Friday, 3 June 2011

WhaleFest 2011 - Brighton, UK 5-6 Nov

Welcome to WhaleFest 2011 and click here to go to the Whalefest website!


With over a quarter of a million people taking whale and dolphin watching trips each year in the UK, and millions more folk who love and care about these charismatic animals, it’s time to bring everybody together for the event of the year - welcome to WhaleFest!

Described by a trusted unnamed source as like the thrill of “leaning over the side of a sailing boat surrounded by dolphins with only George Clooney and Reese Witherspoon for company!”, WhaleFest is the must do event for everybody who loves whales, dolphins, and whale watching!

Ok, so admittedly neither George, Reese, or the dolphins will actually be at WhaleFest, but hay, we can still bring you the spine-tingling buzz of encountering these awesome animals in the wild. Here’s how:

Each day, dive in to our packed programme of WhaleFest events. Meet the life-sized Blue Whale, take a real-time whale watching trip or find yourself inside the weird world of the Blubber Belly! Discover the deep ocean and learn how whales talk, listen, think and feel.

Mark Carwardine - star of BBC 'Last Chance to See' with Stephen Fry, and reknowned whale expert - will be speaking at WhaleFest. Be inspired by our entertaining speakers including wildlife celebrities and some of the world’s leading whale and dolphin experts, or get involved with the many activities run by participating whale and dolphin conservation charities, from rocky shore excursions to marine mammal medic training courses!

Then why not surf the many WhaleFest exhibitor stands selling whale and dolphin tours, adopt-a-whale packs, and all the latest products for whale watchers. You'll find everything, from binoculars to sunglasses, books to eco-holidays! Finally, there are quiz shows, question and answer sessions, speakers corner, exclusive book launches and much, much more!

WhaleFest is organised by Planet Whale, the world’s largest online search engine for whale and dolphin watching trips. The Planet Whale website and WhaleFest share the same vision: to provide whale and dolphin conservation organisations and sustainable whale watching companies with a free platform to promote their work to the widest possible audience.

Help us to help them - link to WhaleFest - it would be a big help!

Contact us at WhaleFest if you want to be part of something big!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

coming soon . . .

Fellow Planet Whalers!

It seems that everyone wants to reconnect with their natural world the Ian and Dylan way. Our first trips have been sell-out successes – Biscay cruise October 2008 and Baja California 2009 – and, like a stunning Red Admiral butterfly emerging from a tattered pupae, Planet Whale continues to grow into something new and exciting. Far more than just a holiday company, we take you on amazing wildlife experiences, where we offer you the chance to see, hear, smell, taste and breathe in the very best that our wild landscapes and creatures have to offer. It's fun, enlightening, and ultimately rewarding in a way that no other wildlife company would even dream of!

Coming up we have three tantalising opportunities to come face to face with nature at its wildest:
With Whales & Wolves – Wild Northern Spain from £895 per person. Wednesday 29 April – Tuesday 5 May 2009
Late April is wonderful here - spring is in full swing and wolf pups are being fed!

On our ‘Biscay Triangle Cruise’ (dare you enter it!?) from just £150 per person. Sun 12 July – Tues 14 July 2009 and Sun 4 Oct – Tues 6 Oct 2009.

In Baja California - the best whale watching cruise on Earth from $3595 per person. Thurs 25 March – Mon 5 April 2010
No question, it’s the ultimate experience – and Ian’s sixth trip!

Can you resist? We hope not. See you in 2009 then, as we encounter the wild in all of us!
Ian and Dylan
Proud to be ambassadors for the largest creatures on Earth!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Whales & Wolves

NEW DATES! Dates for our new tours 'Whales & Wolves – Wild Northern Spain' have just been released and bookings are coming in fast already. If you want to know more, give us a call or bung us an email and we'll tell you all . . . but suffice to say we're dead excited! Dates are:

29 April - 5 May
26 May - 2 June
23 Sept - 29 Sept
7 Oct - 13 Oct

You'll be in the company of Ian (who's watched wild wolves in many countries around the world and knows a lot about them) and Dylan (the consummate expert both to all things whaley, and more particular the fab cetaceans of the Bay of Biscay). Check out the Planet Whale website for more details . . .

