Dolphin & Whale Watching Tours West Cork Ireland (from Baltimore)
The Irish government declared the coastal waters of Ireland a whale and dolphin sanctuary during the early 1990’s. The first of its kind in Europe, this paved the way for whale watching in Ireland to become a prime activity for the many visitors to this country. Coastal waters off the southwest of Ireland are a summer feeding ground for a number of whale species and a year- round home for several resident dolphin species including the Harbour Porpoise. Baleen Whales commonly seen off the south include Fin Whales and Minke Whales, which makes whale watching in Ireland some of the best whale watching in Europe. Humpback whales are also seen off the southwest coast. These large marine mammals feed in Irish waters for over seven months of the year on a variety of small shoaling fish and may be seen just a few kilometers offshore.
To date 24 species of the world’s whales and dolphins have been recorded in Irish waters. In recent years over 12 cetacean species have been seen in the clear, unpolluted West Cork waters making them one of the richest areas for whale watching in Ireland. Irish whale watching has definitely taken off in West Cork with wide species diversity present for over half the year. Minke Whales arrive off the coast starting in May. Fin Whales traditionally arrive in June or July. Both species continue through August into the autumn and early winter months, providing some spectacular opportunities to view these large marine mammals only a few kilometers from the coast. The less predictable Humpback Whales traditionally arrive during August or the early autumn months.
How to book- Call Nic on:
Mobile: 00 353 (0) 86 120 0027
Landline: 00 353 (0) 28 33357
Where: The boat Voyager leaves BALTIMORE HARBOUR daily at 9.30am and 2.15pm. Baltimore Harbour is a 15 minute drive from the market town of Skibbereen or a 35-40 minute drive from Schull. Always arrive 20 minutes before scheduled departure; there is a safety briefing before departure.. Dress VERY warmly and bring any food or drink you may require during the tour including sunglasses and sunscreen. The tour tries to stop at North Harbour on Cape Clear Island for a refreshment break half way through the tour. Cape Clear is Ireland’s most southerly community. Voyager is a white catamaran with an orange roof.
When: During the early part of the season, starting in April, dolphin & whale watching tours are run in the morning and during the afternoon leaving Baltimore Harbour at 9.30am and 2.15pm respectively. During the high season, July and August tours are run at 9.30am and 2.15pm and sunset tours are also scheduled leaving at 7pm. Early morning sunrise tours are scheduled according to demand. Other times may be booked by arrangement. Corporate bookings, group bookings and children are all very welcome. All sailings are subject to the prevailing weather and tidal conditions. Early booking is essential during the high season to ensure you get the time and day you require.
What to see: Although sightings of the large Baleen Whales (including Fin Whales and Minke Whales) are the highpoint of any whale watching in West Cork, the waters off West Cork play host to resident populations of Common Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises which may be present in considerable numbers as they move inshore during the summer months. Fin Whales, Minke Whales and Humpback Whales may be seen at different times of the year. There are also regular sightings of Risso’s Dolphins and Bottlenose Dolphins. There are some opportunistic sightings of Killer Whales (Orca), Long-finned Pilot Whales, White Beaked Dolphins, and Atlantic White Sided Dolphins are spotted. Common and Grey Seals are seen regularly all year round. In addition there are Turtles, Blue Sharks, Basking Sharks and the most unusual Sunfish at different times during the season. A variety of other marine birdlife is seen throughout the season; Gannets, Shags, Cormorants, Kittiwakes, Skuas, Shearwaters, Guillemots, Razorbills, Peregrine Falcons and various species of petrel are commonly sighted on the tours.
The Boat: Voyager is a well-equipped, twin-engine catamaran, built specifically for whale and dolphin watching tours off West Cork and is licensed to carry 12 passengers and 2 crew by the Department of Transport (Marine). She is fast and stable and has all round excellent visibility, ideal for wildlife watching tours. With a toilet on board, and a spacious wheelhouse with seating, passenger comfort is assured. There is a larger boat available which can take up to 50 passengers in great comfort which is ideal for corporate and private groups.
Directions: Baltimore Harbour – approaching from the east or north go to the market town of Skibbereen and then take the signs for Baltimore along the R595. Baltimore is a 15 minute drive from Skibbereen if you don’t get caught behind any tractors! Approaching from Schull take a right off the Schull-Skibbereen road marked Baltimore, before you reach Skibbereen, and follow signs thereafter. Drive through the village of Baltimore to the harbour. Parking is available but allow plenty of time to find a parking space when arriving during the busy times of the day. A variety of food and drink is available in Baltimore. There is a convenience store which is open all hours. There is no bank in Baltimore. Banking facilities are available in Skibbereen.
Prices: The whale and dolphin watching tours take around 4 hours, sometimes a little longer as the boat stops at North Harbour on Cape Clear Island for refreshments half way through the tour. The return part of the tour is along the beautiful West Cork coastline and around the islands viewing the castles, harbours and inlets that have changed little since the days of the old clan chiefs of O’Mahony and O’Driscoll.
€50 euro per person