It’s almost impossible to have a holiday in Cornwall without the sea playing a starring role. The big blue surrounds us on three sides and it’s a huge playground for visitors. Most of us dabble at the edges, paddling, surfing or swimming, but you’re far more likely to see the most impressive wildlife if you head further out to sea.
There are a number of companies offering sea ‘safaris’, the goal of which is to spot dolphins, seals and whales – although there are no guarantees since the wildlife can’t be coerced into performing on cue! Different parts of the coastline will give a different experience, with seal colonies more established and static, dolphins and whales harder to pin down.
Newquay Sea Safaris launch from Newquay harbour, where resident seals are pointed out by name. Trips include a two-hour jaunt out to Seal Cove, site of a colony of grey seals, combined with a cruise into deeper water on the hunt for dolphins and basking sharks. If that’s not close enough to the wildlife, you can opt for the guided snorkel safari. On a select few dates through the summer adrenaline junkies can even try shark cage diving (obviously not suitable for young children, though).
Padstow Sea Life Safaris has a high-powered option for viewing the rocky north coastline; a one hour powerboat spree out through the mouth of the Camel Estuary and north to Port Isaac, the archetypal Cornish fishing village. For the ultimate alfresco dining experience they also offer a picnic trip, stopping at remote, hidden coves to eat on a beach you’ll have all to yourself.
The south coast has a different feel and a seafaring culture rich with smuggling history. A trip with Orca Sea Safaris shows you the creeks and inlets around Falmouth, with stories of the shady past. The birdlife in this area is incredible and dolphins are regularly spotted. Every Orca Sea Safari includes a free ticket to the National Maritime Museum, so it’s two experiences for the price of one.
Not all trips with all companies mentioned are suitable for very young children and safaris are weather-dependent to a degree, so check before booking.
Padstow Sealife Safaris
Padstow Harbour, Padstow, Cornwall, PL28 8BP, Tel. 07754 822404
Newquay Sea Safaris
South Quay Hill, Newquay, Cornwall TR7 1HR, Tel. 01637 877613/07582 466122
Orca Sea Safaris
Events Square, Discovery Quay, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 3QY, Tel. 01326 214928