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Dolphin Spirit Blog

Dolphin and Marine Wildlife Boat Trips from Inverness Marina

Feeling Brand New!

What A Day!

After a miserable weather day yesterday, preventing all sailings from going out for the day, it was nice to get back out on the water today! And what a day it was! Exciting, exciting news, amazing sightings, and just all round good fun with all of the local wildlife really putting on a show for our lucky passengers. 

It Finally Happened!

First, I think we should get to the good news. Amidst the wind and rain yesterday, it would seem like our first harbour seal pup of this season was born! Sitting out on the mudflats today was one of the darker females, nursing a small, miniature version of herself on her right. After so much observation on the group, it's great to see our first pup alive and well on the flats. The little one will have quite the muscles already, fighting off the strong tides buffeting the firth at the moment, but seems to be happy and healthy and feeding well. We will be keeping an eye on the others who have been around too, as it won't be long until they pop too! Can we beat last year's pup total of 4?

Our first seal pup of the seasonOur first seal pup of the season next to mum!

Kesslet and Charlie Make a Splash!

It was a great day to be out on the water for the dolphins too, with plenty of fish to be caught and fun to be had! It started at 12pm, with some hunting going on upriver and a few close encounters on the way back in between feeds. Charlie certainly knows how to get on his mum's playful side! At 2pm, some serious splashing was going on again as the gruesome twosome were hunting around again; Kesslet really putting on a show with some fantastic rushes and speedy salmon flipping to impress our passengers. She's quite the hunter! With full bellies, the pair moved out of the river at 4pm, only to be found mucking about at Meikle Mee, breaching together and surfacing in time with each other. Kesslet and Charlie's strong bond couldn't be more apparent when they are acting like that! 

Join us tomorrow and shake off those Monday Blues with a beautiful boat ride and perhaps a show from our locals like today's lucky passengers! Maybe you might be the first to set eyes on our newborns too! 

Why Choose Dolphin Spirit?

Making The Right Choice

The Moray Firth has an abundance of wonderful wildlife, and an abundance of operators to take you to go and see it. When it comes down to choosing a tour operator for your next Moray Firth adventure, there's a few reasons why Dolphin Spirit may be your first choice. Between our 5-star credentials and a helpful, enthusiastic crew, here are just a few reasons why, if you haven't checked us out before, you may be missing out!

A Choice of Experience

Dolphin Spirit Inverness is unique in having two totally different vessels in our fleet; some operators may have multiple vessels but the boat of choice for most is the RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat), which can make travel difficult or downright impossible for some. The Dolphin Spirit cruiser herself is the only large boat of her kind out on the firth, able to take passengers of all ages and abilities, including dogs! She also has a greater capacity for seating, with space for 65 to enjoy the trip comfortably. That being said, if you're feeling the pump of adrenaline when booking your trip, Dolphin Spirit's new RIB Mischief is also available. Able to take those fit enough and over the age of 12, Mischief is a longer trip, aimed at one of the biggest dolphin hotspots and one of the biggest seal hotspots in the firth to maximize sighting opportunities. Our vessels even sync in arrival back to the marina twice a day, meaning that should you wish to split your party, everyone can get what they want!

A Crew That Cares

Dolphin Spirit is headed up by well-trained skippers and knowledgeable guides who will help you to get the most out of every experience. Whether it's a school outing or a family birthday party, we are committed to delivering a fun, educational experience for all! We will happily take requests from passengers planning a special trip, and help cater to the requirements of even the most difficult groups. Our crew are trained on not just the wildlife, but customer care and child protection, and are approachable and friendly to all who hop aboard. We want everyone to enjoy a safe and memorable trip regardless of experience chosen. We also aim to be as eco- and animal-friendly as possible, adhering strictly to the Dolphin Space Program (DSP) to protect our dolphins and give them freedom of choice when it comes to interactions with us, recycling where possible, and supporting local causes which speak for our finned friends, such as the WDC.