The North Pole

Alright, it’s not really the North Pole but it’s as near as one of us got in 2008 (about 500 miles south – and still no sign of Santa). Kvitøya - it means White Island – is remote, almost completely covered with ice, Polar Bear ‘infested’, and is known as the place where Salomon August Andrée and his two companions, Fraenkel and Strindberg landed after their ill-fated balloon expedition to the North Pole in 1897. Though it’s sobering to imagine the ultimate fate of Andrée’s expedition – I’ll leave that bit out as it’s hardly full of festive cheer - for me it’s also a steely reminder of the almost unquenchable power of the natural world: forbidding; fragile; astonishing; and mysterious. What setting could be more other-worldly for Father Christmas? Could there be a more elemental dwelling from which to span the planet’s sky in a sleigh pulled by aerial reindeer?!

We here at Planet Whale want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas. We’re looking forward to an awesome year of whale, dolphin (and wolf) adventures in 2009, when we hope to see lots of you, but for now we suggest you kick your festive season off with some gasps and grins . . .

Did we tell you that we love Killer Whales? If you do too, then get over to YouTube for two tales of Orcas and daring escapes! (for this one turn the annoying soundtrack off)

Happy Holidays!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Dylan, Ian and . . . Germaine Greer!

There was an unexpected sighting for our 90 ‘Brittany Ferries Big Whale’ -watchers . . . author, critic, and celebrity Germaine Greer. Ms. Greer noticed us shouting and celebrating and decided to join in (frankly blagging a free place but it was good to have her with us!) and within a few minutes she was running from port to starboard with the rest of us! Germaine Greer is less well known as a supporter of wildlife, and yet she has her own native forest reserve back home in Australia and is President of the British charity Buglife. "I try to champion the cause of the invertebrates," she said. "If it were not for them, there would be no whales, no fish, in fact hardly any other life in our oceans. They need as much protection as charismatic species like whales."

'what we did on our holidays' - the Big Whale Watch

We all knew it was a great way to start our first Big Whale Watch - an event run by Brittany Ferries and Planet Whale, in partnership with whale and dolphin conservation charity ORCA. As we sailed away from Plymouth the sea was a serene blanket, calm enough to pick out the odd Harbour Porpoise as we headed out in to the English Channel past yachts and fishing boats, with Gannets and Great Skuas circling high. After sunset and an introductory presentation, we took the chance to catch up with so many new faces and old friends. Still, we didn’t stay up too late, as we would be starting watch the next morning at 6:30am in the middle of a calm Bay of Biscay. For this we were well prepared, with four Planet Whale guides on our exclusive whale watching platform, an ORCA survey team on the bridge and an ORCA wildlife education officer working in the public areas giving wildlife presentations and deck watches. Everybody had a walkie talkie to ensure that nothing was missed.

Not that we barely had time to use them for our first sighting. Two Sowerby’s Beaked Whales appeared close alongside and moved quickly in to the wake of the ship. An incredible start! Almost nothing is known about these rarely seen deep-diving whales, which only occur in the temperate North Atlantic and live at great depths. Almost immediately afterwards, as the sun rose on a placid sea, somebody shouted “whale blow”, as our first Fin Whale slid past, showing its immense back and sloping dorsal fin. Several more blows soon appeared, all of which became Fin Whales as we approached. Then suddenly, four Cuvier’s Beaked Whales surfaced close alongside the ship, rolling gently and revealing cream-coloured heads and small bushy blows in the early morning sun! All this in the first 30 minutes of watching! The big problem now was who would dare to go down for breakfast! When whale watching is this good, people often decide to ‘crash diet’!

The sightings continued thick and fast as the morning progressed, with large schools of Common and Striped Dolphins feeding alongside leaping tuna, more fin whales and several more beaked whale encounters. Indeed we recorded an exceptional total of seven encounters with Cuvier’s Beaked Whales during the day, including two pods with very small calves. The Bay of Biscay has developed a reputation as possibly the best place in the world to encounter this species. Like the other beaked whales, our understanding of Cuvier’s Beaked Whale is very poor, but we do know that they dive to over 1,000m in search of squid, fish and crustaceans, tracking prey items in the inky blackness with the use of sonar before drawing their quarry in to the mouth at close range using suction!

