Searching for Whales in the Moray Firth

One of our Residential Volunteers at the Scottish Dolphin Centre, Michael Amos, had a wonderful time searching for Whales in May, here is the story of his experience.


When I heard there were Orcas hanging around Fraserburgh in May, I became determined to try and see them. The orcas were seen very close inshore at Fraserburgh on 19th May, so I decided to make the journey to Fraserburgh the day after. My trek from Spey Bay involved an hour walk to Portgordon, a bus from Portgordon to Banff and then another bus from Banff to Fraserburgh. I arrived in Fraserburgh and spent nearly nearly four hours looking out for the orcas, but I sadly didn’t see them.

To my frustration, the Orcas turned up at Fraserburgh the day after my visit on 21st May and then again on both 22nd and 23rd as well! Still determined to see the orcas, I decided to head over to Fraserburgh again on 24th and even stay overnight in a hotel there to maximise my chances of seeing them. Despite my efforts, I still didn’t get to see the Orcas.

After staying overnight in Fraserburgh, I started to head back home on the bus, feeling disappointed I didn’t get to see the Orcas. However, just as my bus was leaving Banff, I received the most unexpected alert on WhatsApp – there was a breaching Humpback Whale off Portknockie! My bus back was going through Portknockie anyway, so I decided to hop off here in the hope the Humpback would still be around. I walked quickly along the coast path from Portknockie, bracing the strong winds and rain showers while I tried to find the Humpback.

Halfway along the coast path between Portknockie and Findochty, I noticed a group of sea watchers standing on a hill with binoculars and scopes pointed out to sea, so I rushed up the hill and made my way towards them. I was greeted with a group of ecstatic and cheerful faces as they were watching what I had come to see – they had found the Humpback! The group pointed out where the Whale was and I focused my binoculars in the right direction. And there it was – I picked up a giant splash from the Humpback, followed by another, and another, and another! This breaching went on constantly for the entire time we watched it and it was nothing short of phenomenal to see!

In addition to the thrill of seeing the Humpback, it was so brilliant to meet new faces and share this experience with like-minded sea-watchers. For a number of people in the group, this was their first time seeing a Humpback and it was wonderful to see the excitement on their faces. And by sheer coincidence, one of the sea-watchers in the group was someone I had previously met while sea-watching at the other end of the country in Cornwall!

I have always loved Humpback Whales and it was fantastic to see this animal pretty much on my doorstep. So many people think you have to go to the poles or the tropics to see Humpbacks and don’t realise they can actually be seen right here in Scottish waters! While it is disappointing I didn’t get to see the Orcas, I am so glad I got to see something just as exciting that made my efforts feel worthwhile in the end!

Video copywrite: Gary Crook