Fantastic beasts and where to find them?

12th December 2016

(from the side of a ferry from Portsmouth to Spain)

Blue whales, basking sharks, sword fish and blue sharks: these are just some of the fantsatic beasts that have been seen from the side of ferries sailing from Britain to Spain this year. In total 16,311 sea creatures have been spotted from Brittany Ferries’ ships by excited passengers and wildlife officers from marine conservation charity ORCA, who are stationed aboard regular services.

The Bay of Biscay is one of the world’s best places for observing whales, dolphins and porpoises. Over a third of the 90 global “cetacean” (whale and dolphin) species have been recorded here. Brittany Ferries services sail from Portsmouth and Plymouth, through the Bay of Biscay, to Bilbao and Santander in northern Spain. And passengers and ORCA wildlife officers are treated to an amazing live wildlife show on many a trip in the summer.

Thirteen different species of whale, dolphin and porpoise were recorded from March to September 2016. Highlights included six northern bottlenose whales, 16 sperm whales,  27 orca (killer whales), 109 Cuvier’s beaked whales and a blue whale, the largest creature ever to have lived on the planet. And of course, pods of dolphins playing in the waves. Beyond cetaceans, five basking sharks were recorded, as well as six blue sharks, two green turtles and a host of sea and migratory birds.

“You don’t have to go to the cinema to see fantastic beasts because ferry services through the Bay of Biscay present a live show with even more wow factor,” said Sally Hamilton, ORCA director. “The trip to Spain is like a wonderful sea safari. It helps shines a light on the extraordinary diversity of whales and dolphins, as well as a host of other fantastic beasts that can be seen right on our marine doorstep.”

Brittany Ferries has teamed up with ORCA for a series of whale-and-dolphin watching cruises next year. Taking place from June to September, the trips include two nights aboard a cruise-ferry including en-suite accommodation, time ashore in the beautiful port of Santander, presentations on the ship and expert advice on whale and dolphin spotting throughout the trip.

 Captions and image gallery – high res available to download here:

  1. An explosion of life: a huge pod of striped dolphins playing in the waves in the Bay of Biscay to the delight of ferry passengers and ORCA wildlife officers.
  2. This enigmatic blue shark glided by, an unexpected treat rarely seen so close to the surface
  3. Fin whales, the second largest creature on the planet, are to be found in the deep Abyssal Plain creating blow towers up to 8m high
  4. The world’s deepest diving marine mammal can hold its breath for more than two hours. This Cuvier’s beaked whale is a male and bears the scars of fierce territorial disputes
  5. The Sunfish is the heaviest bony fish in the sea. But this one makes light work of an unexpected breach, belly-flopping joyfully back to sea
  6. With a wingspan of up to 2m, gannets shadow many a crossing to and from Spain, thrilling wildlife fans who look up as well as down.
  7. The blue whale is the largest animal ever to have lived on our planet. As big as three double-decker buses, this rare sighting came in September 2016
  8. Star of Hemmingway’s most evocative novel, this 3m swordfish cut gracefully through the waves
  9. A cheeky common dolphin exudes the charm of these beautiful creatures – one of thousands seen each year on crossings to France and Spain
  10. Dedicated wildlife experts from conservation charity ORCA enthuse passengers aboard about the amazing wildlife to be seen – and to be protected
  11. The sad sight of a leatherback turtle entangled in abandoned fishing nets
  12. A plastic inflatable dolphin drifts by – a sad irony

About ORCA

ORCA is one of Europe’s leading whale and dolphin charities, dedicated to studying and protecting whales, dolphins and porpoise in UK and European waters. ORCA monitors whale and dolphin populations, helps protect vulnerable habitats and works to protect large whales from ship strike. Together with governments, research institutions and other conservation charities we strive to create safer places for whales and dolphins. For more information on ORCA, visit

About Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries is a passenger car and freight service operating from eleven ports, linking four countries: UK – France, UK – Spain and Ireland – France. The company was set up by a collective of French farmers as a freight-only operator, running from Roscoff in Brittany to Plymouth with the first crossing taking place on 1 January 1973, the date the United Kingdom joined the EEC (forerunner to the EU).

The aim then was to bring French agricultural products to a wider British market. However, the service quickly developed into an operation carrying hundreds of thousands of British tourists, eager to experience the delights of Brittany and Normandy. Today Brittany Ferries is the market leader on the Western Channel for passengers and for freight. It is also a leading supplier of ferry-inclusive motoring holidays to France and Spain. Further information can be found by visiting:



Christopher Jones on 02392 402 965 or 07917 540 878 or [email protected]

Nigel Wonnacott on 02392 402 943 or 07833 446 729 or [email protected]



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