Trip Report - Sea Watch NWDW Cruise

Our 2022 National Whale and Dolphin Watch cruise for the Sea Watch Foundation was an amazing success with our best cetaceans views of the season so far, and some very special sightings as well.


We have run a special National Whale and Dolphin Watch cruise the last two seasons to time with the national event run by the Sea Watch Foundation that we are a recommended boat partner of, making a donation from the takings to help their work.

Our Scottish waters have some great whale, dolphin and porpoise activity as well as lots of other great wildlife from eagles, to seabirds and other marine mammals, and our wildlife watching cruises from Stornoway are the perfect base for a few nights to explore and enjoy these amazing animals. Please enjoy this quick trip report from our experienced cetacean guide Jess Owens on a very enjoyable week for all concerned.

(Main image - leaping common dolphins - Andy Williams @pelagicbirder)

Day 1

We set off from Stornoway to Loch Sealg where we spent the night and on the way saw lots of brilliant seabird species feeding, such as gannets, guillemots with their chicks, and puffins. At the entrance to Loch Sealg were was a lot of bird activity and several minke whales were joining them to catch fish. We even caught sight of a larger baleen whale that we believed to be a sei whale (the third largest whale after the blue and fin whales).

Sei whale seen by Hebridean Adventures guests

A sei whale showing its fin and splashguard around the blowhole at the same time - a useful ID point - Andy Williams.

Day 2

In the morning there were still minke whales feeding in the entrance to loch Sealg as we set off to explore the other lochs further south. As we sailed into Loch Seaforth we had excellent views of common dolphins that came to bow ride in front of us. We were very lucky to spot three white-tailed eagles and a golden eagle in and around the loch.

All smiles having had a close encounter with bow-riding common dolphins.

Day 3

We sailed across the Minch in a big swell to see the small islands off the Isle of Skye and the nesting birds. In the afternoon we sailed to the Shiants and sat in the sunshine drinking tea and watching thousands of puffins, razorbills, shags, and guillemots.

The Shiant Isles.

Day 4

The last full day of our trip was really spectacular. We didn’t think our cetacean sightings could get any better having seen harbour porpoises, common dolphins, minke whales and a sei whale, but they did! We sailed out to Tiumpan Head, and on the way had amazing views of Risso’s dolphins. Ben our youngest guest on board (9 years old) spotted a huge blow on the horizon. We then found two enormous fin whales, the second largest animals in the world, feeding on a big shoal of fish, along with minke whales and a sei whale! The sun was shining and we could hear the blows and see them shoot over 6 meters into the air. As we headed back south we found a mixed pod of Risso’s dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. These two species are often seen interacting with each other and sometimes interbreed with each other and produce hybrids.

Risso's and bottlenose dolphin

Risso's dolphin (back) and bottlenose dolphin (front) - Andy Williams.

Fin whale seen by Hebridean Adventures guestsFin whale - the second largest whale in the world - Andy Williams.

Day 5

As we headed back to Stornoway we were visited one final time by common dolphins. We said good bye to our guests who were delighted to have seen seven species of cetaceans and lots of fascinating birds.

Guests aboard the MV Monadhliath

Species List

Mammals: 11 Species

Minke whale, harbour porpoise, sei whale, fin whale, Risso’s dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, grey seal, common seal, red deer, and a possible otter!

Birds: 27 Species

Gannet, razorbill, guillemot, puffin (AKA Tammie Norrie in Shetland as a guest pointed out!), black guillemot, Manx shearwater, Arctic tern, common tern, Arctic skua, great skua, fulmar, kittiwake, greylag goose, cormorant, shag, grey heron, white-tailed eagle, golden eagle, greater black-backed gull, lesser black-backed gull, black-headed gull, herring gull, common gull, oystercatcher, red-breasted merganser, raven, storm petrel.

Guillemots and razorbills

Razorbills and guillemots at the Shiant Isles - Andy Williams


Puffins on the water at the Shiant Isles - Andy Williams

Common seals

Common seals hauled out on the rocks - Andy Williams

White-tailed eagles silhouetted

Four white-tailed eagles silhouetted against the sky - Andy Williams