Some very special visitors have been visiting the waters off the Inishowen coastline recently.
Social media has been abuzz with pictures and videos of dolphins and basking sharks, many of which have swimmed up alongside boats.
Minke whales have also been spotted off Malin Head.
A large pod of dolphins also joined the crew of Lough Swilly RNLI as they were training.
The video of their encounter shows the dolphins as they swam in front of and around the crew’s new Shannon class lifeboat.
The dolphins have also been attracting many visitors to the Inishowen area, with a pod of between 25-30 seen just off Malin Head pier on Saturday, August 15th.
Malin Head is like a garage on a motorway where everything gathers.Emmett Johnston, Irish Basking Shark Project
There have also been increased sightings of basking sharks, the second largest living fish and one of three plankton-eating sharks.
Irish Basking Shark Project co-founder Emmett Johnston told the Journal they have had “very little activity” from the sharks up until the past two weeks, but they’ve now firmly made their presence known.
He said: “The air and water temperature has been very cold this year and has heated up over the last couple of weeks. All the indications have been that they’re there in our waters, but when it’s sunnier and calmer they then come to the surface.”
Malin Head is recognised as one of the world’s major locations for basking sharks and Emmett explains this is due to two reasons.
“Malin Head is a migratory or focal point. When moving around in the sea it’s very hard to orientate. Malin Head is like a garage on a motorway where everything gathers.
It’s also where the cold waters of the Irish Sea meet the warms waters of the Atlantic. This produces a lot of plankton so there’s a lot of food there for them.”
Emmett revealed that as well as dolphins and basking sharks, there have also been sightings of minke whales off Malin Head recently.
He said the fact they are all travelling via Malin Head and Inishowen is a very positive sign.
“It proves that what is being done in the area is working. People are doing a good job and nothing is going on that is damaging.
“We see a lot of young dolphins coming through which is also a great sign. If we were only seeing older mammals then we’d be worried as most animals will only breed if they’re happy and enjoying the food. The fact we’re seeing the young there shows this is the case.”
Meanwhile, if you’re interested in some whale spotting, members of the public are invited to join the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) on a land-based whale watch at the Signal Tower in Malin Head on Sunday, August 23rd between 2 - 5pm.
It is one of 20 across the country and is free and open to all. The watch will be led by experienced IWDG personnel - with Ronan McLaughlin leading the watch at Malin Head - who will show you how to observe and identify some of the more commonly observed cetacean species seen in Irish waters.
Visit www.iwdg.ie for information or call Ronan on 086-3893154.
Whale Watch Ireland, will once again be part of Heritage Week, coordinated by the
Heritage Council www.heritagecouncil.ie