12 December 2017

BAJA, MEXICO

Avast there me hearties….

Want to leave behind the winter blues? Feel the sun on your back after all this rain? Feel the sand between your toes? AND see the Gray Whales of Baja, Mexico and their calves in the calving lagoons of Magdalena Bay? Then you know what to do…click on the link above

We are running a whale and dolphin watching holiday to Baja California Sur, Mexico – Saturday, February 25th to Saturday March 3rd 2012. This is a fully guided whale watching expedition with Nic Slocum PhD. A detailed resumé for Nic is provided below.

Our Mexican whale watching destination will be the lovely old town of Loreto which was the first Spanish settlement on Baja California Sur.The Spanish influence is still clearly evident in the old town. We will stay in the prestigious La Mision Hotel, widely considered to be the best hotel in Loreto, close to the historic district and overlooking the serene and calm Sea of Cortez; dubbed by Jacques Cousteau “The Aquarium of the World” due to it’s rich marine wildlife diversity. The Baja peninsular in Mexico is one of the finest destinations for whale watching in the world and February and March can furnish some superb sightings in the Sea of Cortez of blue, fin and humpback whales along with different dolphin species sometimes including the elusive killer whale. This provides an utterly unique and rare opportunity to view some of the largest mammals of earth.

One of the many highlights of this expedition is a visit to Puerto San Carlos and Magdalena Bay on the Pacific side of the peninsular to visit the birthing lagoons of the Pacific gray whale where close encounters with mothers and calves is a frequent occurrence and a superb opportunity for photographing and viewing  these unusual animals. All boat based tours use local guides and expertise and adhere to current strict safety standards.

The unique local desert landscapes in this part of the Baja peninsular and the islands in the Bay of Loreto afford us good opportunities for the photographers amongst us.

Itinerary

Day 1. Saturday. Flight toLos Angeles arriving afternoon or early evening. Staying one night close to the airport in one of the excellent airport hotels – a chance to unwind, take a dip in the pool, have a nice meal or simply catch up on some sleep. We will fly down to Loreto the following morning – there is only the one flight a day to Loreto.

Day 2. Sunday. Mid morning flight fromLos Angeles toLoreto Baja,Mexico. A two 2 hour flight. Arriving early afternoon and settling into our hotel, La Mision on the Loreto waterfront, close to the old historic district. There are buildings in Loreto that date back to the 18th Century. Afternoon and evening free time to explore the area and get to know Loreto meeting at “La Palapa” for Marguerita’s and to discuss the weeks itinerary and activity programme.

Day 3. Monday. We take a boat based whale and dolphin watching tour out of Loreto looking for the great whales, fins and humpbacks. There is a good chance during February of catching up with the giant blue whale, the largest whale on earth. Several dolphin species frequent the area including bottlenose and common dolphins along with their larger cousins, pilot whales and killer whales. We have seen all these species in the Sea of Cortez.

Day 4. Tuesday. A day tour to Puerto San Carlos and the Magdalena Bay area on the Pacific side of Baja to see the Pacific gray whales and their two tonne calves! Although you can see the whales from the land here we hire a Panga (local boat) with a local guide and head out on the calm waters of the bay looking for these huge mammals. Prior to their arrival at Magdalena Bay these animals have made one of the longest migrations in the animal kingdom having travelled non stop from their northern feeding grounds in the Bering Sea all the way down to the bays and lagoons on the Pacific side of the Baja peninsular – a 12,000 mile round trip! The more inquisitive animals will approach the boat affording us excellent close viewings and sometimes the apoportunity to physically touch the calves.

Day 5. Wednesday. This day has a split option. Option one is to start early and head up into the mountains of the interior of the Baja peninsular, the Sierra de la Giganta, to visit the cave paintings, the Cuevas Pintas, in the rock shelters and canyons of these impressive mountains. Option two is to take a sea kayaking tour (suitable for beginners) along the spectacular coastline south of Loreto looking for that unusual seascape shot. Later there will be time for snorkelling in the shallows of the bay looking for Yellowtail and marvelling at the outstanding variety of colourful fish in this part of the Sea of Cortez.

