Text: Sarah Longbottom
Our specially chartered evening cruise Wednesday afternoon began with dazzling blue skies and beautifully smooth waters - with the sun behind us as we left, the conditions were perfect for scanning for whales, dolphins and porpoise.
We departed Stornoway Harbour with excited guests and sharp eyes - and not ten minutes into our cruise those sharp eyes were rewarded with a minke whale surfacing! We caught the slow roll of his long back breaking the surface, with that unmistakeable small dorsal fin toward the end. Our first minke of the day surfaced twice more in the bay before we moved on - a very promising start to what would turn out to be a great trip.
As we cruised up the Point coast toward Tiumpan Head, we were treated to harbour porpoise surfacing before us, and several striking Risso’s dolphins rising very close to us, allowing us to see their curious white scar markings and tall, sharp dorsal fins. Young Risso’s dolphins generally have dark skin, which is sensitive and prone to scarring. As they age, they earn more and more of these scars, from bussles and tussles between themselves, and from fighting with their favourite snack - squid! The older individuals can appear nearly pure white with the accumulation of their scarring.
As we cruised further we enjoyed spectacular displays of ‘feeding frenzies’ from large numbers of our varied sea bird species. Frenzies like this are often a great sign of cetaceans feeding below the surface of the water, so the gannets, fulmars, kittiwakes, skuas - and everyone else present at the melee - are often our best allies when we’re trying to spot the bigger guys.
Keeping an eye on these frenzies served us very well - as we reached the Tiumpan headland we were treated to more minke whales surfacing. These guys gave us a lot of very clear views, and every one of our guests was able to spot them several times. We lingered to watch a short distance away, so as not to disturb their activities, and then started to make for home.
As we cruised back down the coast, we spied a pod of white-beaked dolphins in front of the Monadhliath - surfacing fairly calmly initially, just teasing us with their dorsal fins. They got bored of that fairly quickly and began leaping acrobatically into the air - gasps and delighted laughs all round on our viewing deck! They kept up this display for a long time, before dropping back towards our vessel and surfacing closer to us. One individual enjoyed some bow riding before the pod gradually dropped behind us and moved on.
Delighted guests and guides alike after this fantastic trip! We’re excited to head out on the next cruise and see what we can find. We hope you will join us! You can find full details of all our cruises and day trips at https://hebrideanadventures.co.uk .