Desperately Seeking Seals on the Seafari Cruise: Kenmare, Ireland

Seal laying on seaweed

While I was in Ireland, I chose to look for seals on the Seafari Cruise in Kenmare Bay Marine Park. The Seafari cruises through Kenmare Bay where you will be able to see wildlife on the coastline of the Iveragh Penisula. From eagles, goats, and the largest seal colony in Ireland it is an adventure you need to experience.Fishing Boat in Kenmare Bay at low tideKenmare is an exciting town to visit, and Kenmare Pier is close (5min walk) to the central downtown area. The bay is very picturesque with Our Lady’s Bridge in the background. This is the first suspension bridge in Ireland circa 1841. The water was low when we arrived but, we were assured it does rise with the tides.

Seal laying on seaweed

Seafari Cruise

Seafari boat on Kenmare BayThe Seafari boat can fit up to 100 people. There are seats and blankets inside, and benches line the outside. I picked a spot on the outside. I didn’t want to miss any opportunity to photograph the wildlife. The cruise starts with gorgeous scenery of the Iveragh and Beara Peninsulas. Iveragh Peninsula coastline at Kenmare BayRock Islands in Kenmare Bay

Captain Raymond Ross entertains everyone with his marine knowledge (he is a marine biologist) and Irish history with over 25 years sailing on Kenmare Bay. Did you know that Ireland is shaped like a Teddy Bear? But, while you are listening to him you are continually searching for any movement. And then suddenly it happens. Birds are perched on the rocks and seaweed and are lifting their wings to move to the next rock. The only one I was able to catch is an Oystercatcher. It is a beautiful bird in flight with its black and white wings.

The next surprise is seeing a herd of goats climbing on the rocks of the Irish coastline. It is an amazing opportunity to see these animals in their natural habitat without disturbing them. Goats on the Iveragh Peninsula in Kenmare Bay

Seal Watching

By now, we are primed for seeing the seals. As every rock island comes into focus, people are checking them out with binoculars to be the first to look at the seals on the Seafari cruise. I kept waiting for the boat to get closer to see if the seals were there.

Then Captain Ray slows the boat down and starts giving us our lessons on how to deal with the seals. Since he has been coming here for years, the seals are used to his voice and the boat’s motor noise. Anything else though will disturb them, and they will dive into the water and disappear. You need to be quiet and not make any sudden fast movements with your head or your camera. Harbor Seals in Kenmare Bay-Seals on the Seafari CruiseSo, there I am leaning on the side of the boat with my camera attached to my face trying to take as many in-focus pictures as possible. Things to remember is that these are animals and they don’t pose for photos. They are continually moving, sliding into the water, swimming almost to the boat, and hopping around the seaweed to find that perfect sunny spot. 

There You Are!Seals sunning themselves in Kenmare BayTwo seals on Kenmare Bay Seafari cruiseSeals on Seafari cruise

The pups are the darker seals. Captain Ray filled us in on the dangers that speedboats are doing to the seals in the bay. Either by the propellers or the waves generated by the boats crashing the young pups into the rocks hampering their lifespan. Think twice people!
Seals looking at the visitors on Seafari Cruise-Seals on the Seafari Cruise
Two seals on Kenmare BaySeal laying on seaweed on Seafari CruiseSeals laying on seaweed in Kenmare Bay on Seafari cruiseSeals sunning themselves on seaweed in Kenmare Bay

The Seals on the Seafari cruise are so cute! The one above looking at us wanted a closer look. He slid into the water and swam about halfway to the boat to check us out. He kept popping his head out of the water to look at us. Captain Ray kept them calm while we photographed them. He had this interesting whistle he did to get them to look at the boat. The two seals below nose to nose had an interesting dynamic. I couldn’t figure it out. It almost seemed like they were siblings and the little one was intruding into the gray one’s space. I saw the bigger one snap at him once. I like to think that this is all temporary. Since no one is important enough to get you angry even if you are a seal!Two seals nose to nose in Kenmare BayCaptain Raymond on the Seafari

Captain Raymond and the Seafari cruise is the perfect way to showcase responsible tourism. Allowing visitors to experience the Irish culture and wildlife intimately without disturbing their habitat. Plus, he is incredibly witty and quite the singer! On the return trip, snacks and beverages (including for the adults a shot of “Rum” to add to your drink) are provided. This helps you thaw your numb fingers.

You can watch for the seals on the Seafari cruise from April to November. Sailing duration is 2-3 hours. Adult prices are €25.00 and children under 12 are €12.50.

The Seafari Cruise is definitely one of my highlights of my visit to Ireland. Have you been on this tour? What did you think?

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