Common dolphins, as the name suggest, are West Cork’s most frequently observed cetacean. We see them on most trips during the summer, autumn and winter. They often join the Holly Jo to bow-ride, offering spectacular views of their acrobatic behaviour. We sometimes encounter large groups of common dolphins with mothers and their calves in their midst.
The shy harbour porpoise , Ireland’s smallest whale, is commonly seen on our trips in West Cork, but sightings require very calm sea conditions.
Bottlenose dolphins are occasional visitors to West Cork, and we do encounter small groups every year. We also occasionally see Risso’s dolphins from the Holly Jo. Our largest member of the dolphin family, the killer whale (Orca) is now only rarely seen in West Cork waters.
In recent years both minke and humpback whales have started arriving in West Cork’s in-shore waters from early April, with humpback numbers peaking in May/June. The planet’s 2nd biggest animal the mighty fin whale usually arrives in summer with a late season peak between September and November.
Atlantic grey seals and common seals are resident on and around many of the striking uninhabited islands and a close encounter with these charismatic marine mammals is always an enjoyable aspect of every trip out with Cork Whale Watch.
West Cork waters are also home to a wide range of both oceanic and coastal sea birds. Gannets, kittiwakes, various shearwater species, storm petrels, razorbills, puffins, guillemots and much more can be seen from the deck of the Holly Jo. Huge clouds of seabirds often congregate around feeding whales and dolphins. Watching a lunge-feeding fin whale engulfed in a cloud of diving gannets and wheeling kittiwakes is simply breathtaking.
Colin Barnes will help you identify species, and share his extensive knowledge on the seabird ecology of the region.
During the late spring and early summer basking sharks are annual visitors to the West Cork coast, and we sometimes see the rare leatherback turtle, sunfish, blue sharks and various jelly fish, including the increasingly common Portuguese Man O’ War from the decks of the Holly Jo.
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