Whale sighting season is upon us in Whitby

A series of sightings recently has marked the beginning of Yorkshire’s much-anticipated whale watching season, with an impressive underwater cast also waiting in the wings.

Tour operators along the county’s coastline have reported early encounters with minke whales from Whitby, whilst across the coast white-beaked dolphins have been entertaining wildlife watchers offshore.

Sightings of the 30ft, five tonne minkes have even been made from land at Long Nab, south of Robin Hood’s Bay.

Still one of Yorkshire’s best-kept wildlife secrets, whale watching has been a steadily growing tourism activity in recent years, initially starting in Whitby - ironically the former home of the region’s whaling industry.

Today 150 years on, the hunt for whales is of a different kind as cameras and iPads rather than harpoons are focused on the huge animals each autumn from August to October, as they follow large movements of fish along the coast.

With record sightings on a single trip in 2014 of more than 20 individual minke whales, and occasional visits from much larger species such as fin and humpback whales, the popular activity is now at the forefront of a growing ‘nature tourism’ industry estimated to be worth £15m a year in the county of East Yorkshire alone.

Tourism leaders believe whale watching has a lot to offer for the region, with other well-known UK hotspots being a considerable distance away along Scotland’s West Coast or Cornwall in the South West.

There is however, an irresistible draw for marine life according to Tom Marshall who heads up the destination marketing initiative the Yorkshire Nature Triangle.

He said: “As the summer showstoppers such as puffins begin to leave our clifftops in July, there’s a real sense of anticipation as we then await the first sightings of whales, and this year certainly hasn’t disappointed.

“We’ve had amazing reports from the team at Real Staithes of pods of up to 10 white-beaked dolphins bow-riding off their small vessel, whilst Whitby Whale Watching’s early-bird ‘Finding Fins’ trips have had up to four minke whales showing superbly around their boat.”

More information on the range of wildlife boat trips available along the Yorkshire coast is available at bit.ly/1E6adg4.

Find out more by visiting the group’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/WhitbyWhaleWatching/videos/1254519737894537/