Over 20 species of whales and dolphins live in Irish waters. That makes Ireland one of the best whale-watching destinations in Europe. Its primary spot, West Cork is a habitat to over 12 cetacean species. In the 90s, the Irish government banned any whale fishing activity declaring it a whale sanctuary. The most common species found south and south-west off the coast are harbour porpoise, fin whales, minke whales, and humpback whales.
West Cork offers whale watching opportunities all year round, excluding only the month of February. The minke whale migration brings them to the west coast of Ireland from March to November. Fall and early winter is the best time to spot fin whales (September to December) and humpback whales (November to January). Occasionally, people see orcas and long-finned pilot whales. Dolphins can be watched best from August to December. Thus, autumn provides the most spectacular opportunities to observe giant mammals off West Cork coast.
Whale watching tours here are conducted under the code to avoid harm to marine creatures. The boats offering 4-hour tours leave Baltimore harbour at 9.30 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. Dursey Island, Cape Clear Island, Sheep’s Head, Baltimore Beacon, Seven Heads, Old Head of Kinsale, Toe Head and Galley Head are the best whale-watching spots in West Cork.
Besides West Cork, whale watching activities are offered in West Kerry where it's easy to spot minke whales, common dolphins, basking shark south of the Great Blasket Island and south of Slea Head. Donegal offers tours to spot minke whales, the common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, basking sharks, the harbour porpoise, and sunfish. Galway offers whale-watching excursions on Letterfrack Bay, Killary Harbour, and the Aran Islands. In Clare, whales can be spotted on Black Head, Kilkee cliffs, and the Shannon Estuary.