The island of Ireland’s marine territory is actually much larger than its land area! Dolphins, seals and seabirds are some of the marine creatures that call this territory home, and whales and basking sharks have been seen spending their time in these waters too.
With warmer weather and longer days, summertime provides favoured conditions to wait by the shoreline for the moment you see a pod of dolphins leap gracefully out of the ocean, or a seabird swoop down and catch a fish. It is also more likely that boat trips will be running in the better weather conditions that summer provides. However, marine life can be seen all year round and even in the most unexpected of places. Would you expect to see a seal in a Dublin city
river? Well, it happened!
In West Cork,
you’re likely to see the short-beaked common dolphin and there are occasional sightings of the bottlenose dolphin too. Watch them from the sands of beaches such as Blind Strand in County Cork,
or take to the seas with Atlantic Whale and Wildlife Tours!
As you probably guessed by the name, this tour takes you to some fantastic whale-spotting locations off the coast of West Cork too. Fin whales and minke whales are more common here, and the humpback whale is occasionally spotted in these waters.
Seals can be found all around the coast of the island of Ireland, with the most common species being harbour and grey seals. These curious creatures pop their heads up in places like the end of the Great South Wall on the Poolbeg Peninsula in Dublin, by the sandbank at the entrance to Wexford town’s harbour in County Wexford,
and in the River Moy between Enniscrowe and Ballina in County Sligo.
One of the largest colonies in Ireland often rests on the rocks of Cloghy Rocks
Nature Reserve where the Irish Sea enters Strangford Lough in County Down.
There’s an information point and viewing area at this nature reserve, so you can learn a bit about the seals as they get their “R & R”.
Basking sharks are the second-largest living shark and have been spotted in the island’s waters. Sightings are rarer, but recently researchers have recorded shoals of basking sharks in Inishtrahull Sound, County Donegal.
We recommend visiting the small layby on the hill behind Keem Bay on Achill Island in County Mayo
– it’s a good place to try your luck.
The island’s cliffs and craggy coast make the perfect nesting places for puffins. Have you heard their nicknames? They’re called “sea parrots” or “clowns of the sea”, which makes us want to learn about them even more! Skellig Michael in County Kerry
is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to a large puffin colony that tends to arrive on the island in late spring. A boat trip around the Skellig Islands
is one of the best ways to see these birds up close as they nest in every rocky outcrop they can find.
A colony of puffins has also been known to live on Inishbofin Island in County Galway
during the breeding season. You are not guaranteed to see them, but the panoramic views mean you won’t leave disappointed. Rathlin Island off the Causeway Coast
is home to a puffin colony and is also the location of the West Light Seabird Centre,
which is run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. And finally, the iconic Cliffs of Moher
in County Clare
are home to over 20 different species of seabirds, and you can watch them as you take in your surroundings from the viewing point.
So which marine creatures have our community spotted around the island of Ireland?