Updated: Oct 11, 2019
By Muriel Halle
On Thursday 18.07.2019, we set out in the morning for a half day trip. Although the weather was making it hard to find wildlife, we sure enough were able to find puffins and along with them, other iconic birdlife of the Hebrides. On our way towards Tiumpan Head we were able to find some harbour porpoise. Then we passed by the so called 'Chicken Rock', where one can find nesting shags, guillemots, razorbills and fulmars. It sure is impressive to see all the different seabirds on this one little tiny outcrop of rock.
As we left the bird island behind, we passed by some father and chick pairs of guillemots, which now are left alone as the females are already heading for the open ocean. We headed towards a white-tailed eagle nest in which we know two eaglets are growing fast and soon will be ready to fly off. It’s always a special task to describe the nest to our guests, as eagles are known to be masters in camouflaging the nests into the cliffs and rocky heath. Time is always flying by as we spend time out on the water. We tend to keep scanning for wildlife until the very last minute. Well on this trip, we bumped into one of the oceans mysteries.
A couple that came out with us, spotted a very large and black dorsal fin. As Jon, our lead guide, turned around, he could just see the last bit of the fin disappearing into the ocean. Speculations were soon to follow, as that animal just gave us that one glimpse, without showing itself any more at all. Was it just a very large Risso's dolphin, a minke whale with a huge dorsal, or in the end one of the very rare orca that we get every now and then? We will never know for certain, but mystery sightings like that are the reason why we are still excited to go out there. You just never know what will happen once you leave the port.
Later that same day, although the wind picked up a bit, we had to bring MV Monadhliath all the way across the Minch to Ullapool, since we had a two day trip ahead of us and some work that needed completing in port there. During the crossing we had a couple of common dolphin pods who decided to bow-ride along with us. As our skipper was scanning the ocean a big splash caught his attention. As we moved closer towards the breaching animal, it turned out to be a very energetic minke whale. The whale jumped several times around the boat and brought smiles to our faces. With those nice pictures in our heads and cameras, we arrived in Ullapool after a 6 hour crossing.
Friday the 19th of July
Today we were waiting for our colleagues to arrive and as they did we started to prepare the boat for the trip. As we finished shopping and got everything ready we left the harbour in the afternoon to get to our anchorage down the coast in Loch Ewe. On the way to the Loch we were lucky to find several harbour porpoise and a big pod of common dolphins which were very playful and therefore came to bow-ride for a long while. As we got closer to our anchorage we saw a big dark triangle break the surface and then the movement of a tail. We felt very lucky to see a feeding basking shark so close to our boat. The conditions were good enough for us to see the big shadow under the surface, what a truly fascinating sight!
Then we entered the loch, with a lovely sunset and feeding gannets behind us and lovely islands and mountains glowing in the warm evening ahead. As we passed little white-washed houses and the beautiful coastal scenery of Wester Ross we had another glimpse of a different basking shark and yet more gannets. After we set the anchor we spotted four young Hen Harriers that were calling in the fading sunlight flying over the hills of the Isle of Ewe. With all those indelible impressions fresh in our minds, we settled ourselves and enjoyed a lovely dinner and a couple of drinks. A very fitting ending of the day and a lot of laughs and enjoyment along the way.
Saturday the 20th of July
This day turned out to be a very warm one, filled with sunlight. The sea was gleaming as we were scanning for wildlife. Soon enough we again spotted a playful pod of short beaked common dolphins. They were leaping and breaching in the distance and soon surrounded our boat. They were bow-riding once more and this time some females brought their babies along and the little ones amazed us with their speed and fearless antics. Still in awe from the encounter we traveled along and came across a couple of feeding frenzies of gannets. The birds indicated to us that there must be a lot of fish, which might attract the bigger creatures. Sure enough we found two minke whales foraging. Since they were busy feeding they didn’t care about us and never came up close so we left them feeding. On our way back up the rugged coastline towards Ullapool, we bumped into a couple more pods of common dolphins around the Summer Isles and all of them had leaping individuals amongst them.
Over all, this trip could be called a 'dolphin extravaganza' since we saw so many of them. It was really nice to see not only a lot of the adults but also a good amount of juveniles and babies. Our happy friends left us in Ullapool harbour and we were once again on the way back home across the Minch to Stornoway and the Isle of Lewis.
There is a lot of whale and dolphin activity about right now and it seems basking sharks too. Please do book a trip with us over the summer holidays if you'd like to try and come see some of this amazing Scottish wildlife with us - just head to our website which has a brand new look at www.hebrideanadventures.co.uk and we will see you soon!