Ultimate Guide to Whales and Dolphins in the UK

Ultimate Guide to Whales and Dolphins in the UK

Ultimate Guide to Whales and Dolphins in the UK

I have seen dolphins off the coasts of the UK many times, but they were never ‘planned’ sightings. By this I mean that I just happened to be looking out over the sea wherever I was and there they were - particularly at Brighton around the piers on the south coast of England.

In addition, while I was in the area, had paid a visit to see Fungi, the dolphin who lives in Dingle bay, just off the south-west tip of The Republic of Ireland. And it’s always amazing, even if you just about see a fin.

But I wanted to do it properly this time, I wanted to search for wild dolphins and whales in UK waters, rather than just catch a glimpse. I began researching the most likely places to see resident dolphin populations and the best time of year to see whales breaching, etc, and then go on a vacation specifically for this.

How To Do It

Now, you can either do this off the coast or you can hire boats, either yourself or as part of a guided tour - the latter being closer to them and more likely of a sighting, so I wanted to look at a combination of both. I’m not too keen on the sea myself - and it’s so cold in the UK - so if I can see them from dry land, I would prefer it. Below are the some places I found for both types of sightings and what species you might see, starting with the southern-most locations (as they are that bit warmer):

Around Lands End - Cornwall: Bottle-nose dolphins are very common here, but it’s also possible to see sperm whales off to the west, but they tend to stay away from the rocky shore.

Around Cardigan Bay - Wales: Common porpoises and minke whale are frequently seen in these waters, along with the long-finned pilot whale out at sea.

West coast of Scotland: It is possible to sea orca here (killer whales) between the mainland and the Hebrides, along with minke whales and common porpoises. Slightly more to the south you may catch a glimpse of sperm whales and pilot whales.

East coast of Scotland: Moray Firth is well known for it’s dolphin populations including bottle-nose, white-beaked and common porpoises. Slightly south of here at sea, you may find minke and ling-finned pilot whales.

Northern Scotland and the Shetland Isles: Orca and Risso’s dolphin are common here, as well as some others found elsewhere in Scotland, and around the Orkney’s a sighting from land of orcas is becoming more frequent.

Further Tips

It would be worthwhile watching or studying pictures of breaching whales and dolphins before you go you you are aware of what you are likely to see, as without a guide you are on your own. Make yourself familiar with their activities, like dolphins ‘bow riding’ at the front of a passing boat, to maximise your chances of seeing them. Which species will be alone and which will be in groups? What shape are their dorsal fins? Are there any other aquatic species I could mistake them for?

It goes without saying to take some binoculars and a water-proof jacket!
Travel To And From The Airport

Travel To And From The Airport

Travel To And From The Airport

Now that you’ve booked your vacation, you can relax and start counting down the days, but there is still something to consider: How are you getting to the airport? Of course depending on your departure and return times you may find your options limited, so make sure you plan in advance for the safest, quickest and best option available for you.

As you would expect, there are a variety of options available, so here are the main ones summed up to give you an idea of whats on offer:

A friend - The old classic of ‘can you get a friend or neighbour to drop you off and pick you up for free’ or in exchange for you doing the same for them. Sounds ok on paper, but make sure that your flight times are not so ridiculous that you are asking too much, for example if you land at 6am (out by 7am) how early are you expecting them to get up? If you leave or get back in rush hour, will they be late? What if your return flight is delayed - can they still collect you? All very friendship stretching possibilities……

A taxi - Most companies offer a set rate for a single or return journey to your specific airport. They will arrive on time - as they do this for a living - and they will have checked any delays or problems with the return flights before leaving to collect you. They will usually park in the airport and greet you at the arrivals gate with a card displaying your name. All very simple.

A limo - These will do everything a taxi does, but more professionally, with a better vehicle (usually airconditioned) and for a higher price tag, of course.

