, known as the "Butterfly effect" which uses the mathematics of Chaos Theory to show how the flap of a butterfly wing in the Amazon may influence the appearance or otherwise of a tornado in Texas, based on an extended time lapse from an initial miniscule change in a condition of an inter-connected dynamic complex web.
In lay terms this concept of Chaos Theory or the Butterfly Effect could be compared to "the straw that breaks the camel's  back" in that a miniscule change of even .000001 (millionth) in initial data in a dynamic system e.g. meteorology, ecology, psychology etc. when considered over  time e.g. 2 months in weather system forecasting, perhaps 2 years in ecosystems, ? years in personality traits, can have a disproportionate exponential and magnified effect in the existing state or the predicted state.

Meanwhile back at sea (!) these shoals of sand eels. which are elongated silvery fish about the size of your little finger, are in turn food for returning Common dolphins, Minke whales and Humpback whales and of course Puffins, Manx shearwaters, Gannets, Kittiwakes and Guillemots. What a spectacle as they all attack a bait ball at the surface! These bait balls are usually created by the actions of either Common dolphins, Minke whales or Humpback whales as they corral and panic the shoaling fish into a tight ball and drive it towards the surface, a bit like Mum serving dinner on the table to a happy smiling family! In this case it is a combined hungry family party of dolphins, whales and sea birds which all looks from underwater like an underwater version of the Mad Hatter's  Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland as the dolphins, whales, shearwaters and gannets all pursue their prey single-mindedly underwater in a silent circus of sweeps, swerves, swoops and dives.

If you come along for one of our trips you might just be lucky enough to see this spectacle, from the surface! However, as always, we can never guarantee sightings as the animals are free and the ocean is big and our boat is (relatively) small, although it is a 43 ft. twin engine vessel. But if the animals are there and sea conditions are suitable and you are lucky our experienced skipper and crew will find them and show them to you for our mutual enjoyment.

We look forward to your company after the present crisis is over and please feel free to book your trip in advance as we need a stream of booking income to get us through these troubled times, and we hope that you will have a better feel and understanding for the vulnerability of nature and other animal species, and for all natural ecosystems and general biodiversity, now that our own human vulnerability and fraility as just another animal species in a diverse  ecosystem has been exposed to us in such a compelling manner.

From some of the above samples of things to do and marine wildlife watching opportunities we hope that you will agree that "to the waters and the wild" of West Kerry is possibly one of the best places in Ireland to go on holidays,

We look forward to your visit to the Kingdom of Kerry and the opportunity to show you some of the natural treasures we have to offer and of which we are especially proud and naturally protective.

To book your marine wildlife holiday in Ireland please press one of the Book Tour buttons on this page or elsewhere on our website www.marinetours.ie 

Captain Whales Galore                     17.03.2020
Log of the Whale Watching Tour Boat M.V. "Blasket Princess"

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Ventry / Ceann Trá
Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry

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