Day 6. Thursday.  A tour to Isla Del Carmen, one of the largest islands in the Bay of Loreto. After a boat based whale watching tour looking for all types of marine wildlife we will spend time exploring this fabulously beautiful island. The islands dotted around this part of the Sea of Cortez are stunningly attractive with unspoiled, sun drenched beaches and out of this world rock formations.

Day 7. Friday. Free time in the morning for final shopping in the old Spanish district of Loreto prior to making the short journey to Loreto airport for our evening flight back to Los Angeles.

Day 8. Saturday. Free day aroundLos Angeles followed by our flight home late afternoon or evening complete with sun tan and many memories.

Day 9. Sunday. Arrive home to the European weather! Sorry. But you will have memories of the hot sun on your back and lovely images of wildlife encounters with some of the largest animals that have ever lived on Earth…animals that many people will only ever dream about encountering!…

We still have spaces on this popular whale watching expedition and if you would like to be emailed a more detailed programme please email learn@thewildlifefilmschool.com

The cost of this week long opportunity is €1,950 (euro) which does not include the flight from Europe to Los Angeles.

What is included:

> Return flight from Los Angeles to Loreto on Alaska Airlines

> Hotel accommodation in La Mision, widely considered to be the best hotel in Loreto and in Los Angeles (hotel located close to the airport) on both the outward and homeward legs

> All food and boat tours and transport hire

What is NOT included:

> Flight from Europe to Los Angeles. Fares are reasonable at this time of year and we will help in reseraching the best airfares

> Items purchased while on holiday eg.Souvenirs

> Alcoholic beverages you might require

. Any tours or vehicle hire outside the published itinerary

The lead guide on this whale watching holiday will be:

Nic Slocum PhD

Nic is an experienced naturalist and wildlife guide and is best known for his escorted tours taking enthusiasts out, both in Ireland and overseas, to view and photograph whales and dolphins. Nic has maintained a lifelong passion the conservation of our wildlife and wild places and has appeared as an expert commentator on RTE, Channel 4 and ITV. A zoologist by training, Nic has published articles on conservation related issues in both regional and national newspapers. Nic Slocum lives and works in West Cork and is a director of Whale Watch West Cork which runs tours to watch whales and dolphins off the coast of southwest Ireland. Nic has been watching whales and dolphins from boats for over 25 years in places as far apart as New England, Argentina and New Zealand.

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILED PROGRAMME PDF
Whale Watching Holiday to Mexico

A roundup of the 2011 whale watching season in West Cork

A roundup on the 2011 season in West Cork…

The 2011 season kicked off with the most amazingly calm seas and lovely balmy weather, not really what you would expect for late March/early April off West Cork! These lovely conditions were accompanied by fabulous early sightings of adolescent minke whales moving well inshore to feed around the islands of Roaringwater Bay. We also had some of the earliest sightings of small groups of sub-adult common dolphins feeding in the sound between Cape Clear and The Fastnet Rock and Lighthouse. Frenetic reports of killer whale activity, possibly group feeding on a minke whale off The Mizen, early in April  turned out to be a pod of around 50 Risso’s dolphins. Very easy to mistake them for killer whales with that disproportionately large dorsal fin. We encountered this species again during late April and May.

One memorable week in July stays with us when three minke whales commenced feeding close into the cliffs at the tip of Cape Clear Island affording us some lovely close encounters as we drifted, engines off. This “group” consisted of an adult, a sub adult and a calf which we think were related. The adult we believe was the mother of the sub-adult from a previous year while the juvenile was a youngster from the current year. We did not have hard evidence to support this other than the fact that we saw them together on several occasions throughout the season. This was some of the best minke whale watching we have had this year as we drifted on the ebbing tide watching these animals feeding beneath large flocks of Manx shearwaters and diving gannets, not more than a stones throw from the most southerly cliffs in Ireland.

