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The Bristol Channel is alive with wildlife, from the expected sea birds and fishes to different species of jellyfish, sunfish, seals, porpoise, dolphins and even basking sharks and minke whales.

Our skippers have many years of experience sailing the Bristol Channel, and have a wealth of knowledge on the marine life they encounter throughout the year. We work alongside the North Devon Biosphere and Lundy to support responsible and sustainable wildlife watching, and are accredited by both this partnership and the national WiSe scheme as a Wildlife Safe Operator.

Dolphins and Porpoise

Dolphins and porpoise are attracted by the wake left by the bow of boats, and can often be spotted playing around the bow as the boat pushes through the water. Every year, we regularly spot porpoise and dolphins in the Channel, and in 2013, a bottlenose dolphin, locally nicknamed 'Dave' made the area between Combe Martin and Ilfracombe his home for several weeks, seeming to delight in entertaining passengers on board the charter boats.

Dolphin and baby off Ilfracombe
Dolphins of the Bristol Channel

Bottlenose Dolphins

Up to 3.5 metres. Light grey with a prominent beak

Other info: Can live in large groups called pods, more commonly seen in North Devon in small groups, inquisitive species often seen bow riding boats

Harbour Porpoise

Smallest cetacean, grows up to 2 metres. Dark grey back, paler side and underside, centrally located dorsal fin, blunt head and lack of beak.

Other info: Shy species but commonly spotted around North Devon, usually seen alone or in small groups, rarely breaks the surface of the water.

Common Dolphin

Around 1.9 - 3.9 metres. Dark grey above, cream/yellow underside. Hourglass shape.

Other info: Frequently spotted in North Devon, often travel in large groups

Dave the dolphin and the Hampshire Rose lifeboat by Andrew Pettey

Grey (Atlantic) Seals

Up to 2.5 metres long and around 250 kg. Dog like noses and long whiskers.

Other info: Pups are born all year in North Devon, but mainly August to November. Pups are born white and fluffy.

Grey seals are commonly seen around Lundy and near to Mortehoe, where at low tide they can often be found having 'hauled out' on the rocks.

Often the head of the grey seal is the only part of the seal you will see when they are in the water. They might rest 'bottling' with their nose and head just clear of the surface, much like a bottle bobbing in the water.


When a seal rests on its side in the water, this is known as logging. Seals can remain in these positions for some time, allowing the gentle movement of the water to carry them idly along.

Seals can swim at an average of 4 to 5 km per hour, covering large distances.  They can dive to depths of 70 metres holding their breath for around 12 minutes before returning to the surface for air.  So don’t be surprised if the seal you saw dive doesn’t resurface in the same area!

Sea birds

Gannets, guillemots and manx shearwaters are among the sea birds that can often be seen over the waters of the Channel. A good indicator of cetaceans feeding is where you spot these birds gliding overhead or diving.

One of the biggest draws to Lundy are the puffins which gave the island its name. There is a breeding colony on Lundy between March and August, which is the best time to spot them.

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