Lying on the very edge of Europe, a tiny island against the might of the wild Atlantic ocean, Ireland is a haven for all things marine. Ireland’s waters were made a designated whale and dolphin sanctuary in 1991, meaning that the wildlife is free to explore the coast in their hunt for food.
An endless search, swimming up and down the Atlantic ocean, dolphins and whales find food plentiful along Ireland’s coastline. It gives us a unique opportunity to get up close to these magnificent creatures. Whale watchers and dolphin watchers alike flood to Ireland’s coastline during the right seasons to witness the beauty and majesty of wildlife feeding and basking in their natural habitat.
Of all of the dolphin and and whale species recorded in the world, one third of them have visited Ireland’s coast in order to feed. Like many people who visit Ireland, these marine species must consider Ireland a second home.
What wildlife can you see?
24 species of whales, dolphins or porpoises have been spotted along Ireland’s coast, with 17 of them being along the Wild Atlantic Way. the 2,500km of coast along Ireland’s west coast is both a home and a stop-off point for a wide variety of marine life.
As these creatures’ migrations differ from each other, different months and seasons play host to different types of marine wildlife. Huge whales, a major draw for whale watchers, are more commonly seen during the summer months – July to September – off the southwest coast of Ireland. October and December are a great time to see these majestic mammals a little further south along Ireland’s coast.
Basking sharks are also a common sight off the coast of west cork in the south of Ireland. The planet’s second largest fish can be seen feeding on schools of plankton before they set off on the migratory way again.
Colonies of seals can be seen almost everywhere up and down Ireland’s west coast. Cork, Kerry, Clare and a large colony on the island of Inishbofin are fantastic sites for wildlife enthusiasts to visit.
Dolphins are friendly visitors to Ireland, while some dolphins never want to leave. Fungie the dolphin showed up in Dingle harbour in 1983 and has never left since. He regularly seeks out human contact, jumping and swimming playfully alongside the boats that go out into the harbour and surrounding waters to visit him.
If you fancy seeing some of this majestic wildlife for yourself, take a trip to these popular locations along Ireland’s coast:
West Cork – Whales
Carrigaholt, Clare – Dolphins
Inishowen, Donegal – Whales and Dolphins