The Thrill of Dolphin Watching with Padstow Sealife Safaris

Here at The Great Cornish Outdoors, we love a boat trip in Cornwall. This time, we’re exploring the north Cornish coast with Padstow Sealife Safaris.

the harbour wall at Padstow with a pontoon and a boat on the water

While Padstow Sealife Safaris can’t guarantee dolphin watching during one of their wildlife boat trips, but for me it was definitely something I was hoping for. Every year I see posts and videos of dolphins being seen in Cornwall, but I’ve yet to experience it myself. For me, it’s up there as a bit of a bucket list moment.

an orange Padstow sealife safari boat on the water near the harbour getting ready to take people dolphin watching

Padstow Sealife Safaris have over 30 years experience offering regular boat trips in Cornwall. I was delighted when they contacted me, offering a 2 hour sealife safari out of the Camel Estuary to the Atlantic.

The 2 hour rib ride in Cornwall is only one option available from this Padstow based business. They also offer 1 hour and 3 hour outings on the water. Each excursion offers the opportunity to spot local wildlife, watch dolphins play in the waves, and spy some seals along the Cornish coastline.

Cornish town, Padstow at high tide with lots of white boats in the harbour and houses and shops behind them
the side of a large red boat with the sea in the harbour and boats moored in the distance

With 3 time slots available, I opted for the first boat trip of the day, at 9:30am. This time affords a higher chance of seeing puffins, which I’ve never spotted before. Dolphin watching and seal spotting are down to chance as well but how fantastic to have the opportunity!

Clear instructions and guidelines were emailed before the day of my sealife safari so I knew to arrive 30 minutes before for the safety briefing. Once kitted out with waterproof gear and a life jacket, I was ready to embark on a coastal adventure.

A 2 hour sealife safari typically covers 25 miles, including visiting Cornish islands and locations of interest. The actual route taken on the day depends on conditions. All routes and boat trips have a professional guide sharing information about wildlife and the local area.

the edge of the coastline and blue sea and sky
a jagged cliff edge lowering into the sea with some seaspray near the edge

Heading out on to the Atlantic Ocean

We gently made our way out of Padstow Harbour and along the Camel Estuary. It wasn’t long though before we were going full throttle, heading for our first place of interest, The Rumps. Our guide told us about the local wildlife and some of the history connected to this part of the north Cornish coast. He also spotted a seal in the distance. I managed to see it but there’s no way I would’ve seen it on my own!

an orange rib boat at sea dolphin watching

From here, we headed out to one of the rocks or islands neighbouring the coastline. We had the joy of seeing a few puffins and a fair few kittiwakes and guillemots. The rock was absolutely covered in birds when we made our way round. I also learned that there is no such thing as just a seagull. They all have names and there’s several different breeds. When I think about it, it’s clearly common sense. Well, they say every day’s a school day.

an orange rib boat dolphin watching in Cornish waters

Dolphin watching out at sea

It was at this point that we just headed out to sea. Miles of big blue was stretched out in front of us and I loved it. I feel so at home when I’m near, on, or in the sea.

As there was more than one boat on an excursion from Padstow Sealife Safaris, our skipper got radioed about a sighting of a pod of dolphins. A swift 360° turn and we were soon dolphin watching. I couldn’t believe my luck!

2 dolphins in the sea next to an orange boat at sea for some dolphin watcing
2 dolphins in the sea
2 dolphins swimming in the sea

Every year it seems people spot dolphins off the Cornish coast but I’ve never had the pleasure. I watched the dolphins dance and play alongside our boat. I couldn’t help but smile; all I wanted to do was enjoy the moment. The pod of dolphins moved from one boat to another and moved along by the hull.

You can see more footage of the dolphins spotted on this trip on my Instagram account.

bright turquoise sea and the cornish coastline in sunshone

While the dolphins stayed a while, they eventually moved and our time dolphin watching was over. Thankfully, the sealife safari didn’t end there. We headed to another island, near Trevose Head Lighthouse, and saw more local birds nesting. Our guide was so informative, telling us about the different species and how they take care of their young.

I’m not sure where the time went as after this, it was time to head back to Padstow, taking in the beautiful coastal scenery along the way.

My trip with Padstow Sealife Safaris was gifted in return for sharing the experience on social media. I was under no obligation to write this blog post – it was so good, I wanted to share it with you!

pinterest pin for dolphin watching in cornwall

Author: plbedford

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