Cornwall – Wildlife

Atlantic Edge – ‘Where the Wild Things Are’

Whilst the TV can bring the world’s wildlife to our living room, it is far more reassuring and spirit lifting to rub shoulders with amazing wildlife in your home country. Cornwall has more than its fair share of unspoilt nature as it sits on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean; the maritime weather systems carry virtually no pollution;  the warm Gulf Stream brings us unusual sea creatures from as far as the Caribbean and the plankton upwelling along the Continental Shelf to the West of the Scillies and Northern Spain creates one of the richest marine fisheries in the world. To see a common dolphin playing in your boats bow wave might be a cliche in a brochure, but we defy you not to rush to the bow to take a closer look. 

Sometimes it takes an outdoor holiday (and a company dedicated to raising awareness of marine wildlife)  to that remind you how precious the natural environment on our doorstep really is. Our guests are often captivated by quite common wildife encounters:- The sound of owls hunting in the woods at night when you anchor up the River Fal, gannets dive bombing after a gale or a sea of purple jelly fish drifting past. How many people know that Cornwall has 30ft plankton feeding basking sharks all year, sunfish even when its cloudy and baby seals hiding in sea caves ? 

Cornish basking shark coming towards you
Photo by Will Wagstaff. Cornish basking shark coming towards you

Wildlife at Sea & Ashore

The remoteness of the Cornish coast this far west bring their own special reward to those who travel with us: Starry nights with no street lights; ocean sunsets, isolated lighthouses and tiny fishing harbours; cliffs sculptured by pounding winter gales; almost tropical white sands with sparkling mica sticking to your toes; woodlands stunted by the wind but with trees adorned with lichen (a sure sign of unpolluted air) and lush ferns and springs along the many coastal footpaths.

The Gulf Stream provides unexpected sightings of turtles, sunfish and more regular visits by dolphins (common, bottlenose and risso’s dolphin), porpoises, whales and giant basking sharks. Gales often bring in wheeling gannets, tiny storm petrels, guillemots, razorbills and even puffins.

The Fal and Helford Estuaries are designated as Special Areas of Marine Interest. Breeding seals hide in sea caves and deep zawns. The drowned river valleys (called rias) have dense oak woodlands with branches sweeping down to deep green waters. At low tide the mudflats are home to egrets, curlews, oystercatchers and leggy herons—all the birds that go screech. At night you hear owls hooting in the moonlight, and a few guests have seen elusive otters in the early morning mists.

We have some world class dive spots locally and in the Scillies due to the lack of major sediment bearing rivers, rich underwater ecosystem and wrecks, so it is well worth bringing a snorkel, mask & wetsuit in summer you have mermaid (or merman) tendencies. Many of our anchorages are near interesting rock pools or eel grass, or maerl beds where seahorses hide.

Best Times of Year: Wildlife Spotting: Increase your Chances

  • Late May – Early June is good for basking sharks and phosphoresence in the water at night.
  • Mid summer – Sunfish, and seals are breeding in sea caves
  • Late summer – the recently born western grey seals come out to play
  • Autumn gales good for ocean seabirds like Gannets and storm petrels
  • Bottlenosed and Common dolphins – any time of year.


More Stories

Tall Ship Sailing on Morgenster with Classic Sailing

24/04 Inspiration

Great Summer Voyages

Great Summer Voyages  Sail the coastal waters of Cornwall, Isles of Scilly, Devon, Scotland, the Baltic, Mediterranean, and Brittany on tall ship voyages ranging

Read More

28/02 Educational

2024 – Classic Sailing’s Year of Skills: Confident Crew

Throughout 2024, we’re shining the spotlight on the various ways our customers get more with a Classic Sailing booking. Sailing on a traditional vessel

Read More
Wild Boy and Leafy

01/02 Boat building

2024: Classic Sailing’s Year of Skills! It’s not just sailing, you know!

Throughout 2024, we’re shining the spotlight on the various ways our customers get more with a Classic Sailing booking. There are many physical and

Read More

14/01 Inspiration

Turning the Tide on Blue Monday

Turning the Tide on Blue Monday Blue Monday, marked on 15th January 2024, is here again. Many of us find ourselves caught in the

Read More
Pilot Cutter Review 2024 photo by Adam Purser

08/06 Festivals

Pilot Cutter Review 2024 Final Results and full story

Best Pilot Cutter Review for many years This year’s Pilot Cutter Review was the best for many years with eleven cutters joining in. It

Read More

30/05 Featured Ship

Adam’s day sail On Provident May 27 2024

Provident, Blue Seas and Sky, Dartmouth and 100 years I had a fantastic day sailing on Provident in Brixham on the Late May bank

Read More
up on the evening tide for a BBQ

28/05 Small boats

Micro adventuring in May – Tallulah + open boats

A course for lovers of small boats (AND pilot cutters) We have just finished running the second ever 6 day course combining sailing 44ft

Read More