Anyone who visits Cornwall comes to see the sea, but the amazing animals that populate this beautiful coastline can be a little bit more elusive. Here are some hints to get close to the beautiful ocean wildlife whilst visiting Cornwall.
Some marine mammals are quite easy to see – grey seals are abundant around the coast and there are great spots to view them from land and sea. They tend to roam around good feeding grounds and haul out at their favourite sunning spots. St Ives Bay has good sources of fish for the seals, and some inaccessible coves that they can retreat to.
Chy an Carrack’s best vantage point is the master en suite, the highest window, from where you can often see seals bobbing around the rocks of Porthminster Point, just below the house. Keep an eye out for seals around Porthminster Beach, the Harbour and Carbis Bay Beach and on coastal walks. If you head to Godrevy Point at the other end of the bay there is a haul out cove just around from the lighthouse, peek down the sheer drop from the cliffs above and you are bound to see a few sunning themselves below (more than 100 have been spotted at one time). Even newborn fluffy white seal pups appear during the autumn breeding season. The Cornish Seal Sanctuary, near Helston, rescues many seal pups in autumn and winter and at their rescue centre you can see the work they do and get close to the seals.
Why not get out onto the sea? You can take a boat trip to “Seal Island” from St Ives Harbour. Try taking a SUP or kayak out from one of the beaches and if you are lucky you might get close and personal – we had a seal pop up and say hello whilst bodyboarding at Carbis Bay beach last week. They are more likely to be around early in the morning or in the evening when the beaches are less busy.
Dolphins appear regularly but are more elusive than the seals. Chy an Carrack has a great panoramic views of the bay so keep your eyes peeled and get the binoculars out for a closer look if a pod of dolphins does appear, again morning or evening are good times to look. They are also regularly spotted at Porthmeor and Sennen beaches, and known to enjoy a bit of surfing.
The biggest marine life to spot are basking sharks and whales. Basking sharks are gentle giant filter feeders that appear in spring and summer when the plankton blooms – they are easiest seen from headlands like the Lizard or Land’s End. You have to be very lucky to see whales from land, but if you do you certainly don’t forget it – the author having spotted a pod of four enormous whales one winter from Godrevy Point.
Perhaps the best chance to get to see the elusive marine wildlife is to go on a dedicated wildlife cruise, when you might get to see seals, dolphins, the bizarre sunfish, sharks and even whales.
The south coast is a good cruising location and specialists such as AK Wildlife Cruises run year round excursions from Falmouth and through the year spot a wide variety of these amazing creatures, as well as a wide range of beautiful seabirds. Read more about the thrill of an ocean safari in this great article by Charlie Elder here.
Ocean sunfish and minke whale pictures (taken off the Cornwall coastline) courtesy of Charlie Elder, journalist, photographer and author – check out his beautiful photos and books here.