Whale watching is becoming more and more popular as one of the things to do in West Cork, as seas off Baltimore are home to a fascinating variety of marine animals and birds Whale watching can bring you face to face with some of the largest animals on earth. Of course, there is no guarantee of what you will see, but sightings off Baltimore include minke whale, pilot whale, fin whale second in size only to the blue whale, humpback whale and killer whale, that return along with several species of dolphins to feed in West Cork's rich waters. Minke whales are the first to return in spring and feed here until December.
During the summer they are joined by the fin whales, returning from their winter breeding grounds. Weighing in at seventy tons, they are the world’s second largest animal. Most numerous are the dolphins common, bottlenose and Rissos dolphin whose tall fin sometimes leads to confusion with the killer whale and the common porpoise. Common dolphin and the larger bottlenose dolphin are attracted by moving boats and often give spectacular leaping displays right alongside.
Though whale watching tends to be best in fine weather, it is by no means exclusively a summer activity. A good time to see fin whales is in winter when they come inshore after sprats, sometimes in considerable numbers.
Photos Courtesy of Whale Watch West Cork
Groups of friends love to go away together and an increasing trend within the 25-40 age group is activity breaks in Ireland. And Baltimore in West Cork is one of the centres of activity holidays in Ireland with its rich variety of maritime activities. Surprisingly, West Cork marine wild life has been compared to that of New Zealand and National Geographic Adventure magazine dubbed West Cork as the New Zealand of Europe. Over twenty species of whales pass through these waters every year. Sea kayaking is the fastest growing water sport in the world and the unspoilt coastline of West Cork suits it perfectly. The sheltered harbour in Baltimore is one of the safest around and kayakers can expect clear waters and lots of small islands to discover.
A great way to orientate yourself to Baltimore is to take a short walk to the Baltimore Beacon. The unique signal tower sits proudly at the head of Baltimore harbour and from this vantage point potential kayakers can get some idea of the beauty of the coastline that they will soon be exploring. Baltimore itself is also worth some exploration before taking to the waves.
Former British and Irish Kayaking champion Jim Kennedy runs Atlantic Sky Kayaking. Safety is paramount when kayaking in the sea and people of all experience levels are catered for. Kayakers can expect to stop off at ancient castles, sea caves and hopefully see an abundance of marine life such as seals, dolphins and even whales. One thing is for sure, kayaking is hungry work and after a day at sea it will definitely be time for a nice meal.
Part of the attraction of West Cork is the diverse range of marine wildlife that can be viewed from a kayak. Whale Watch West Cork offers boat trips around the coastline and the good news is that your kayak can be loaded onto the boat and once you get out to sea you can hop back in the kayak from a close up view of the marine life. Whale and even shark sightings are common but even if you are unlucky enough not to spot one, the abundance seals and sea birds will more than make up for the disappointment.
The Irish Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2011
First sighting of dolphin in Irish lake
THE IRISH Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has confirmed the first sighting of a dolphin in an Irish lake, in Lough Hyne near Baltimore, Co Cork. This is the first time a cetacean has been found in such an environment.
The group’s sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley said: “The IWDG frequently documents cetaceans in bays, occasionally in estuaries, rarely in rivers, but to the best of my knowledge, and I’m open to correction, this is the first validated record of a cetacean using an Irish lake.”
The sighting was made by Skibbereen-based kayaking instructor Jim Kennedy in recent weeks. He observed and filmed the juvenile/ calf over two days. Images sent to the whale and dolphin group have confirmed that it is a young common dolphin.
While the dolphin may have taken up residence in Lough Hyne, there have, however, been no sightings since of the mammal.
Mr Whooley said: “There were no further sightings after the second day, so we would not be overly confident that it made its way out of the lough into Barlogue Creek and back to open sea. But without any stranding reports within the lough, there is always a chance.”
“It also means we can add another habitat type that can potentially be utilised by Irish cetaceans and, of course, those tasked with conserving and studying this unique site can claim that its species diversity now extends to dolphins.”
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group was founded in 1990 to establish an Irish stranding and sighting scheme and to campaign for the declaration of Irish territorial waters as a whale and dolphin sanctuary.
A year later, in June 1991, the late taoiseach Charles J Haughey declared all Irish waters to be a whale and dolphin sanctuary, the first of its kind in Europe. Two decades later, in April this year, the Haughey family donated the former taoiseach’s yacht Celtic Mist to the whale and dolphin group.
The yacht is undergoing refitting as a maritime research vessel.