Posted by: orcaweb | September 3, 2014

Captivating Cuvier’s Create A Splash!!

After a few days of stormy seas, we were both apprehensive about what the morning would bring after noticing a large swell had picked up in the night. Yet, to our surprise we were welcomed into the Bay of Biscay with calm seas, but menacing clouds still remained.

The beginning of our first watch was unusually quiet. It was two hours before our first sighting, when we spotted three Cuvier’s beaked whales off the bow of the ship. Soon after we saw several sunfish, one of which breached clean out if the water! We also had a lovely sight of two sunfish casually swimming just beneath the surface, a sight we’d not seen before, as we’re used to seeing them basking in the sun close to the surface.

Cuvier's Beaked Whales

Cuvier’s Beaked Whales

The sightings soon picked up with more Cuvier’s sightings. They were first spotted swimming towards the ship, and then all of a sudden all three breached in unison! It was incredible to see these magnificent creatures in all their glory. We’re so used to seeing their backs and the occasional glimpse of their beak, so to see them like this was something else.

Breaching Cuvier's Beaked Whale

Breaching Cuvier’s Beaked Whale

The passengers hadn’t realised just how amazing this sight was until they witnessed us both reeling with excitement and Katy let out a few squeals in delight! This was truly amazing!

Next we had thirteen Long Finned Pilot Whales, including a calf that all slowly swam past the ship and hung around for everyone to see soon after. We had even more Cuvier’s when this time six individuals graced us with their presence, that’s twelve Cuvier’s in just under 2 hours. It was definitely the best morning for Cuvier’s we’ve ever had!

Long- finned Pilot Whale

Long- finned Pilot Whale

As we approached Bilbao we had a brief glimpse of a large whale in the distance, we’re not sure what it could be as we only saw one roll of it’s back before it disappeared. It shall forever remain a mystery! Just before heading in we spotted yet another breaching sunfish- and Chantelle managed to capture the little critter on camera.

Breaching Sunfish

Breaching Sunfish

Our afternoon watch was somewhat quieter with only one short glimpse of a lone female Cuvier’s Beaked Whale.


I’ll now hand over to Chantelle who’ll tell you about of sightings for the latter part of the week.

Saturday morning brought us plentiful Common Dolphin sightings, numbering 10 separate pods in total! They came to visit us in the earlier times of the morning, beginning at 7am, and so rewarding all the passengers who left their warm beds to spot some wildlife. Yet as much as we love our Commons, the best dolphin sighting we had that morning was some spectacular Striped Dolphins. They had swam under the ship to leap out in front of us on the starboard side.

Breaching Common Dolphin

Breaching Common Dolphin


The water was so beautifully calm that as several of them landed we heard a wonderful SMACK noise, which sounded a lot like someone doing a huge belly flop. Those dolphins sure are hardy, as it really is a wonder it doesn’t sting!


Playful Striped Dolphin

Playful Striped Dolphin

After having given my final presentation as a Wildlife Officer, we headed out to see what else Biscay had to offer as we neared Santander. Sure enough, two blows were spotted that afternoon, indicating some distant Fin Whales. We were also treated to some dolphins that are slightly stockier than both our Commons and Stripeys, and these were some Bottlenose Dolphins that were spotted about 600m from the ship. Although they were just skimming the surface, it was clear to see that these were large individuals, who clearly weren’t all that interested in our ship at the time!

 Once at Santander, Katy and I hopped off for a few hours to see the local sights, before heading back to our beds to rest for a new day.

Upon Sunday morning, we were greeted to beautiful scenery and flat-calm waters as we sailed along the Brittany Coastline. There was plenty of birdlife around, with lots of gannets sitting on the waves, and water so flat you could clearly see their ripple patterns as they took off. The sunrise was beautiful, and with dawn we received many a Common Dolphin sighting. The yellow patterns on their flanks were complimented by the early morning sunlight, when the sun was still low in the sky.


Breaching Common Dolphin

Breaching Common Dolphin

After the tranquil morning, the afternoon was lacking in sightings, and so after our time was up, we headed indoors and I prepared to say goodbye to the Cap Finistere.


Thank you to all of the wonderful, inspirational people I have met on my journeys to and from Spain. I now very much endeavour to visit the Picos mountains after hearing all of your great stories! Also a massive thank you to ORCA for giving me this opportunity, as my cetacean repertoire has now certainly increased! I now leave you to the lovely Katy, who now goes alone for the last 3 days…


The last few days were much busier than my previous Monday on board, in fact it couldn’t of been more opposite, after last weeks heavy rain, 3m swell and sea state 5, I welcomed the beaming sunshine and crystal clear seas, it was just perfect. So perfect in fact, a pod of dolphins were spotted off the back of the ship as I finished the presentation, I don’t think they could of timed it any better! Later in the day I managed to spot two pods of Harbour Porpoise a few hundred metres off the ship, I’ve only ever seen porpoises on their own, so to see them swimming together in the pristine sea was great to see.


We also had masses of Common Dolphins all leaping about and effortlessly gliding through the water. The next animal encounter was a rather large Sunfish just next to the ship. I first spotted its fin giving us a little wave a it swam by, it wasn’t until it was along side us that we realized just how enormous it was!

Huge Sunfish!!

Huge Sunfish!!


The final sighting of the week was incredible, about 70 Common Dolphins including calves came bounding towards the ship at full speed! Some so quick you only had a split second before they disappeared, they were literally like bullets coming towards the ship!


Crazy Common Dolphin

Crazy Common Dolphin

A truly fantastic end to the week!

Thanks for reading!

Chantelle and Katy




  1. Great photos

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