11 UK marine life hotspots

We’ve picked the best sea safari destinations in the south-west for you to explore. 

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Bottlenose dolphin

1. PUFFIN 

Hotspot: Lundy, North Devon

Lundy is believed to mean ‘Puffin Island’ in Old Norse. Since rats were eradicated from the island in 2006, Devon’s only breeding population is thriving once more. Jenny’s Cove on the island’s west side is a good spot to look for them. 01271 863636; www.lundyisland.co.uk

 

2. BLUE SHARK

Hotspot: North coast of Cornwall

For close-up encounters with this apex predator, try a cage-diving trip with Atlantic Diving, departing from Newquay Harbour. 01637 850930; www.atlanticdiver.co.uk

Other places: South and west Cornish coast

 

3. BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN

Hotspot: St Ives Island, Cornwall 

The south-west’s resident inshore pod can be seen from headlands all round the peninsula, but it’s been favouring the north coast of Cornwall in recent years. Padstow Sea Life Safaris has regular sightings on their outings. 07754 822404; www.padstowsealifesafaris.co.uk

Other places: Durlston Head and Portland Bill in Dorset; Start Point in Devon

 

4. CHOUGH

Hotspot: The Lizard

Late summer is a good time to spot family parties of this handsome, red-billed corvid roaming the clifftops. Walking the South West Coast Path from Kynance Cove to Lizard Point should reward you with a sighting. www.cornishchoughs.org

Other places: Coast Path from Porthgwarra to Land’s End

 

5. ATLANTIC GREY SEAL

Hotspot: Isles of Scilly

Scilly has a nationally important colony of grey seals. You can snorkel with them in the clear waters of the uninhabited Eastern Isles with Scilly Seal. Snorkelling. 01720 422848; www.scillysealsnorkelling.com

Other places: Gwennap Head in Cornwall; Lundy in Devon

 

6. BASKING SHARK

Hotspot: West Cornwall

In 2013 this area had far more sightings of these gentle giants than anywhere else in the south-west. Look for them from high vantage points such as Cape Cornwall or Land’s End, or on a boat trip. Alternatively Charles Hood offers the chance to swim with them responsibly. 01736 719231; http://charleshood.com

Other places: Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall; Prawle Point, Devon

 

7. HARBOUR PORPOISE

Hotspot: Mount's Bay, Penzance, Cornwall

This area holds internationally important numbers of the UK’s smallest cetacean. Taking a boat trip with Marine Discovery Penzance is the best way for you to see them. 07749 277110; www.marinediscovery.co.uk

Other places: Falmouth Bay, Cornwall; Berry Head, Devon; Lyme Bay, Devon/Dorset

 

8. COMMON DOLPHIN

Hotspot: Cornish coast

More usually sighted further offshore, a boat trip offers the best chance of seeing this cetacean. Superpods of hundreds of animals are sometimes encountered. Try Marine Discovery Penzance (07749 277110; www.marinediscovery.co.uk), Newquay Sea Safaris on the north coast (07582 466122; www.newquayseasafarisandfishing.co.uk) or Orca Sea Safaris on the south (01326 214928; www.falriver.co.uk/things-to-do/orca-sea-safaris).

 

9. WHITE-BEAKED DOLPHIN

Hotspot: Lyme Bay, Devon/Dorset

This deep-water bay attracts Europe’s most southerly population of the species, more commonly found in the North Sea. Naturetrek’s all-day trips to see them, from West Bay in Dorset, are led by guides from the charity MARINELife. 01962 733051; www.naturetrek.co.uk

 

10. GUILLEMOT

Hotspot: Berry Head National Nature Reserve, South Devon 

The south coast’s largest colony of our biggest auk can be viewed from Berry Head’s visitor centre. 01803 882619; www.countryside-trust.org.uk/berryhead

Other places: RSPB Discovery Centre at Land’s End in Cornwall; the west coast of Lundy in Devon

 

11. OCEAN SUNFISH

Hotspot: Hope's Nose, South Devon

From this headland, near Torquay, the dorsal fin of the world’s heaviest bony fish can sometimes be seen waggling in the waves. On the water, sightings can be had all around the south-west peninsula, peaking in July and August. Take a boat trip from Dartmouth with Monty Halls to see them up close. 01803 431858; www.greatescapesdartmouth.co.uk

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