Our West Cork leviathans, the mighty fin whale, put in an appearance during July feeding off their old haunts, The Galley Head and south of The Stag Rocks. This proved to be a rather short lived interlude but it was lovely to see the return of animals we have been following for the past several years through our non invasive photo ID project. The weather during the autumn, when we normally make a day long forays to the east to see this iconic species, hampered out efforts with gales setting in early September and not letting up much until the end of November. There is always next year! Whale watchers have to be the eternal optimists.

During the early fine weather we encountered some good sized basking sharks in the traditional haunts along the east coast of Sherkin Island, off Toe Head and throughout Roaringwater Bay, trawling for the phytoplankton blooms that occur in the shallow coastal waters during these early warm spells of weather. West Cork is one of the places where we encounter the unusual breaching behaviour in basking sharks and it is a spectacle to behold when these large four and five tonne animals launch themselves out of the water and create a splash like a depth charge going off when they re-enter the water. A sighting of a young basking shark during late August constituted a first for Whale Watch West Cork this year…this was the latest sighting of this species we have had off this part of West Cork during the last 10 years…normally basking shark activity has come to a stop by the middle of July.

One of the many highlights of the season was our numerous sightings of leatherback turtles we made off the islands between the Stag Rocks and The Mizen. The largest specimen we saw was over six feet long and the sight of these huge marine reptiles was a special treat as they are getting rarer and like so many marine species are under huge threat from the commercial fishing industry on a world wide basis, especially long line and gill net fisheries.

On the bird front we saw an increase in the numbers of Manx shearwaters, seeing increasing numbers as early as the first week of April and good numbers of juvenile gannets. Razorbill numbers during 2011 were up on previous years with the European guillemots and black guillemots maintaining their numbers. Puffin numbers still remain fairly low although sightings inshore rose slightly during 2011 on the previous few years. Although we suspect there may be a few breeding pairs of puffins on the islands along this part of the coast the absence of a significant breeding colony probably means that numbers will remain fairly sparce for this species in the immediate future.

With the memories of these lovely sightings during 2011 we look forward with anticipation to starting operations again during the last part of March 2012.

Tours depart at 9.30am, 2pm and 7pm daily from BALTIMORE HARBOUR. 4 hours tours and 2 hour tours. 7 days a week.

ENDS

Wildlife photography tours and expeditions…

The Wildlife Film School – wildlife photography tours and expeditions

Following the extremely popular boat based tours we have been running for wildlife and landscape/seascape photography enthusiasts we are teaming up again with The Wildlife Film School to run boat based photography tours aboard Voyager during 2012. Evening tours to capture sunsets over the iconic Fastnet Rock and Lighthouse have proved very popular and our tutor led “landscape days” where we drop a group off on Cape Clear Island for the day, returning via The Fastnet Rock and islands of Roaringwater Bay following pick up are a firm favourite with local and visiting photographers.

Groups and individuals are all welcome. For further details click here and join the mailing list if you would like regular updates on boat based photography tours and expeditions.

During February 2012 we are running a wildlife and landscape photography expedition to The Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico where there will be many opportunities for large whale photography both in the Sea of Cortez with humpback whales and also on the Pacific side of the peninsular with the gray whales and their calves of Puerto San Carlos and Magdalena Bay.

Landscape photography enthusiasts will not be disappointed with the amazing desert landscapes with the amazing “stovepipe” cacti characterised in the western movies we used to watch as kids. The islands and bays of the Sea of Cortez provide some of the very best seascape images I have ever seen.

If escaping the winter blues and indulging your passion for photography appeals to you then click here for more information.

ENDS

Expanding our fleet for whale watching…

Expanding the Fleet

During 2012, for the third year running, we will be expanding our fleet to be able to take parties of larger than 12 people out whale watching; groups varying in size between 25 and 65. During the last couple of years many groups have joined us for whale and dolphin watching expeditions aboard KaryKraft, a very well appointed, 65′ twin engine craft licensed for up to 100 people. During the main part of the season she plies the ferry route between Schull and Cape Clear but during the summer evenings and at weekends in October, with her high observation deck and good passenger deck space, she is an ideal platform for whale and dolphin watching around the islands of Roaringwater Bay and along the coast towards the Galley Head. We are also looking at adding a smaller, fast 8-seater RIB to the fleet during 2012 which would permit fast reconnaissance trips for smaller groups of avid whale and dolphin watchers…more news on this in the New Year.

