For our next installment of Ted’s Top Tips, we’re looking at dolphins and porpoises. These loveable members of the cetacean family – the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises – are another favourite on our Scottish wildlife cruises. But how do you tell them apart?
More than 20 cetacean species can be seen in Scottish waters, but 7 are relatively common close to our coasts: bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, harbour porpoises, minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, risso’s dolphins and orca. We most commonly see bottlenose and common dolphins and harbour porpoises.
Most people on first spotting these lovely creatures assume they’ve found dolphins, which is a fair assumption as there are 33 species of dolphin in the world and only 6 species of porpoise. But in fact the West of Scotland is home to a higher density of harbour porpoises than anywhere else in the world, so there’s a good chance of seeing them whilst cruising our waters.
One of the key things to note when identifying the cetacean you have found is that porpoises are smaller. They measure a maximum of 7 feet, whereas dolphins are between 6 and 12 feet. They also differ in their faces, fins, and body shapes. Dolphins have longer noses, more like beaks, whereas porpoise’s faces are rounder. Dolphins also have bigger mouths, more curved dorsal fins, as opposed to the triangular ones of their cousins (this is often the easiest way to tell which you’ve seen) and longer, leaner bodies than porpoises.
Both species are highly sociable and travel in pods. There’s a reason why these animals are so loved. They are hugely intelligent, with complex brains, and they are self-aware. They certainly have big personalities and don’t shy away from interacting with humans and their boats. We often have dolphins and porpoises playing around Splendour and surfing the bow waves. Dolphins do tend to be a little more interested in us, so it’s more likely they will come a bit closer.
Whether you see porpoises or dolphins, though, you’re in for a treat.
Thank you. The wonderful weather and sights we experienced made this a splendiferous experience.
Lusia & Paul | Hebrides and St Kilda | June 2018
Thank you for a wonderful trip. We have enjoyed our adventures ashore, well done chef you amazed us everyday with lovely local foods. Hope to return and venture further.
Helen & Colin | Private Charter | June 2018
Our first trip but definitely not our last – what an adventure! Untouchable scenery & food & very well looked after. So many fantastic memories. Thank you so much.
Penny & David | Inlets and Islands of Wild Argyll | May 2018
A dream of a trip – beautiful scenery, gourmet meals and wonderful company. What better way to celebrate an anniversary and come to know a bit of Scotland – and now to return to this special place.
Steve and Ruth
Another fabulous cruise – achieved our dream of going to St Kilda and the Hebrides. Everything was perfect as always, even the weather! A big thank you!
Alister & Elizabeth | Hebrides and St Kilda | June 2018