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Sailing from Dunstaffnage Marina, near Oban our Whale, Dolphin and Castles cruise is the ideal option for those interested in marine wildlife. From whales to porpoises to otters, coastal waters and sea lochs are teeming with wildlife that make our Oban cruises so exciting. If you plan to join us, bring your camera. You are definitely going to need it!

What kind of marine wildlife will you see on one of our Oban cruises? The possibilities are too numerous to list all of them here. However, we have put together a list of some of the more common animals our passengers see. Keep in mind that we can offer no guarantees, as the animals come and go on their own schedules.

Minke Whales

The minke whale is the second smallest member of the rorqual whale family, a family that also includes the much larger humpback and blue whales. Some people confuse young minkes with large otters because of their relatively small size and similar body shape. However, these animals are whales in every sense of the definition.

Minke whales lives in abundance off the coast of Scotland. So much so, that they are the stars of the show for most whale watching tours in the area. They are easily recognised by their black or dark grey bodies accentuated by a single white band on each flipper and a white belly. Unlike the humpback, the minke does not usually breach the surface or raise its fluke when diving.


Few marine mammals capture the imagination as effectively as the dolphin. From lengthy novels to mainstream films to television, dolphins are the heroes of sorts when it comes to large sea creatures. If you are captivated by them, one of our Oban cruises is perfect for you.

Dolphins are very social creatures that tend to live in pods of a dozen or more. Their playful interaction with one another is one of the things that make them so enjoyable to watch. On one of our cruises, you are likely to see a pod swimming, jumping and splashing in the open waters. Some days you might see multiple pods interacting with one another.


Even though porpoises and dolphins look somewhat similar, they are entirely different animals. If you study up on the differences between the two, you should be able to recognise them on your next Oban cruise. Porpoises are distinguished from dolphins by their triangular dorsal fins (dolphins have curved fins), rounded heads and blunt jaws.

Porpoises also live in pods, but their pods tend to be smaller than their dolphin counterparts. Porpoise pods are not known to easily interact with one another either. This makes it more difficult to spot these creatures in numbers as large as dolphins. However, they are out there to be seen.


The rocky shores of Scotland’s sea lochs provide the perfect environment for the European otters that thrive here. The environment is so perfect, in fact, that as otter numbers drastically dwindled around the world between the 1950s and 1980s, sea loch populations remained strong. Good management has allowed otters to rebound somewhat over the last two decades.

See Oban marine wildlife by boat

You will see these beautiful creatures along the shoreline on sunny days. Occasionally they will swim up alongside our boats as though they are curious about our passengers. Most of their active time however, is spent hunting. European otters must eat roughly 15% of their body weight every single day, just to remain healthy.


Passengers can see both grey and common seals on our Oban cruises. Grey seals tend to prefer open water while common seals like the lochs. Common seals are the smaller of the two species, with the characteristic ‘upturned nose’ making them easily distinguished from their grey cousins.

When you see seals in the water, it is because they are hunting. As with otters, these beautiful creatures need to eat a lot stay healthy. They are known to be voracious hunters who concentrate on large schools of fish that might be congregating in a certain area. When not feeding, seals love to hang out on the shore and soak in the sunshine.


Although technically not considered marine wildlife, our passengers still enjoy seeing and observing several different species of birds that thrive along the west coast of Scotland. For example, the grey heron can often be found hunting for fish in the shallows during the winter months. If another grey heron gets too close, the bird will defend its territory without compromise. Other birds you might see include the white tailed sea eagle and several species of diving ducks.


We find many people are surprised about the vast number of jellyfish living in the coastal waters off Scotland. It turns out the jellyfish are abundant in coastal waters all over the world, primarily because they are resilient creatures with great survival skills. You can see them in the Oban area during the late spring and summer months.

The key to spotting jellyfish in large numbers is cruising on a day when the levels of surface plankton are high. What is plankton? It is a form of plant life that lives on, or just under, the surface of the water. It is what turns our coastal waters a murky green every spring as a result of photosynthesis. Plankton is also plant life that jellyfish find attractive. At times during the spring and summer, large schools of jellyfish will be carried by winds and currents very close to the coast as they ride along a plankton wave.

As you can see, there is a large variety of wildlife for you to observe on an Oban cruise. We invite you to explore the natural wonders of Scotland’s west coast and sea loch network by booking a cruise with Clyde Cruises this spring or summer. You will be glad you did.

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