Experience a close encounter with British Marine Wildlife

by JT

March 12, 2017 0

Catching a glimpse of  British marine wildlife is one of the greatest thrills you can experience on our coast.

Spring has sprung and the weather is gradually cheering up. So it’s a great time to get out and about on the coast to look out for the amazing wildlife around our shores.

From seals, sharks and sea otters to dolphins, whales and stunning sea birds, they are all out there if you know when and where to look.

No sighting is ever guaranteed, but with a fair-wind, patience and some local knowledge you might just get lucky.  And if you do, it could well be an experience of a lifetime to cement your love affair with the coast.

Finding British marine wildlife

One of the best ways to experience the wonderful marine wildlife on our shores is to join an organised trip, or visit a nature reserve. Many are run by conservation organisations with adoption or volunteer programmes so you can help their valuable work. The Wildife Trusts, RSPB and National Trust are great places to start.


Now you seal me, now you don’t at Portland Bill, Dorset

There’s two main types of seal to spot in UK waters – the Grey Seal and the Common Seal. You might be lucky enough to glimpse one or the other as you roam the coastline.

To increase your chances, visit a seal colony like Blakeney National Nature Reserve in Norfolk or Donna Nook in Lincolnshire. Further afield, try the Orkney Islands, Farne in Northumbria or Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire.

Godrevy Point on the north coast of Cornwall, near St Ives, is a great place to search for seals and do plenty more besides. Check out OCEANROCKS’ guide – Seals OCEANROCKS spotting guide


Basking Sharks image of a Basking Shark feeding

There’s over 30 species of sharks in British waters, including one of the biggest on the planet!  Meet the Basking Shark – a sensational seasonal visitor to UK waters.  At 12 metres long it can be bigger even than a Great White Shark, but this gentle giant feeds on tiny plankton.  This protected species follows plankton blooms up the UK west coast between May and October.  Sighting hotspots include the Hebrides, Malin Head in Ireland and Southwest England.  Get details  – Sharks  OCEANROCKS spotting guide


Image of Bottlenose Dolphin

Let’s be clear from the start, thankfully you won’t find any dolphins in aquariums or wildlife parks in the UK. But over 25 species of whale, dolphin and porpoises do call the British seas home so you may be lucky and spot one. Cardigan Bay in Wales and Moray Firth, Scotland are two of the most reliable places to go.  Dolphins also knocking around the Jurassic Coast, where Durlston Country Park runs a Dolphin Watch Project.  Find out more details about where to find Dolphins in our guide – Dolphins OCEANROCKS spotting guide

Boat trips

A boat trip is often a great way to see a whole host of amazing species of British marine wildlife. There are usually codes of conduct for operators to follow, but if in doubt check with a conservation charity or tourist board.  WiSe is an example of an accreditation scheme for operators.

Marine Week

Every summer the Wildife Trusts run National Marine Week to raise awareness of the our glorious coast, seaside and water. It’s a great chance to join organised events and activities up and down the country.

Marine rescue

Sadly Dolphins, Whales and Seal pups sometimes get stranded.  Always be wary if you discover a seal or other marine creature washed up on the shore. There’s some strict dos and do-nots, to protect your and the animal’s welfare.   Call the RSPCA or another wildife organisation for help.  If there’s a stranded whale or dolphin, then the British Marine Life Divers Rescue are usually at the scene. This amazing registered charity is made up of trained volunteers on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Seal Sanctuaries also come out to abandoned or stranded seal pups.

Stay safe on the coast

Make sure you don’t need rescuing by staying safe on the coast! Follow official signs and guidance, keep an eye on the tides and weather, don’t go too close to cliff edges or stray too near to the foot of cliffs. Always use your common sense, be prepared, and if in doubt seek official advice from the RNLI, Maritime and Coastguard Agency or local council websites.

Good Luck out there!

We would love to see your stories and  pictures of close encounters with British marine wildlife  – just share them on OCEANROCKS Facebook page!

Posted by: JT

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