In the blink of an eye the morning had gone and we had arrived in Santander. Time for a walk to Magdalena Park or to relax at a seafront tapas bar. The weather was glorious as we took a stroll through the woods and along the coastline, taking in some birds, butterflies and wild flowers before returning along the beach and taking our chance to dip our toes in the sea! Back onboard we were soon sailing north and heading out once more in to the Bay. No sooner had we exited the harbour than a group of eight Bottlenose Dolphins appeared behind the ship and commenced an incredible breaching display, with leaps in excess of 15 feet! Before long we were amongst Cuvier’s Beaked Whales and Fin Whales once more, as we sailed over deep-water canyons. This is towards the end of the ‘Fin Whale season’ in the Bay of Biscay, but there were still lots of animals around. Between July and September Fin Whales traditionally arrive in the Bay in large numbers in order to feed on large schools of fish, and, to a lesser extent, small invertebrates and possibly squid. Where these whales spend the rest of the year is one of the great mysteries of nature that we have yet to uncover. You would think that it might be difficult in modern times to simply lose the whereabouts of hundreds, if not thousands, of animals weighing in at over 50 tonnes each, but such are the mysteries of the ocean that we still don’t know.

As the afternoon progressed we had even more eyes watching as the ORCA wildlife officer completed her lecture and was joined on the back deck by a large crowd. Within five minutes of the start of their watch a group of 10 Risso’s Dolphins appeared along the port side, large dorsal fins and blunt heads raised above the water as they surfaced leisurely. As we entered even deeper water we were constantly in the company of Fin Whales; some near, others so distant that we could only see their blows. Finally, as the day drew to a close, we spotted a distant Sperm Whale, its angled blow the only thing visible as it lay resting just below the surface, probably recuperating from a dive that could have taken it to depths in excess of 3km! After such an amazing day, we retired to dinner, completed a summary lecture on our sightings, and finally, hit the bar for a celebratory drink!

On our final morning in the English Channel the weather deteriorated, making whale watching difficult. At least the seabirds were glad of the wind, and we enjoyed watching Gannets, Great Skuas and Manx Shearwaters sailing past before we arrived in Plymouth once more mid-morning.

In two days we had encountered 9 species of cetacean, including rare beaked whales, leaping Bottlenose Dolphins, large tuna, the second largest whale on earth, and ghostly white Risso’s Dolphins. We can only hope that future Big Whale Watch events will be as good! We would like to say a particular thanks to Brittany Ferries for all of their help and assistance before and during the voyage, and also for supporting the work of ORCA onboard the Pont Aven.

deep voices deep down

If you’re old enough to be reading this then you can probably forget about hearing twenty hertz anymore. The fact is that Fin Whales vocalise at the very bottom of the range of sounds that we humans can hear, or in truth could once hear when we were very young. Disappointing isn’t it. Well, disappointing yet at the same time thrilling because it makes the minds of these mighty creatures all the more mysterious, the world they inhabit more unfathomable, and their biology feel more remote from our own, even though we share the same planet. For example can you imagine yourself producing a sound that is louder than the loudest rock band (think Motorhead, Metallica, Gallows or Spinal Tap depending on your age/memory), and one that can probably be heard - and responded to - by your mates over 4000 miles away?

Leaving aside that you’ve probably entertained yourself by thinking of the name of near relative or neighbour that fits the bill, let’s focus on the fact that many scientists, using sophisticated underwater listening arrays, credit Fin Whales with just such abilities; in effect making Fin Whales our mammal cousins that can communicate across oceans, across the planet.

This month we bring you an underwater photo of a Fin Whale, taken by Dylan in the Bay of Biscay. Just over a week ago, in late summer sun, Dylan and I were able to share 25+ Fin Whale sightings with our enthusiastic group on our Brittany Ferries Big Whale Watch (highlights will be on our blog very soon). However, exhilarating as our Bay of Biscay encounters were, every time one surfaced I was struck by two thoughts: first just how brief a period it is that our cousins share the same air as us; and second, deep down there just what are they ‘saying’ to each other?!