Posted by: orcaweb | June 12, 2016

FAQ about the dolphins

It has been a while since our last blog post from the Pont-Aven. Don’t worry, we are alright and we haven’t forgotten about you! 🙂 The reason for this quiet moment is very simple. A couple of weeks ago our ferry went into dry dock and we had to stay on land, only dreaming about our sea adventures. But now, with the ship back in action, we are on board again eagerly looking for whales and dolphins and telling everyone around us how amazing these animals are.


Mother and calf common dolphin

During our work on board we meet many fantastic people who are truly interested in cetaceans (the collective term for whales, dolphins and porpoises). Some of them know a lot about nature and conservation. For others, the world of animals is rather mysterious. However, all of them have one thing in common; they like to ask questions……a lot of questions. And it is good, because we love to answer them! 🙂 We also know that when it is very busy, not everyone has a chance to talk to us. This is why we have decided to answer the 10 most frequently asked questions here, on our blog.

  1. What is the best time of day for dolphin watching?

Our answer for this question is usually very simple: “When the sun is up!”. It is true that locally some groups of dolphins may follow specific patterns and appear in a certain place, always at the same time. But for us the situation is a little bit more complicated. Every week we travel almost 5000 km and cross several different seas, bays and channels. Sometimes we spot animals every few minutes, sometimes we do not see anything for a couple of hours. This is why it is difficult to recommend a specific time of a day. It is best to simply join us out on deck and try to spot something any time you can.

  1. When will the dolphins be here?

Every day in the morning we try send a text message to dolphins, to let them know, that we are coming. The problem is, that sometimes they have trouble with phone reception underwater and they do not get the message in time 😉

And now more seriously. Dolphins and whales are wild animals. We do not feed them or attract them in any other way. They may show up any time or not at all. Some species are crepuscular, meaning they are active at dawn and dusk, others are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night and some are diurnal – active during the daytime. But whales and dolphins need to come to the surface to breathe throughout the day and night and we can only promise you, that we will do our best to find them.

  1. Should I bring anything special with me to watch dolphins?

We always recommend to take a lot of warm clothes, even in the summer time. Our ship travels at a speed of over 20 knots, so even on a hot day we may experience a chilly wind. It is like driving on a motorway with car windows open. So, even if the sun is shining, it is best to have a scarf, hat and gloves with you!

On the other hand, the sun can sometimes be tricky. Even when you feel cold, your nose may get burned easily! For this reason, always be equipped with sun cream and remember to use it frequently.

Besides that, if you have a camera or binoculars, do bring them – they may come in handy! However, if you do not have them, do not worry. Binoculars help us to see details, but as we often see animals very close to our ferry your eyes may be enough to have a fantastic sighting. And cameras… well, the best pictures are stored in our memories anyway.

But most importantly, bring your good mood and a bit of patience! It is very appreciated, especially when dolphins do not want to show off for a while. In those times, your good humour and great stories of your exciting sightings motivate us to stay another hour looking out for whales and dolphins.

  1. Why don’t you make announcements when you see whales or dolphins?

We think it would be fantastic if we could do that. In fact, some captains do announce the presence of whales, if they see them quite close to the ship. However, most of our sightings are very quick. As we travel very fast and often the animals are also travelling fast they last just a couple of seconds. It is enough to get a good look at the animals, if you are already looking for them, but not if you are inside the ship away from a window.

  1. Have you seen anything yet?

Obviously, the answer for this question differs from day to day (or even from minute to minute) 🙂 Just to give you an idea… This week the Bay of Biscay was full of dolphins; we saw hundreds of them. But the biggest surprise was waiting for us in Ireland. In the Cork Harbour we spotted 12 basking sharks feeding! What a fantastic view! Later on we also saw 5 other smaller sharks and an oceanic sunfish.


Basking shark seen in Cork Harbour

  1. Have you seen any orcas yet?

Although we may see orcas on our trips, we do not see them very often as there are not any resident pods in the waters we travel over, but pods do visit these waters each year. We have not seen them this season yet, but who knows… today it might be the day!

  1. Why are these dolphins so small?

Actually, the dolphins are not so small. In fact, the smallest adults we can see are almost two metres long – more than a height of an average adult person! And bottlenose dolphins can be four metres long. The animals only appear to be tiny, because we see them from deck 10, which is at the height of over 24 metres. So we can actually say, that we observe these dolphins from the 10th floor of a building.

  1. Why do dolphins come so close to the ship? Aren’t they going to get hurt?

It is true that dolphins, especially common dolphins, like to approach our ferry and many other ships. Quite often we see them diving under the bow and playing on the wake. They are really curious and playful animals, so it is very enjoyable to watch them. When they approach us, they know exactly how close they can swim and jump. It is safe for them, because our ferry moves steadily and does not change direction suddenly, so it is easy to predict.

  1. How do you know which side of the ship is better to spot dolphins?

We don’t know. We simply choose the side where the conditions allow for the best chance of seeing marine life. There is no better or worse side, unless there are some sea conditions limiting the visibility on one of them. It is best if we have observers on both sides, but it is not always possible. So when you have to choose where you will conduct your observations, choose the place where you feel the most comfortable. Just remember, that besides comfort you also need a good view on the sea, so a comfortable sofa in a bar might not be the best choice 😉

  1. I would love to do what you do. Can I volunteer?

Yes, you can! And you do not have to be a marine biologist to do so. You can become a n ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyor and collect data about whales and dolphins on board various ships around the UK. With a bit of experience, you could also join our bigger cruises sailing to the Mediterranean, Iceland, Norway, Greenland and even the Caribbean! If you are interested, take a look at our ORCA website to find out how to become a Marine Mammal Surveyor. It is easier, than you think! 🙂


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