Basking Shark Map

Can you see Humpbacks in the Hebrides?

Aug 27 2020

humpback whale lunge feeding near the isle of coll, hebrides, scotland

This could have been one of our most memorable days at sea! There had been several humpback sightings since we arrived on the Isle of Coll for the season and we even saw them feeding offshore from our staff house! Despite some locals having incredible sightings in windy weather from their small boats, we had not yet come across them at sea. We had hoped (prayed!) that with them being sighted in the area for almost three weeks now that our luck might align one day!

In August during one of our week-long shark trips, we were searching for basking sharks in one of the areas the whales had been sighted.
It was calm and sunny, perfect conditions to head to this part of the island. We spotted movement on the water in the distance and Shane had a quiet feeling about it. Not saying anything to start with, he spotted some blows far offshore. Not wanting to get everyone excited and then disappointed, he pointed Cearban Mhor’s bow toward the action and slowly moved toward it. The closer they got, the surer he was it was humpbacks! Sharing the news with the passengers, the shrieking and hooting from the rear deck was infectious! These are the moments that make all the hassle, graft, and low points worth it. Especially with everything 2020 has thrown at us!

What we found was a MASSIVE bait ball of sand eels with common dolphins, minke whales, and two humpback whales feeding! We spent the next six hours with the whales, watching them lunge feed time and time again. Apart from another boat that joined us for a short while we had the whole spectacle to ourselves! We are incredibly privileged to have witnessed this, given we have never seen anything like this in all our years of operating in Scotland. Of course, we see this on our tours in Norway with the whales, but to see this on our doorstep in the Hebrides was a rare and special sight. We did see three basking sharks in the middle of the action too and it was funny how quickly the sharks were forgotten about while the whales stole the show! To add to the display there were many minke whales, along with a super pod of common dolphins.

The minke numbers were easily into double figures as they seemed to be surfacing everywhere and we were noting down 6-8 at any one time with numerous others in the distance. They were also lunge feeding which we don’t see often at all and very torpedo-like!  Luckily Shane had the drone with him and captured this incredible footage that you can see below! Check out the lunge-feeding humpbacks and you can see how they use their large pectoral fins to corral the fish. Finished off with the curious minke whales dancing around the boat!

This was an encounter of a lifetime and one we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives! In ten years of operating, we have only seen humpback whales on two separate occasions! The ocean is full of opportunities, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time. The customers who had joined us on this trip won the wildlife lottery this time!

Ready to join us on an adventure?