Sunday, 12 July 2015

My Cornish Holiday (Part 7)

Out on the rough waves of Newquay
I have saved the best for last! Over the week of my holiday, there was one creature I have been searching for, basking sharks. The best way of encountering these huge fish is by boat. Throughout the week, we have tried to get me a place on a boat ride. Unfortunately, the weather forecast offshore has been choppy for most of the week and the two boat companies we asked decided not to run. Always the opptimist, we asked the two companies to book me a place when the weather conditions looked good on one of my remaining days just in case. On my final day I managed to get a place on, not one, but two boat trips! Both were on different times of the day, which was handy.

First up was a two hour morning ride at Newquay. We travelled along the north coast of Cornwall in rough conditions. I saw very little. Kittiewakes, cormorants, the odd guillemot and a single seal and a lot of big waves knocking into the boat. It was disappointing and I was lucky not to suffer any seasickness.
Thrill seekers jumping off the rocks!
Fishing boat

The best part of my Newquay trip came when we got back into the harbour. A male grey seal was waiting for us and swam over to meet us. He was a very friendly seal who was obviously hoping that we had fish for him to eat. If only the rest of the trip was like this!

Ready for my ocean adventure!
I was reunited with my parents, who did their own thing while I was out on the waves, and we hit the road for Penzance for my second trip in the afternoon.This was to be a trip of a lifetime. Our vessel was a catamaran called 'Shearwater II', which could be changed from the power of engines to the power of the wind to reduce our noise pollution and to get a better chance of approaching any marine creatures we find. The three hour trip was led by two marine biologists, who were very good guides and spotters. The wind had also died down, providing much calmer conditions than I had at Newquay.
All aboard the Shearwater II

We made our way along the Cornish South Coast with St Michael's Mount behind us in the distance. Our first spot was at a group of rocks offshore to Mousehole. Here was a small group of grey seals lazing it out on the rocks. It amazes me how some of them managed to get up on the larger rocks. Our guides knew each one by name and age as each seal has a unique spot pattern on their bodies. We were also shown fulmars, kittiewakes, Mediterranean gulls and oystercatchers.
St Michael's Mount
Grey seal

Risso's Dolphin
Further up the coast, something caught our expert's eye. It was a fin. Basking shark? No, it was something much rarer and there were more than one. We had came across a small group of Risso's dolphin. These dolphins appeared to be sleeping, well they weren't moving very far or fast anyway. I could only get a glimpse of part of their backs and their sickle-shaped dorsal fins. These dolphins have bulbous heads and are very shy, nothing like your usual image of a dolphin. We kept our distance and watched them for several minutes before we left them in peace.

Mother and calf
Gannets were flying over us and were plunging into the sea. Whenever you see a large group of these birds plunge diving, you might see dolphins and other marine creatures joining them. No luck, at least for now, as they were diving from lower heights. Still entertaining though.

Minack Theatre
Common Dolphin
Just as we turned a corner at the Minack Theatre, we spotted more dolphin action. These were faster moving and more dolphin-like than Rissos, these were common dolphins. It was a small group of around ten animals, but there could be more underwater. They were busy leaping and breaching, but then they noticed our catamaran in full sail and began bow-riding. They were so close that you could see the yellow stripes very clearly and I could see that one of them was a calf which was bow-riding like a pro. It was brilliant and lasted for quite some time. Eventually, we were losing the wind in our sails and the dolphins got bored of us.
Bow-riding with us

Manx Shearwater
We were making our way back to Penzance, when we noticed a lot of gannets plunging into the sea with an even larger number of manx shearwaters joining them. A feeding frenzy was happening complete with dolphins. This was another, even smaller group of common dolphins and they were hunting. It was great seeing dolphins and seabirds together like this. The dolphins seemed to have had there fill as they were then bow-riding with us just like the others were earlier. Our three hours were up and we were now in overtime thanks to these dolphins. We were delayed once again, though, as we neared the harbour as the Rissos gave us one last appearance. No basking sharks, but my Cornish holiday still went out with a bang!

Gannet and Manx Shearwters


  1. Now I'm really jealous. That must have been such a fantastic day!

    1. Yes, it totally made up for the first boat ride at Newquay.

  2. Wow! Just catching up on your posts. Seeing Risso's dolphins was so lucky... fantastic. What a great trip.