The seas around the Northwest Highlands and Islands teem with life, we are fortunate that our cruises frequently bring us as close as you can hope to get to the local sea-life. What draws animals of all kind to the area is very much what drew humans to the area – the abundance of fish. Come Spring the seas around the area start to fill with all manner of fish, too various to number here, but perhaps the most important is the mackerel, which, on warm summer evenings sometimes seem to throng the bays.
And indeed, starting in April, we start to see large Bottle-nosed Dolphins in the waters around the Small Isles, but, as we move into May and the beginning of the summer season, Common Dolphins visit the area, which seem to delight in coursing and skipping alongside the local boats. Their near-cousins the Porpoise, by contrast, is much more timid and shy, but remains around the islands the entire year and further out into the deeper waters, you can spy large pods of them roaming from time to time.
During these times it is not uncommon to see Minke Whales around the islands, in particular, they are to be found feeding in the waters off Muck, thought to be drawn there by a confluence of the tides around Ardnamurchan and the abundance of food around that area. In these warm summer months there comes to the area another giant of the deep: Basking Sharks. Though these creatures are gentle and harmless filter-feeders, they can still prove alarming at first sight because of their sheer size!
Lately we have been seeing much larger species of jellyfish floating into the area. In addition to the little, purple-ringed moon jellyfish, such as the compass jellyfish, the ethereal-looking dustbin jellyfish and the lion’s mane jellyfish, which, amazingly, is the second-longest recorded animal in the world! Similarly, on our trips of late, we have been coming across large shoals of spurdogs, a species of dogfish shark, suddenly rising from the deeper waters off the islands. Much rarer sightings occur of creatures like the bizarre-looking Sunfish and, even rarer still, Killer Whales and Humpback Whales.