whales west cork
recent sightings of whales and dolphins, © Pádraig Whooley, IWDG
book your west cork whale watching trip, © Pádraig Whooley, IWDG
amazing gallery of photgraphs, © Mike Brown Photography
colin barnes
marine life in west cork waters, © Ian Slevin
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Whale Watching Testimonials



West Cork is now recognised as one of the best places in Europe to go whale watching - and you get the dolphins thrown in for free.

Ian Belcher
The Guardian, Satuday October 8th 2005

I stopped counting when I got to 37 dolphins. The jumping, diving, jostling pod had surrounded our catamaran like a gang of silver grey muggers, but my attention had been sidetracked by two bulky, menacing shapes to the left of the group. Spearing through the briny they were around 25ft long, breaking the surface in smooth rolls of dark skin. At first glance they appeared to be super-sized dolphins, but closed scrutiny revealed far larger prey - 12-ton minke whales.

I've seen whales before - heavyweight, tail-slapping gymnasts off South Africa - but today I was just six miles off the west Cork coast in Ireland, a region earning a reputation as one of Europe's premier whale-watching sites. Minke, fin, humpback and occasionally killer whales are attracted by prolific banquets of sprat and herring.

"On one memorable day last year we had 55 fins, 15 humpback and 20 minke within a mile of the boat," says our genial 56-year-old skipper Colin Barnes. "The horizon was littered with blowing whales. I'd someone on board who'd watched whales all over the world and never seen anything like it."

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Ireland's best kept wildlife secret
by Calvin Jones

A giant head broke the surface and a plume of spray erupted seven metres into the air. The head was followed by the graceful arch of an enormous back and, several seconds later, by a small curved dorsal fin. It was a fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), the second largest animal on earth, and this one had decided to cruise alongside us for a closer look.

There were whales surfacing all around us. We counted at least thirty animals in the immediate vicinity, with more blowing in the distance. It was a phenomenal natural spectacle. I remember thinking "it doesn't get any better than this"… and then we spotted the humpbacks.

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are the natural acrobats of the whale world. The five that we encountered were putting on quite a display. We were treated to a gamut of whale behaviour that included fin slapping, fluking (lifting the tail flukes out of the water), spy-hopping (lifting the head out of the water for a look around), tail-slapping and most spectacularly of all, breaching. An astonished gasp went up from everybody aboard the boat as 30 tonnes of whale leaped clear of the water. The animal seemed to hang at the apex of its jump for an extended heartbeat before gravity reclaimed its massive bulk and it fell, twisting onto its side as it entered the water creating a spectacular splash.

This was whale watching at its very best!

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Abundance - a poem inspired by a day's whale watching with Colin Barnes by Andrew Sant

read it here