Central to Inverness

For those visiting Inverness itself, we are the most central boat operator to the city; a short 20 minute walk from the city centre or 5 minute drive will get you to the marina. If it's miserable weather-wise (as it tends to be here!) we also provide a shuttle-bus service to and from the centre of Inverness for £2 per head, per way, or for a family of 4 for £6. For most using the service it's cheaper than a taxi, and will be there on time after every trip to get you back to town as soon as possible, or to your trip in a timely manner! How's that for service?

So when you're booking your next trip to the Highlands, why not consider going out with us? We would love to introduce you to our local wildlife (providing they're feeling sociable!) and to the wonderful stories hidden in the beautiful landscapes around us!  

The Three Amigos

Our Big, Big Three

We're always referring to the "Big 3" here at Dolphin Spirit, in reference to the 3 mammals often spotted out on our trips; otters, seals, and of course, dolphins. Well, while we had two of three spotted today, we certainly had an altogether different Big 3 out on the water, in the form of three of our big dolphins! At 10am, we headed out of the marina to be instantly greeted by a playful Charlie, who came over to see us and give a brief bow-riding escort out of the river! He left us not too long after, but mum Kesslet was on hand to fill his place, hunting successfully out in the rough channel at North Kessock. We watched her surf the waves with grace and ease, her mouth snapping open and shut as she struggled with her catch just under the surface. We left them to it, heading out under the bridge, only to return to the marina later on and meet Kesslet again, who had a brief game of chases with us as she hunted in the river. She later had a mad moment of activity, surface rushing around the entrance to the marina chasing fish; splashing our onlooking guide in the process as she watched nearby on the quayside! With fish in mouth she headed out after son Charlie, who had been under the bridge earlier. Scoopy was spotted on his own at 12pm, clearly feeling like he was missing out as he charged through the waves by the ICT Stadium. He swept underneath our bow and disappeared off towards Kilmuir, seemingly on the chase after his friends!

A Mischievous Bunch!

Dolphin Mischief had a successful, if bumpy, day too! Dolphins were spotted on both trips out today, some frolicking and getting excited out in Fortrose Bay in the shallow waters. They bounced and breached as the RIB scooted by nearby. Another excitable group caught up with them at Fort George on the 12pm trip, joining them for a joyride out into the deeper waters of the Outer Firth. At 3.30pm, it was a more scattered affair, with hunting dolphins left, right, and centre around Chanonry Point, much to the delight of our passengers. Unfortunately due to the weather, this weekend's Mischief trips have been pulled over safety concerns with the oncoming rain and wind, but be sure to join us when the weather clears up! Dolphin Spirit should still be running as scheduled. 

Meet the Team - Brian

Second Super Skipper!

I know, a not very creative subtitle, but it's true! Our Meet the Team showcase continues today with our second skipper so far, Brian! Brian has been with us for the past three years as one of our main Dolphin Spirit skippers. He's a hard worker and always smiling, so our days are certainly brighter with Brian on board! When it comes to skippering, he's a dab hand at not just driving, but giving our passengers lessons too, regardless of age! He's a firm believer in everyone, and is always a bright character on the boat, and his wheelhouse door is always open! He's got keen eyes as well, and always has his binoculars at the ready; he may even give announcements of distant sightings before anyone else has even glimpsed it! Brian likes to make sure everyone knows they're in safe hands, and his safety brief is therefore more of a safety long, but he never misses anything and is super safety orientated; you couldn't be any more secure with Brian at the helm, that's for sure!

Subtly Scottish!

Don't let Brian's accent fool you - he was actually born in Elgin! A well-traveled fellow, Brian used to live "down under" back in the day, but has since returned to Scotland and his birthplace in the Highlands, where he works for us and Caley Marina down at the canal. He still retains his accent, but you might just be able to make out the Scottish undertones, giving away his heritage a bit! Brian is also incredibly knowledgeable about the local area, which gives him away a little too! Once upon a time, Brian was an occupational therapist, which certainly has helped us out a bit! Standing all day can really do a number on even our young and spirited guides, but Brian is always on hand with advice for any physical ill. He's quite the guy for jokes too, popping at least 4 into his safety brief alone and always making a few throughout the day to keep everyone grinning; passengers and colleagues alike! 

