Sharks, whales, seals and more – get closer to Scotland’s sealife in Oban!

With miles of glorious coastline, Oban & Lorn is a great place to get up close and personal with some amazing sea creatures. There are endless opportunities to take to the water, with a number of operators offering wildlife-watching boat trips.

Rich feeding grounds make the waters surrounding Oban & Lorn prime cetacean-spotting territory, and dolphins, porpoises, minke whales, seals, basking sharks and even the occasional orca can be seen. The Firth of Lorn Special Area of Conservation, just south of Oban, supports a huge variety of marine species. Scallop-dredging and tangle-netting are banned here. And then there’s the famous Corryvreckan Whirlpool, where turbulent tides and currents create an exceptional feeding area for wildlife, including porpoises, dolphins and whales.

Whales and dolphins
The best time to see minke whales in Scotland is from the end of May to September. Dolphins and porpoise are here all year round. The common (or harbour) porpoise thrives in the waters around Oban & Lorn. In fact, they’re one of the reasons that the Firth of Lorn received its special conservation status. The common dolphin is also regularly spotted, while the bottlenose, risso’s and white-beaked dolphin are all here too. Minke whales, which weigh in at eight tonnes, are frequently seen in the summer and autumn. Your best chance of spotting them is on a special whale-watching boat trip. And as for the orca, well a small pod of this rare and beautiful creature lives in the Hebrides, so an encounter can never be ruled out!

Basking sharks
Summer is the time to see basking sharks in the waters off Oban & Lorn, when these magnificent creatures migrate from their winter feeding grounds to Scotland to gorge themselves on the plankton. There has been a huge increase in sightings off the west coast of Scotland in recent years.

The waters around Oban & Lorn are home to both common (or harbour) seals and grey seals. These inquisitive creatures will often follow boats. You can also spot them basking on rocks resting between fishing expeditions. A visit to a seal colony is a highlight of any boat trip in the area. Common seal pups are born in summer and you might see them on rocky islets. Grey seal pups are born in autumn, generally on sandy beaches in large colonies.

Take a boat trip
There are several companies offering marine wildlife trips in Oban & Lorn. With years of experience, they can take you to the best spots to view wildlife. Sealife Adventures operates wildlife watching boat trips from Seil Island near Oban. Its five-hour whale-watching trips, run throughout the summer, are unbeatable. Skipper David, a marine biologist, has an intimate knowledge of the best locations to see these impressive leviathans. Seafari Adventures, based in Easdale, has a fleet of powerful RIBs. Its Corryvreckan Wildlife Trip is a brilliant way to experience the famous whirlpool and watch the sealife that feeds here. Coastal Connections operates from Oban. On its Wildlife and Castles trip you can see some of the area’s iconic castles and look out for dolphins, porpoises and seals. Or how about swimming with sharks? Oban-based Basking Shark Scotland offers basking shark trips and snorkel safaris.

You don’t have to take an organized boat trip to enjoy Oban & Lorn’s superb sealife. Why not do the first section of the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail, which starts at Ganavan Sands, near Oban? Follow the coastline south, looking out for wildlife along the way. Or how about going underwater? The secluded bays and coves around Oban are great for snorkeling and the area is a mecca for divers.

If you’d rather keep your feet firmly on land, then head to the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary in Oban. It's home to a spectacular aquarium as well as Scotland's leading Seal Hospital. You’ll see sharks, rays, seahorses, otters and seals.

Find out more about things to do and see in Oban & Lorn.

Header photo courtesy of Seafari Adventures.