A train - These will take you right into the terminal and run very frequently throught the day, including early morning and late night (when most long haul flights are active). You will have to get to the nearest station to your home though, and may well have to change trains depending on your location. They have plenty of room on board for your luggage and offer a faster service as they are not affected by road traffic. You may not be able to get a return ticket though, as you will not be back for some time, so check their policies on returns over 14 days.

A coach - Many national coach companies offer airport runs from several locations on each route. As with trains, you will need to first travel to their pickup point, but these tend to run less frequently in the early hours. You may also need to travel to a larger town or city to get these at your required time. Coaches are inevitably affected by road traffic so you could experience delays either way. Coaches usually do offer a return of as long as you want because they specifically do the airport runs, so know this is what people expect.

Your own car - Better than a friend in terms of trustworthyness as it is you who does the driving! However parking at the airport for a week or two can be very expensive. There are however a variety of parking facilities outside of the airport which can be cheaper yet just as accessable, known as long term airport carparks.

These are normally just outside of the airport itself, or as far away as a 20 minutes drive, but this is nothing to worry about. All these car parks offer a free coach transfer direct to your terminal, and can be more than half the price of parking on-site. You do not have to book these in advance, but they will be a lot cheaper if you do. Basically these firms take the keys to your car and give you a token in return. They park your car in a secure environment for the whole time you are gone, then have it ready for you to collect when you return.

There are several options with these facilities most expensive first:

Airport Drop Off: You drive your car to the airport and leave it with a driver who takes your car away. The driver is waiting with your name board when you return and you take your car straight from there.

Hotel & Drop Off: You stay in a local (and often luxury) hotel overnight. The following morning you drop your car off at the long term car park then get a courtesy coach to the airport terminal. On your return you catch the free coach back and collect your car.

CarPark Drop Off: You drive your car to the car park yourself on the day of your flight and catch the courtesy coach to the terminal. On return you catch the coach back and collect your car.

Additionally, you could find yourself a hotel to stay in overnight, then leave your car in their car park, getting a transfer to the terminal arranged by them. This option is not usually much cheaper than the Hotel & Drop Off, and your car will not be secure the whole time, it will just be sitting in a space in that hotels car park rather than tucked away safely in a fenced environment with camera security the whole time.

Whichever you choose, always make sure that no one else has access to your packed luggage at any time as this could pose a security risk. Make sure you keep all your important documents with you at all times and that they are easy to access.
GPS Essentials for Hiking

GPS Essentials for Hiking

Due to the nature of the activity, hiking can pose some risks and challenges. Among them, getting lost is probably the most common since hikers throw caution to the wind and think that it won't happen to them. Experienced hikers will tell you that tracking your hike and planning your route are as essential as bringing proper equipment and provisions. The best tool you can use is a Global Positioning System or GPS, which uses satellites to locate your position no matter where you are.

A basic unit has controls and a display to show you your latitude (east-west location) and longitude (north-south location). They also have a number of channels so you can switch frequency when there is interference. While the very basic models will suit your purpose, there are a number of options that are beneficial and sometimes essential depending on the types of hikes you're doing.

Added features include waterproof casing which is a must if you think you'll be hiking through streams or rivers or combining your outdoor activity with rafting. Another is a digital compass which is beneficial as a quick reference. Altitude reading is another good option to have. Figuring out altitude when planning a hike on a map can be a lot of guesswork but when used in conjunction with a GPS unit you can figure out the grade and altitude of your hike.
Ultimate Vacation - Mini Road Trip!

Ultimate Vacation - Mini Road Trip!

Well, it wasn’t quite across the whole of America, but we certainly had some fun on the way!

Me and a friend had just finished college and decided to head off for a week driving to all the places within easy reach that we fancied seeing. We packed our bags, got the road map and set off one evening with the intention of avoiding the worst traffic.

Our vehicle of choice was a clean but very old British car - a Ford Fiesta, already having several thousand miles on the clock before we even set off! With Elvis on the stereo, we trundled across town and up the highway, heading for our first stop - which was as far as we could get before it got too late to find somewhere to stay!

