Tuesday 29th October
Catching a break in the recent Hebridean Autumn storms, MV Monadhliath yesterday left port with guides and guests eager to see what could be found. With winter fast approaching, the mornings and evenings have been frosty and invigorating, and this morning on the Minch was no different - armed with piping hot coffees all round (also invigorating), we left harbour and voyaged north along the coastline of the Eye Peninsula.
We were happy to encounter large pods of harbour porpoise as we cruised, seemingly also invigorated by the changing temperatures - several individuals offered good views of their breaches as they passed. Harbour porpoise are the smallest cetaceans in European waters, and usually rather more introverted than yesterday's individuals, rising swiftly for only a moment before disappearing out of sight. Happily, we had quick eyes all around on board, and all our guests managed to catch sight of the pods as they passed, showing off their tell-tale small triangular dorsal fins.
As we approached Tiumpan head, we noted a drop in the number of seabirds around us, both on the surface of the water and in the skies above. Seabirds can be our best allies when scanning for cetaceans; as they soar high above the surface and scan for food, once they start diving they indicate to us where the shoals of fish are - and, hopefully, cetaceans hunting the same shoals from below. Noting the lack of these indicators, we elected to turn south in the hopes of finding busier waters. As we voyaged south, we passed several "feeding frenzies" of seabirds, and although we lingered in hopes of other creatures surfacing, none broke the surface.
Just as we thought to turn for home, splashes in the distance marked the arrival of some short-beaked common dolphins. These yellow-sided dolphins can be our most extroverted playmates, and we made a wide circle with the vessel, hoping to entice them into some bow riding. These guys were however busy with other activities - they gave us a few quick breaches and raced off again. As much as we love having them along for a bow ride, part of the pleasure of seeing wild animals in their natural habitats is that they are just that - acting naturally. Far better to briefly see them out there, where they belong, than to see them in captivity at our leisure for hours on end.
We made for home, enjoying the low autumn light casting dramatic shadows on our island home. Perhaps not the busiest of our trips in terms of cetaceans seen as it is the very end of the season now, but a fantastic day out on the sea all the same and good to know some life was still out there!
2020 Cruise Calendar for Hebridean Adventures.
We are just starting to publish our cruise calendar for next year if you are planning your holidays already.
The first selection of boat trips from Mallaig is already up, featuring some new destinations including the Small isles, Skye and some Western Highland scenery from around the Sound of Sleat area. We will also be working with some exciting new partners next year on a selection of unique themed cruises, offering you something different to add to your guided wildlife cruise experience with us. First to be published are two cruises with specialist walking holiday operators Hidden Hebrides, who will be leading two 'Hike & Sail' adventures with us to some brilliant and remote locations!