The morning started in Inverie. With the beautiful morning light breaking around us, we sailed out into the Sea of the Hebrides, excited to see what the day would bring…

Within ten minutes, we’d already spotted whales! The smallest whale in Scotland, the humble harbor porpoise, is a small species of toothed whale that grows to less than a modest two meters. Their little gray backs erupted like strips of tire from the water. The encounters were particularly exciting, with lots of active behavior.

We watched for seabirds. Gannets, Manx shearwaters, and common guillemots soared and bobbed around us to everyone’s great delight. As we approached the beautiful Isle of Eigg, suddenly a huge aggregation of gannets and Manx shearwaters came into view. We kept our eyes glued to the group of birds and then suddenly, a huge gray back came rolling out of the water, followed by a big, curved dorsal fin—a minke whale! Our first baleen whale of the day, but certainly not our last. By the time we reached Eigg, we’d had four incredible minke whale encounters—two of which allowed us close-up views of these beautiful, migratory animals.

Once at Eigg, there were walks and bike rides around the beautiful island. Eigg is an interesting island, not just because of its stunning geology and beautiful ecosystems, but also because it was the first island to be bought out from the laird by the island’s community. This happened in 1997, and now the community own their island. We enjoyed spectacular scenery as we traveled across the island.

Leaving Eigg, we had another incredible encounter, this time with a local pod of bottlenose dolphins! As the dolphins headed into a secluded bay around Eigg to socialize, we were able to sneak around and watch the action. Flips and tail slams were the orders of the day, and as soon as we arrived, the dolphins were very interested in us, coming over to inspect the ship as we bobbed outside the bay. Scottish bottlenose dolphins are the largest found anywhere in the world. The males can reach up to four meters in length, and they have thick blubber and large bulk to survive the cold, northern waters.

Next, we sailed on to Tobermory, spotting another minke whale, a white-tailed eagle, and several more porpoises. Once in Tobermory, we went for either a photo walk through the colorful village or on a nature walk down to the local Stevenson’s lighthouse. On the nature walk, we found lots of lovely wildflowers, mushrooms, trees, butterflies, and more.

After an afternoon in the town, Gemma Paterson from the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust came aboard to talk all about the region’s whales—very fitting after a wonderful day of wildlife sightings!