inishowen is unique
Sights & Culture
Inishowen Whale and Dolphin Watching - Inishowen
Inishowen Whale and Dolphin Watching
Contact: Emmett Johnston
Address: Ballynarry Buncrana
Tel: + 353 (0)74 93 22628
Mob: + 353 (0)87 2867055
Whale and dolphin watching is a relatively new development on the coastline of Inishowen and North Donegal. Things have changed in recent years throughout these coastal waters, with a rapid decline in fishing activity and a significant rise in leisure boating, reports of cetacean activity have increased dramatically. This surge of interest has been harnessed and led by locally based marine biologists and researchers who have developed and delivered new monitoring and educational programmes in the locality. Porpoise, Bottlenose Dolphin, Minke whale and Risso's Dolphin are the usual suspects with regular confirmed sightings of Common dolphin and Killer whales (orca's). Inishowen's dramatic cliffs and wild coastline juts out into the Atlantic to offer the prospective land based whale watcher an island like experience with the added luxury of driving to your headland destination. Boat based watching is operated on demand out of Culdaff, Greencastle and Rathmullan. With good sea conditions this coastline can offer some of the most natural whale and dolphin experiences on the western seaboard of Europe. Locally based environmentalists conduct regular land based watches and vessel-based surveys, which feed into the Irish Whale and Dolphin Groups online database.
The best months to watch are May and June with July - October offering good viewing in calm weather conditions. Winter watching offers a larger variety of species with Risso's a very common sight but weather conditions can be challenging on this rugged and exposed coastline. Recommended locations are Fort Dunree on Lough Swilly, Malin Head looking both north and south, Glengad head, Culdaff bay and Inishowen head.
For the quick visitor Fort Dunree offers a excellent chance of viewing Porpoise within 200m in sea sate 3 or less. Best time to view is one hour either side of high tide, the blow is also often audible on calm days. Shroove near Inishowen head also offers reliable porpoise viewing within 200m of the beach car park. Any state of tide is okay with no binoculars or telescope needed for either location. Bottlenose dolphin and Minke whale are more regularly seen off Malin head and at the mouth of Lough Swilly with optics in the form of binoculars a distinct advantage. They usually are most active during slack tide conditions.
The Bottlenose Dolphin is Inishowen's most charismatic Cetacean (Marine mammal). Their playful nature and acrobatic ability is always a delight to witness on the shores of Lough Swilly or off the sandy strand at Culdaff. In recent years a pod of over 50 Bottlenose dolphins have become semi-resident along the shores of North Donegal. This stretch of untouched coastline where cliff and beach meet sea and sky with little or no evidence of human habitation was for many years overlooked by marine biologists as a location for cetacean activity. Locally based marine researchers are now investigating the full existent of cetacean activity along the North Donegal coast and they have already gained some interesting results.
Two Bottlenose Dolphins (BND) pictured at the mouth of Lough Swilly below Fort Dunree have been matched to the Irish Coastal bottlenose dolphin catalogue as BNDIRL 4 & BNDIRL57.
BNDIRL 4 was first recorded in 2005 in Waterford and it has been seen twice this year in Irish waters and BNDIRL 57 was first recorded in 2008 in Donegal Bay. This marks a significant breakthrough for the Lough Swilly BND group as previous to this little was known about their activities outside the Lough. This also proves that the pod move and feed further south of Lough Swilly. Previously it has been suggested that Lough Swilly was their most southerly range and it was inferred by a number of marine biologists that the pod was linked with Scottish BND populations. This does not mean the Lough Swilly pods do not venture further north but just that they have been seen and do feed as far south as Waterford in the Irish sea.
Recent Report from the local IWDG whale watch.
"Calm weather saw a number of Bottle Nose Dolphin pods feeding in the Swilly and local IWDG members conducting a constant effort watch at Fort Dunree witnessed the unusual act of juvenile BND chasing three porpoise below the cliffs and out of the mouth of the Swilly. Contact was not seen but the dolphins appeared to be energetic in their pursuit, which lasted over 5minutes in duration. This phenomenon has been only recorded a handful of times in Ireland and is extremely rare as porpoise always avoid Bottlenose dolphins. It is possible the narrows at Dunree and Saladanha head brought the two species within contact as the porpoise tried to make good their escape. It is hoped to make a match on the dolphins frequenting the Swilly this summer using photo I.D. and put an end to the question as to the origin of the dolphin pods which are now regular feeders on this stretch of coast."