Look Out For Marine Animals On Your Holiday To Cornwall

August 09th, 2017

National Marine Week, which runs from July 29 to August 13, is a time to celebrate UK seas. You can spend the time exploring rock pools, taking a boat ride out to see or snorkelling. With Cornwall being surrounded by the sea, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in one way or another, and you don’t even need to stop on August 13, but continue celebrating the seas the whole summer!

Get involved

Every year, the Wildlife Trusts around the UK celebrate the sea animals and plants during the week and ask people to take action to help marine wildlife found in UK waters. You can be part of it when staying at our child-friendly cottages Cornwall too!

One way to do be a part of Marine Week is taking a boat ride along the coast. There are several companies that offer this in Falmouth, near our cottages. The seas around the UK are some of the best for cetaceans (dolphins and whales), with more than 20 species living in the waters. Summer is the best time to see them, as they come closer to the shore.

What To Look For

The best time to look for whales and dolphins are calm days when the sea is flat. It is best to look with just your eyes first, and then use binoculars to investigate closer. Keep an eye out for splashing or fin shapes in the water. If you see seabirds diving in one area, that can indicate animals feeding on fish.

Remember to be patient, as cetaceans move around a lot in search of food, and you might not always be lucky to see them. If you are in luck and spot a pod of dolphins or a porpoise, it is very exciting! There is a chance you can see baby dolphins, and the animals can come very close to the boat – there have even been instances of dolphins playing with surfers in the waves around Cornwall!

What You Might See

Harbour Porpoise

The most common sighting in Cornwall is the harbour porpoise, yet they are quite shy animals. They measure about 1.7 metres, making them one of the smallest animals seen in UK waters. You can spot their small triangular fin, and a dark grey back as they surface to breathe, which they do very loudly, so on a calm day you might even hear them! Porpoise are mostly seen on their own or in small groups.

Common Dolphin

This smaller dolphin is regularly spotted around Cornwall from boats, and big pods feeding on fish can sometimes be seen from land in the summer months. The common dolphin reaches up to 2.7 metres and can be identified by the light yellow patches on their side that will flash above the water as they swim.

Bottlenose Dolphin

The bottlenose dolphin is easily recognisable because of its long nose and blue grey colour. The UK has some of the largest bottlenose dolphins in the world; they can measure up to 4 metres in length. Bottlenose dolphins are also very intelligent and sociable, known to approach boats, and whistle to each other to communicate. Younger bottlenoses are very playful, and will sometimes breach completely out of the water.

Humpback Whale

Humpbacks are baleen whales, meaning their mouths are lined with baleen, which looks like very thick hair and is used to filter out food from the seawater they take in. Humpbacks are slowly returning to UK waters, so you might be lucky and see one in the summer months. They produce a big blow when they come to breathe at the surface which can be seen from a distance, followed by their huge body. Humpback whales are also one of the few whales that breach the water, which is an amazing sight to see.


Orcas, also known as killer whales, are very easy to spot, due to their black and white bodies and 2-metre tall dorsal fin. Orcas are actually dolphins, and they travel huge distances for food. Though they are more often seen in the waters around Scotland than Cornish waters, you might still spot them a little further out to sea than the other animals on this list.

Basking Shark

The basking shark is the second largest living fish, after the whale shark, and eats only plankton. Despite its enormous size, which can reach up to 12 metres in length and gaping mouth it uses to feed, basking sharks are completely harmless to humans. It is a seasonal visitor to the UK, so can be seen feeding off plankton in shallow waters off the coast in the summer months, mostly along the west coast.

Blue Shark

Blue sharks are one of the most common sharks in the world, and its name comes from its bluish skin colour. It has a very streamlined shape, allowing it to move elegantly through the sea, at a slow pace, and prefers deeper waters. This means it is not as often seen from the surface as other marine life, yet it can still be found near the coast. Blue sharks are nomadic, so move around a lot, following the Gulf Stream from the Caribbean to Eastern Europe.