ENDS

Updates to our mailing lists…

Updates to our Mailing Lists…

We are undergoing a thorough list cleaning during the later part of 2011 and early 2012 and we would ask that you take just a few moments to update your email preferences and which newsletters and email updates you would like to be subscribed to..

If you WOULD LIKE TO SUBSCRIBE to any newsletter

This can be done in one of two ways..

1) You can email us directly requesting to be put on the Whale Watch West Cork newsletter and update mailing list simply by putting SUBSCRIBE in the subject box of the email. You will be placed on the mailing list.

 

2) You may enter the website at http://www.whalewatchwestcork.com and simply click on the Join our Mailing List lozenge on the right hand side and select your preferences. Click Her

If you WOULD LIKE TO UNSUBSCRIBE from any newsletter

This can be done in one of two ways…

1) If you receive a newsletter you can email us directly and put UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject box of the email. You will be removed immediately from the mailing list.

 

2) On any email newsletter or update you may receive you can click on the link at the bottom which says Manage your Subscription. This will take you to a page where you can select your email subscription preferences.

If you have any questions about the management of your subscriptions which you cannot find answers to please don’t hesitate to contact Whale Watch West Cork directly by email or phone, full contact details are on the website.

ENDS

Stop Press ++++

In between the windy weather we are getting some love sightings of Minke Whales and Harbour Porpoise and surprisingly good Common Dolphin sightings – which is quite early for this species…

Out on the water now…will update

ENDS

Fantastic Fin Whale sightings…

One of the largest Fin Whale gatherings ever recorded off the british or Irish coast has been spotted in the Celtic deep off the North Cornwall coast…70 odd miles offshore which makes them a little difficult for the morning tour!!

Perhaps they will move inshore…?

Click here for more details

ENDS

Basking Shark video taken on a mobile phone!

Here is a short clip taken recently by Rory Jackson as a large basking shark cruised past his RIB much to the delight of the children!

Blue Whale Spotted in the Bay of Biscay…

A Blue Whale was spotted from the Brittany Ferry three hours out of Santander last week. There was much excitement all round as these huge animals are rarely spotted in European waters and if they are it is usually towards the end of the summer when the big Fin Whales move into the bay to feed.

Click here for more details

There was an acoustic study conducted by Cornell University some years ago that indicated there may be more Blue Whales in the North Eastern Atlantic than previously thought.

Lovely Basking Shark Images…

These lovely images were taken recently by one of our customers Les Dean from Suffolk in the UK…a lovely calm day…clear water…and gorgeous basking shark activity…

Lovely images Les, thank you for sharing…

Basking Shark by Les Dean 1

Basking Shark by Les Dean 2

Basking Shark by Les Dean 3

LATEST POST – Great Finish To The Week…

What a lovely week…weather and sightings.

Great sightings and lovely weather concluded an excellent April. Some lovely sightings of Risso’s Dolphins made the week for many of our customers but also good Minke Whale sightings and more Basking Sharks under a warm sun and on calm seas enhanced the tours we have run every day this week.

Here are just some of the images we managed to get amid the excitement…

Basking Shark

 We have had several Basking Shark sightings this week…

Fulmar - our very own albatross

  

a not very good - Risso's Dolphin

I called my friend Micheál when we found these Risso’s Dolphins and he managed to get this shot of Voyager and customers enjoying the company of these enigmatic animals as they foraged between the tip Cape Clear Island and the iconic landmark (or is it seamark) …The Fastnet Rock and Lighthouse…one of the top 10 most famous lighthouses in the world!

Voyager among Risso's Dolphins

Thanks for the image Micheál…

Minke Whale Feeding

ENDS…for now!

Basking Sharks and Risso’s Dolphins…

The warm sunshine is bring the phytoplankton to the surface waters and this is attracting the Basking Sharks. We encountered three “Baskers” this afternnon on the south side of Sherkin Island all good sized animals of around 7 metres long. It is lovely to start to get regular sightings of these huge animals…the second largist fish in the world!

