Scotland is one of the best places in the world for whale watching with the waters around the West Coast providing the best sightings Britain has to offer. The Firth of Lorn just south of Oban has been designated a Special Area of Conservation and as such supports a vast array of land and marine wildlife.
The most common whale sighted is the Minke Whale, and for many, seeing just one of these magnificent creatures is the highlight of their visit to the Oban area.
The warm waters of the Gulf Stream create a unique climate that attracts the whales from the end of Spring to the end of summer and they can often be seen surprisingly close to the shore, albeit in the more remoter locations such as around the islands of Scarba, Jura and Mull.
However, there is no shortage of boat charters that run whale watching cruises lasting from between 2-5 hours. The most popular trips will usually start by cruising around some of the inner islands such as Seil, Luing, Shuna, before heading further out to the isles of Lunga, Scarba and Jura.
The inner isles will yield sightings of herons, otters and seals along their shores, but the deeper, wilder waters further out are where the whales gather. The Gulf of Corryvreckan with its spectacular whirlpool and turbulent waters is a great feeding ground for the whales, and they can often be seen surfacing for air before diving back down to the depths in search of food.
Although the local skippers are very sensitive to the whales’ welfare and don’t get too close to them, they can come surprisingly close to the boats with some even seen swimming underneath the boats.
Beyond the Gulf of Corryvreckan to the west is the Great Race, an offshore tidal stream of deep water that is rich in marine life. Lucky whale watchers may even see different species of whale here, such as Orca (Killer Whale) that venture down from the Hebrides, and perhaps even the rare Humpback.
Other WildlifeAny west coast whale watching trip will inevitably provide sightings of a rich variety of wildlife. The amount of species increases as the weather gets warmer from Spring through Summer and into early Autumn. Porpoises and dolphins are resident in these waters and can be seen surfacing and jumping with regularity. Basking sharks appear in larger numbers, often seen swimming near the surface. Little is known about the second biggest fish in the world, but Scotland’s west coast is the best place in Europe to spot them. Golden and White-Tailed Sea Eagles are resident all year round in the area but become more active from April onwards when they are nesting.
Other common sights include sea otters that like to forage at the water’s edge, seals that can be seen lounging about on the rocks or bobbing up and down out in the water, deer and feral goats that haunt the craggy island hillsides, and a huge variety of seabirds such as gannet, black guillemot, fulmar, shearwater, puffin, skua and shag.
Charter boats operate from Oban and other coastal harbours and take bookings throughout the year, although the summer months are very busy so booking ahead is strongly advisable. All are within a short driving distance from Loch Melfort Hotel. Further details about whale watching trips in the Oban and Firth of Lorn area:
contact us on 0843 886 0233.