Whales and Dolphins

Basking Shark

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knobblePS

Image by Ewan Miles of 'Share Nature'

Mull is a reasonably remote Oceanic Island. If a boat heads west from Mull, the next landmass it reaches will probably be America. In other words, there is a lot of water around here!! And where there is water there are Cetaceans. The most common whale seen in these waters, is The Minke Whale or Piked Whale. It is also sometimes called The Lesser Rorqual.. It is a reasonably 'inshore' whale, in that it is less often seen in really deep water, unlike the Blue Whale. You have a very good chance of seeing a Minke Whale if you join one of the Whale Watch Excursions which sail out from Mull between April and October.

Probably the most important requirement when going on a whale watch is to choose a calm day, when it is pretty easy to see the whales break surface, to blow and breathe. You can also hear the blow, and on a quiet, calm day, you may hear this quite well out to sea. There are also good land based points, where you might see a Minke Whale; however, it is even more important that you choose a calm day if you are going to look for whales from land. Good sea watching points are Callaich Point, Carsaig [looking toward The Isle of Jura] and the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, which is a short ferry crossing from Tobermory. In fact the Ardnamurchan Peninsula is the most westerly point on the British Mainland. The Lighthouse Visitor Centre is very interesting, and it has an expansive view of the sea. You need binoculars and have to be very patient when looking for Whales, because they are, of course, below the surface, more often than they are above. The watcher needs at least half an hour in any given area, to give the whales a chance to show. If you follow the above, you will maximise your chances of seeing a whale, but everyone here will tell you stories of seeing whales in more unusual places. I recently saw a mother and calf in Loch Scridain, along with hundreds of seals and the closest young whale was about thirty feet offshore!!

For general information about Whales and Dolphins, go www.whale-dolphin-watching.co.uk

DolphinPS

Image by Ewan Miles of 'Share Nature'

There are a number of different Dolphin species to be seen here, and we are still not certain whether a school of Bottle Nosed Dolphins are resident around the island. This is mainly because Mull has a coastline covering three hundred miles, and there are also another two hundred other islands and islets, along with numerous inlets and sea lochs, dotted around the coast. A school of Bottle Nosed Dolphins entertained thousands of tourists going to Iona during the Millennium Year. They also came into Tobermory Bay and were last seen on Christmas Day in Loch Buie. They are a very large and acrobatic Dolphin, and are often misidentified as Pilot Whales. However, the most important tip, is that if you see a Dolphin quite close inshore, it will be a Bottle Nosed.

Once we move offshore, we get into the realm of Common Dolphin, Rissos Dolphin and Killer Whale, which is not a common Cetacean here, but it is seen every summer, and sightings are increasing. There are also occasional sightings of Humpback Whale and Fin Whale, and if you go on a 'serious' sea trip off The West Coast of Scotland, the list multiplies dramatically.

Porpoise are our most common Cetacean, and they behave rather like a very small Whale, in that as they rise to breathe, you only see the back and fin, whereas you often see the whole creature, when observing Dolphins. Top places to see Porpoise are from the Oban to Mull Ferry, and the Kilchoan [Ardnamurchan] Ferry to Tobermory, off Callaich Point, Grasspoint, Gribun Cliffs (Loch na Keal), and from the old chapel at Pennygown.

Basking Sharks are also seen off Callaich Point from mid to late Summer, and if you see a large fin cruising on the surface for a period of time, this is almost certainly a Basking Shark.