Ian O’Driscoll phoned through a possible sighting of Killer Whales today but searches by another boat this morning did not reveal this species…later this afternoon however, WWWC encountered a group of Risso’s Dolphins between Cape Clear and The Fastnet Rock and Lighthouse heading east from The Mizen Head. It is likely these were the animals seen this morning and thought to be Killer Whales. They were all large animals with very large dorsal fins and are the species most commonly confused with Killer Whales.

We were stopped by a small boat during this afternoon tour who had been around The Mizen and they said they had seen many more animals earlier in the day including some very young Risso’s Dolphins. A lovely sighting of this unusual species.

ENDS

Minke Whales, Porpoises and Killer Whales…

Well, April is going out with a bang!

Stunning weather and lovely sea conditions have enabled us to get out every day for the past two weeks with some lovely early sightings of Harbour Porpoises and Common Dolphins…it is quite early to be seeing the Dolphins. Very heartening to see the Porpoises with very young animalsin attendance.

Minke Whales in the sunshine yesterday off Goat Island in Roaringwater Bay were a great culmination to several days of good sightings amongst a large group of Gannets. The animals had stopped feeding by the time we arrived.

Reports this morning are coming in of Killer Whales off The Brow Head…possibly attacking a Minke Whale…we are heading out now to investigate…watch this space.

ENDS

Great sightings for early April…

Although April is early in the season and sightings can be a little sporadic we have really had some lovely sightings this past two weeks during some really excellent weather.

For the third time this month we have encountered a rather shy and retiring Minke Whale east of Cape Clear island, a traditionally excellent spot for Minkes, but usually later in the season. We suspect there were two animals but could only confirm the presence of one animal.

Since our early April Basking Shark sighting off  The Kedges we have not encountered any more but the sea conditions have not been conducive to sighting these fish, the second largest fish in the world! May going into June is usually a better sighting time for Baskers but with evident plankton blooms in the water we may start to get regular views of this amazing animal earlier in the season.

We have had some lovely early Harbour Porpoise sightings around the islands of Roaringwater Bay and east to the Toe Head – single animals and in small “family” groups. These lovely little animals, the smallest of the toothed whale species to come into Irish waters during this part of the season, are greatly underrated. Shy and retiring and not liking boats, engines or people very much, good sightings as we have had this week, are a real treat.

The highlight of this week has to be the encounter with a group of 40+ Short Beaked Common Dolphins, unusually right in Roaringwater Bay close into the Gascanane Sound. We had a supergroup towards the end of last season in the same place numbering over 500 animals. It is quite unusual to see such a large group this early in the season but was a real treat for our customers that day which started off a little misty.

Short-beaked Common Dolphins

On a sadder note a very decomposed body of a small toothed whale washed up on the beach of one of Toe Head during the last two days. Thanks to Rory Jackson who notified WWWC immediately he found it managed to get some pictures on his camera phone before the tide reclaimed it. Looking at the pictures (very difficult as it was so decomposed) we are fairly sure that it is a Risso’s Dolphin or small Pilot Whale. Live and dead strandings have been on the increase in Ireland over the past few years, a worrying trend given the ever increasing strains being put on marine ecosystems both here and elsewhere in the world.

Mid Section of Dead Whale

Great weather for early sightings

With the fantastic weather during the last few weeks we have been running tours from the end of March having had early sightings of minke whale and basking sharks off Toe Head and The Kedges respectively during the closing days of the first quarter. Reports of basking shark sightings off the west and east coast were also recorded by sharp eyed individuals enjoying the Spring sunshine.

Although we have a spell of a few days of unsettled weather coming through at the moment the week forecast is looking good and we anticipate a return to settled weather towards the end of the week when we will be able to start getting further afield for early sightings off The galley Head, The Mizen Head and around The Fastnet Rock and Lighthouse.

This all bodes well for this summer being another cracker like last year with equally stunning sightings to match. With the increase in plankton blooms inshore we anticipate more basking shark activity once the inshore water calm further.

Baslking Shark off The Kedges

Minke Whale (taken 2010)