We failed of course, and spent the night in the car! We were in a side street in a busy city, reclined in our front seats eating burger and fries before falling asleep!

We woke up in daylight, in a stinking car and in need of a freshen up ourselves! Pulling into a city car park, we went into a shopping mall - they usually have the best restrooms - and we got cleaned up and changed into fresh clothes, then stopped in a local restaurant for a cooked breakfast!

The town itself was a bit boring, but it meant that we would be driving through the best countryside in the day light today, so we soon headed off again, singing ‘Viva Las Vegas’ with The King! We made sure that we got to our next destination in time to find a place to stay and have a look around too this time!

After a great day in the sunshine, stopping for lunch when it took our fancy, we found a great building in the centre of a small town with its own parking, perfect! After checking in, we were free to look around the town at the sights, even taking a short drive to a local beach. We returned in time for a great meal there, then simply headed upstairs to bed.

We continued on like this for the week - booking places on arrival rather than in advance. It just gives you that extra flexibility to get one town further if somewhere or something is not as exciting as you thought it would be!! Some of the nights we weren’t so lucky with the accommodation in terms of location (or bedroom decor!), but on the whole we did OK with availability and that’s all that mattered to us.

We managed to cram in hiring a boat, some fishing, some shopping, some sight-seeing, some cheese tasting (?) and even some horse-back riding. We certainly didn’t hold back - if we saw something worth stopping for - we stopped!

We had no problems with the car, but a few problems with the driver!! Well, apart from endless Elvis - who was great to start with, but really getting on my nerves now - we had her singing, which again was OK to start with…..

Nothing like Experiencing Alaska

Not only can a trip to Alaska be rewarding and enjoyable but it can also be reasonably priced. Both thrilling and relaxing activities can be done in Alaska as diverse as hiking, skiing and fishing. The outdoors in Alaska offers so much as to keep one busy and entertained for days on end. There are constant discoveries in Alaska's nature to make and adventure travelers booking these type excursions should make the region a stop for any excursion. My family is glad we made the trip from the Murcia Airport last summer.

Image credit lonelyplanet.com
In Alaska, travelers will find the sizable Hubbard glacier and lovely Fairbanks. And for those who like to go coin searching with coin finding machines would definitely get a kick out of the goldmines that are scattered across a portion of the landscape. Between the fauna filled forests to the vast wide plains on to the salmon filled, ice waters, there are enough diversions to satiate any thrill seeker's curiosity. And a cruise liner can give a traveler access to some of the more difficult coasts in the Alaskan Canadian coast.

Scaling a mountain is one of the most life-affirming activities for some people. And Alaska has some of the tallest mountains in the world for those people to tackle. Conquering the McKinley Mountains during the holidays would be the best gift for some while for others it would be experiencing a journey across the Denali National Park. Actually, some adventurers decide spend entire months, if they have to, to conquer the pinnacle of Mount McKinley. Like a hole in one, that is an achievement that rarely occurs more than once during a lifetime.

Alaska adventure travel is not only limited to the mountain ranges and parks as there is backpacking white water rafting and ice-fishing to do near Anchorage. Westward are the Aleutians full of mystical coves, sea otters and puffins. This area is unspoiled but for more organized and landscaped surroundings then a traveler would have to go to Clark National Park where there are tons of acreage to explore.

Maybe the more interesting portions of Alaska for some exist in the North where historical information can be learned. The cultures of the people hark back to a very ancient past. And the past can be experienced somewhat by travelers who boat down the Yukon River to Fairbanks and try to pan for gold as they did in years past. And for the especially thrill-seeking ones, travelers can cross the Arctic Circle and continue on to the extreme north portions of Alaska.

Alaska's south is not to be overlooked, either. It gives travelers chances to kayak near enough to the shoreline to see chestnut colored, unconquerable glaciers and unruly rain forests of Alaska. Due to the sights and unusual activities you can get in no climate or location anywhere else in the world, Alaska receives a lot of tourist traffic a year, making it a hotspot that everyone should see at least once.