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Nigel Marven and Chris Packham I-Spy whales in the Bay of Biscay

It’s been a summer to remember for whale and dolphin spotters travelling through the Bay of Biscay.

Ferry passengers have been treated to bumper numbers, with regular I-Spy cruises reporting an increase of 54 percent in sightings, compared with the same number of trips last year (from 2,065 to 3,186 animals). All were spotted from the decks of ferries regularly travelling from the UK to Spain and back again.

Now ORCA wildlife officers aboard Brittany Ferries Pont-Aven for the second last I-Spy cruise of the season have reported some of the best Fin Whale sightings ever. Nature conservationist Nigel Marven joined them and passengers for the penultimate cruise.

He boarded Brittany Ferries’ flagship Pont-Aven in Portsmouth on Tuesday 20 September, accompanying nine ORCA guides and 90 I-Spy cruise passengers travelling from Portsmouth to Santander. They return to Plymouth today, 22 September hoping for a repeat of the fabulous ‘cetacean’ show to which they were treated en route to Spain.

“We had an incredible day yesterday,” said Anna Bunney, ORCA wildlife officer. “I’ve never seen so many Fin Whales and whale blows, many of which were right alongside the ship. It was such a lovely experience for passengers, as well as our wildlife officers and, of course, our special guest Nigel Marven.”

Chris Packham will make the same trip next week for the last I-Spy cruise of the season. And the ORCA team is hoping for even more cetacean sightings then.

“We’ve reported more species and seen more creatures on I-Spy cruises this year than in 2015,” said Sally Hamilton, ORCA director. “Of course passengers come to see whales and dolphins, but the variety of other species we’ve seen this year is amazing. It includes green turtles, tuna fish, grey seals, oceanic sunfish, blue sharks, and this time of year lots of migrating birds.”

Nigel Marven added, “The partnership between ORCA and Brittany Ferries is brilliant. I love every voyage with its chance of sighting over a third of the world’s whale species. That includes Cuviers Beaked whales which I’m particularly hoping to see. All this comes with the expert guidance of ORCA’s wildlife guides: it’s a fantastic experience.”

I-Spy cruises leave Portsmouth at 17:15 and the first event in the programme is a talk in the bar hosted by ORCA Wildlife Guides and the celebrity guest. After a good night’s sleep and as the ship passes into the Bay of Biscay, observations begin.

ORCA guides are on deck from sunrise to give guests the best opportunity to spot creatures from the side of the ship. As well as celebrities, ORCA Wildlife Guides are on hand to help passengers get involved, and record the data as part of ongoing conservation work carried out throughout the year.

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 the aim is to create safer places in which whales and dolphins can thrive.

The Bay of Biscay is one of the world’s hot spots for whale and dolphin species diversity. In total, 31 of the 87 species of whale and dolphin can be seen in the area, including fin whales, sperm whales, striped dolphins and killer whales.

Brittany Ferries and ORCA have just announced details of the 2017 programme of I-Spy cruises, with departures available on 27th June, 11th July, 15th August, and 12th, 19th & 26th September. For more information visit www.brittanyferries.com/whale.


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: www.brittanyferries.com.

Brittany Ferries contact:

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

ORCA press contact:

Lucy Babey on  023 9283 2565 Email: [email protected]


  • 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.