A guide to some sightings from our cruises
Harbour porpoises - phocoena phocoena
The smallest yet most abundant species of cetacean to be found in our coastal waters reaching lengths of 1.5m (5ft). They have blunt heads with a small beak, a very small triangular fin and are grey in colour. They are usually seen in small groups of 2-6 animals but larger groups are often seen. They are sighted on almost all our cruises and we are fortunate to have a pod of porpoises resident in Gairloch almost all year round with the added bonus of them giving birth to their young in the sheltered deep waters of Gairloch in early June each year.
Minke Whale - balaenoptera acutorostrata
The minke whale is the most abundant species of whale seen in the inshore waters of Scotland. It reaches lengths of up to 10m (32ft) although we often see smaller juvenile whales on our cruises. They have a pointed head, two blowholes, a small curved dorsal fin and white bands on their pectoral fins. Minke whales are the most likely of all whales to be seen at close quarters as they are curious about boats and will even approach a moving vessel
Common and Grey Seals
Only two species of seal inhabit the British coastline, the common - phoca vitulina and the grey seal - halichoerus grypus. Grey seals are larger than common seals reaching lengths of 2.2m (7ft) compared to the common seal length of 1.8m (6ft) and their head shapes differ slightly with the grey seals having a more Roman shaped nose.
Their pupping times differ too with common seals having their young in the months of May through to July whereas the grey seals have their young later in the year from September to December. The distinctive fluffy white pups seen in many photographs are grey seal pups.
Common dolphin - delphinus delphis
We are often accompanied on our trips by common dolphins. Often seen in large active schools they readily come to bow ride shifting restlessly in the pressure wave to find the best position often rolling over on their side to look up at humans. The smaller of the dolphins you may encounter at 2.5m (8.2ft) they have a very distinctive figure of eight pattern along their sides. If in the area they are very easy to spot because they create lots of splashing and leap from the water.