This cruise was truly exceptional in terms of species seen and identified.  All credit must go to our specialist crews who have the expertise in sea conditions, habitats and signs of activity. During the 10-day cruise, there were 26 separate sightings of Common Dolphins; 29 separate sightings of Porpoises; 6 separate sightings of Minke Whales; 9 separate sightings of Fin Whales; 2 separate sightings of Humpback Whales and 1 sighting of Risso's Dolphins.  There were also sightings of Otters, White Tailed Eagles, Sooty Shearwaters, Storm Petrels, Manx Shearwaters, Great Skuas, Artic Skuas and Pomarine Skuas

Read the astonishing account by our Wildlife Guide on board, Lynsey Bland

On August 20th, Emma Jane set off for the Northern Minch and the highly anticipated whale-watching cruise, with Skipper James at the helm, myself as a very excited Wildlife Guide, Chef Jordan and Bosun Ashleigh. With a favourable forecast, fizz and canapes on the table and the anticipation high, we made our way north, stopping for our first night in Glenmore Bay, Ardnamurchan.

The following morning, after a sighting of an otter, we lifted the anchor and continued our epic journey north to the beautiful Isle of Rona. Luckily, en route, harbour porpoise, common dolphins and an elusive minke whale were spotted. We were greeted at Rona by not only one white-tailed eagle, but 4 white-tailed eagles sitting together on the shore, delighting everyone on board. The excitement at dinner was clear as the following day we were due to enter the northern Minch and the forecast looked perfect for finding the beasties!

August 22nd proved to be a memorable day for all on board the Emma Jane. The sun was shining and the seas were calm. We got off to a great start with excellent views of harbour porpoise as we left the anchorage, followed shortly after by a group of playful common dolphins bow-riding. We continued north, the anticipation rising and very soon the engines were slowed and we were watching a number of minke whales feeding! Within 2 hours we had already recorded 11 sightings of 3 different species on the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trusts sightings app, Whale Track. By the end of that day, that tally was to double!

Lunchtime arrived and everyone tucked into one of Jordan’s delicious lunches, whilst James and I kept our eyes glued to the sea. We were approaching known large whale territory. Sure enough, shortly after, I spotted a large whale blow. With all alerted, and many eyes trained on the sea we were able to identify the whale as a fin whale! The second largest mammal on the planet, after the majestic blue whale. This individual gave us some very close views and everybody on board was delighted! The excitement that day did not stop there. Soon, Emma Jane was surrounded by common dolphins playing and showing off, and more blows which indicated a further 2 fin whales.

Later that afternoon, we received a call from our colleague Alexa who was in the area to say that they had spotted a humpback whale. We slowly made our way over and sure enough, there was the animal- the second of the larger whales to be seen that day! Everyone on board watched and waited for that iconic fluke of the beautiful humpback whale. Very quickly, thanks to the Scottish Humpback Whale ID Project, the animal was identified as Pi, an individual that has previously been matched to Ireland, the Isles of Scilly and here in the Hebrides.

I want to say that is where the excitement ended that day, but that would be a lie. As we turned for our overnight anchorage of Crosbost, Isle of Lewis, blows were seen close to Emma Jane. The engines were switched off and we waited. Suddenly, there was not one, not two, but 3 fin whales around us! One surfaced so close to our bow that we can only assume it got a good look at us too. In celebration of such an incredible day with spirits high, the fizz was passed around and we made our way to our overnight anchorage. On this memorable day, we recorded 26 sightings of 6 different species of marine beastie on the Whale Track app!

The sightings continued throughout the cruise, with common dolphins spotted every day. We also explored ashore in some of the more remote reaches of the northern Minch including Loch Laxford, Handa Island and Isle Martin, Summer Isles.

As if this cruise hadn’t already been incredible, we were lucky to spend a further two days exploring the Tiumpan Head area of the Northern Minch and encountering yet more big whales! On Friday 26th, once again large blows were spotted from the Emma Jane and once again the engines were off and we just watched. A second humpback (identified as individual 062) was observed feeding and diving surrounded by up to 4 fin whales, one huge animal that gave us a fright by appearing very close to the vessel!

Unfortunately, the time had come to begin our journey south but the sightings continued. We encounters a pod of Risso’s dolphins with young calves and minke whales were also spotted from Compass Hill on Canna. The final day of the cruise arrived but the sunny and calm weather made for a relaxing trip back to Tobermory and into the Sound of Mull. We were treated to an incredible sunset from the anchorage at Inniemore Bay, finishing off what has been an amazing cruise!

Lynsey Bland, August 2022

Photos in the gallery below were taken by Lynsey on the cruise

Read more about Lynsey as our Green Initiative Crew Member