OFFSHORE ISLANDS WHALE AND DOLPHIN VOYAGE
In 2002 Voyages Of Discovery was the first company to announce that it was to establish whale and dolphin watching off the West Wales coast.
We first sail to Grassholm Island – a spectacular sight, and home to the fourth largest gannet colony in the world. We then head offshore on a sweep of distant waters in search of cetaceans. This voyage has provided excellent sightings of dolphins, porpoise, rissos dolphin, minke and even fin whale and leatherback turtle.
2.5 hours depending on season and logistics
From ages 8 years old and all abilities. Some restrictions may apply at times. No dogs.
EXPECT TO SEE
80,000 gannets on Grassholm, dolphins (90% success), whales (25% success), porpoises, seals, puffins, shearwaters etc.
From 9am through to dusk depending on the time of year
Daily from late May to the end of September and then limited sailings in winter months
If you mention to anyone that you are going Whale and Dolphin Watching they think you are jetting off to the world’s exotic places. Well they are wrong, as Pembrokeshire’s coastal and offshore waters are home, seasonal grounds and migration passages for these enigmatic mammals and it is not unusual to have sightings of several hundred at a time.
The nutrient rich waters flowing in from the Atlantic provide for a prolific ecosystem noted as a Site Of Special Scientific Interest. The area then affords its own natural protection – the complex sea bed, the tides and Atlantic exposure protects the area from too much human commercial pressure and daily interference.
So, here, on the edge of the Celtic Deep, is one of the few places known in the UK where cetaceans, seals and bird life can be found on a predictable schedule and in prolific numbers. As well as hundreds of Common Dolphin, sightings include Minke Whale, Sei Whale, Fin Whale, Bottle Nose Dolphin, Orca, Rissos Dolphin and Basking Shark. A Blue Whale has been reported though not seen by us. And yes we have seen a Great White !
Porpoises we see on a daily basis, even on our inshore Ramsey sailing, as we have a resident population.
Some are resident all year and you can get some great sightings from the coastal path – especially during the stormy winter months but alas with no predictability. The only exception being the regular fin whale migration into St Brides Bay at a certain time close to the autumn equinox (keep an eye out from the Porthclais to Solva area). This having been a noted experience of fisherman, some in our family, for generations. For breath-taking encounters though, you do need to take an offshore Voyage.
Now, the ocean is vast and despite our extensive knowledge we still get the occasional blank day. We mitigate this by sailing at certain times and in certain conditions. Whatever you do, do not be persuaded by anyone to go outside of the May to Sept period – your money rather than experience is more important to them. And the overall peak time is June.
We also ensure an unforgettable experience by making Grassholm Island a focal point. As home to 80,000 pairs of gannets, it is the second largest colony in the N Hemisphere and is spectacular. It also has a significant grey seal population. So, in any event you have a spectacular experience.
From there we make sweeps out to sea, up to 20 miles, covering vast distances which only we can do thanks to the power and speed of our vessels. We draw from our own experience, and on 90% of sailings we will at least encounter dolphins.
Dolphins are easier for us to find as, if they are not fishing, they will seek us out from a distance and come and observe us. They will follow the boat at a fingers distance and bow-ride, jump etc. We ensure specialist techniques so they are in charge at all times. If we have to leave them then there is a strict protocol, sorry but we don’t stop and swim with them and no you cant feed them!
Whales are much harder to find as they want no interaction so we have to search for them ourselves, which, in a massive ocean, can be hit and miss. Plus they can stay submerged for a long time, so often we have a close encounter but are not even aware of it. However, we do have brilliant sightings, some being very close and dramatic. Check out our gallery (all pics are from our boats), we have hundreds of quality pictures of dolphins but few of whales as they always catch us unawares !
The offshore sailing may also include the Smalls Lighthouse (most isolated in UK) and other areas of the Celtic Deep. It will have other sightings of birds including shearwaters and puffins, and sometimes “exotic” species like sunfish, leather back turtle etc – remember the ocean has no physical boundaries other than thermal etc And yes again we have seen a Great White !
Most of these sailings are 2 ½ hours ( we do offer occasional longer ones). We have the power and speed to do that in 2 ½ hours – any longer and it can be an expedition rather than an experience if the weather turns. Unlike any other company we tend to stick to an age limit of over 8 years old as we have children ourselves and know for the young ones it can be a bit of a chore. We also know that they love the inshore Ramsey Sailing. If you have someone younger than 8, discuss it with us and we may be able to accommodate them. All of our sailings are guided by expert skippers and crews who are passionate and honest. On this particular sailing they have to have 2 years additional experience with us before they can skipper, regardless of qualification.
No dogs on this sailing as it is too long for them to go without a widdle !
Bring along stout warm gear (we can supply proper jackets if required) and remember that even in balmy weather it can be cold offshore. Worthwhile bringing a bottle of water and something to munch on, a camera is always a plus.
Sometimes we may cancel this sailing at short notice due to weather reports and our interpretation. Occasionally we may sail a few miles and decide to turn back – you may even interpret it as calm but we anticipate uncertainty. In all cases we will then give you a full refund or an immediate option of an inshore sailing with a respective part refund. If this happens, remember it is never for commercial reasons – it is judged on your safety and experience.
We are extremely proud that it was our vision and our academic and practical experience that “invented” Pembrokeshire as one of the Worlds hot spots for Whale and Dolphin Watching.
Above all though, the pleasure that especially the dolphins afford us and the appreciation that our customers have of such close encounters touches us every time. We have lot to be grateful for.
We know that this sailing is expensive (thanks to significant fuel and logistical expenses) so we will do our best to ensure our best. We will invest to enhance safety e.g. most companies operate in this exposed environment with just one engine — every one of our vessels has costly twin engines. We are here to guide and help you throughout the booking and sailing experience so just tell us what you want and any concerns or advice will be shared.