Think there’s nothing in the English Channel? Think again!!

Whale & dolphin sightings


Generally, when people (including ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors like me!) think of ‘the’ places to see marine mammals around the UK, we think “Cornwall, Scottish Hebrides, Orkney, and Shetland or off Northumberland”, to name just a few. Never is the English Channel mentioned. In fact, due to the busy nature of the channel for shipping and other activities, it’s not thought of as particularly diverse for marine mammals at all.

On Friday 17th May, a team of ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors boarded the DFDS Seven Sisters to survey the Newhaven to Dieppe route. Pre-boarding, I, the Team Leader, and Stuart, the Trainee Team Leader, went through the survey methodology with our new surveyors Lauren and Sally and started to manage expectations of how much we might see… one, two, maybe three sightings if we were lucky.

ORCA volunteer Marine Mammal Surveyor team

The weather was glorious, the sea state flat calm with no white water to be seen, and we were all excited to finally get going. It didn’t take long before the first harbour porpoise was spotted, which was followed 15 minutes later by three foraging bottlenose dolphins. However, the sightings didn’t stop there. Before we knew it, we were calling harbour porpoise every 10 to 15 minutes, and to top off the end of the first leg, we were escorted into Dieppe harbour by a pod of nine bottlenose dolphins.

Bottlenose dolphin swimming towards the ship to bow ride

Theo-Naji Benzbir, one of the DFDS crew, captured this fantastic video looking down at four of the animals riding the wave created by the bow. We were all a little giddy when we arrived in Dieppe, shocked at the amount we’d seen – eight sightings, including the amazing close views of the bow-riding bottlenose dolphins!

The return leg started a little slowly, and we had to wait 90 minutes before we were rewarded by two unidentified dolphin fins in the distance. However, from then the sightings came thick and fast, with harbour porpoise again being the star of the show. The bridge crew were also excited to see all the animals, and we had the chance to explain the differences between dolphins and porpoises to the crew. As we approached Newhaven, we had a final sighting of two unidentified animals in the glare of the setting sun.

What a trip! With 17 sightings in total, of 39 animals (22 harbour porpoises, 13 bottlenose dolphins and four unidentified dolphins) - if you think there’s nothing to see in the English Channel – Think again!

The best way to really appreciate how amazing whales and dolphins are is to see them in the wild where they belong - and you can do that from right on your doorstep by joining one of our Sea Safaris! Visit to check out all the upcoming dates and take your first step on your very own whale and dolphin adventure!

Book your Sea Safari place today!