Well what can we say? Brian will certainly make sure the boat stays afloat (and not "down under"!) and will give your Dolphin Spirits a lift too! Make sure to say hello to him if he's your skipper on your next Dolphin Spirit adventure!

Showers and a Show

Getting the Timing Juuuuust... Wrong!

We had a rather lovely start to the day, with glorious sunshine for the first three sailings of the day. We weren't the only ones enjoying it either, as the seals were out sunning themselves as soon as even just an inch of mudflat became available! One of our seals has been in a bit of a predicament recently though, as it was sighted with a particularly nasty gash on its neck; perhaps in a fight with another seal, or in an accident of some kind, but it didn't seem to bother it very much all being said. We also got to watch a little bit of drama around Meikle Mee, with the terns fighting among themselves over who should sit where on the buoy; at least 8 of them were vying for top spot! With the tide dropping all through the day, at the end of the 2pm sailing, the seals were beginning to drop back into the water, almost as if they were anticipating the arrival of two finned visitors... and the storm they brought with them!

Visit from an Angel?

The heavens opened on our 4pm sailing, putting a bit of a damp mood on the end of a very quiet day all in all. That didn't deter us though, as we got out into the firth, jackets at the ready! Good thing that we did, as when we approached Kilmuir, two very active fins crossed our path. Kesslet and Charlie finally decided to grace us with their presence, Kesslet struggling with a rather small but obviously troublesome fish! As she surfed by atop the waves, mouth agape, it almost looked like she was laughing at us! Charlie on the other hand was distracting s couple of curious and hungry gulls, flapping his flukes in the air in big long dives. They moved off towards the bridge, so we left them to it, hoping to return to the area and catch them later. Luckily enough we did, encountering a cheeky Charlie, who excited us all with a fleeting dive and surface right under our noses on the left hand side of the lower deck. We watched him disappear off into the rain as we returned to the marina, hopeful for a quiet moment in the squall to dry off! A successful trip all in all!

Sunshine and Seals

A Beautiful Day and Lovely Encounters

Another gorgeous, mirror-calm day out on the firth had us puffing our chests in hopeful anticipation of another successful day of sightings aboard Dolphin Spirit and Mischief. We were blessed with plenty of visits from seals - mostly harbour seals - around Alturlie Point and Meikle Mee throughout the day, which put us in good stead. The problem with seeing seals is that it tends to reflect the fact there are few or no dolphins around to disturb them, which certainly seemed to be the case. All things besides, our seals gave some excellent showings, including a spirited breach near the buoy and some up-close encounters which lasted for some time. The mothers-to-be out on the mudflats appeared in numbers from first thing in the morning - at least 2-3 of them were present on almost every sailing! But as nice as the seals are, we were certainly glad to stumble across some fins!

Pretending They're Shy!

The 12pm presented us with a great surprise; as we came back down the firth towards the Inverness Caledonian Thistle Stadium, we caught sight of some very distant dolphins! Far, far towards the shore towards the retail park, two dorsals, one pointed and one curved, peaked above the surface. Travelling in a leisurely, but still quite fast, fashion, we watched them track the coast in the opposite direction of us. At least one could be identified; the ever-identifiable Kesslet. Her companion was a bit of a mystery at that distance, but we think it may have been her son Charlie or Scoopy who was with her most likely. All three of them were later spotted at Chanonry then heading back down in our direction after 4pm, so it's certain that they were all in the area at least. We got a heads-up from the wonderful Charlie Phillips up at Chanonry that an active group of dolphins were beginning to make their way into the firth our way, but we sadly missed them if they came down this far. Hopefully they'll be a bit timelier next time!

Distant Dorsal Fin
One of the distant dorsal fins from the 12pm sailing

Good Morning!

Sightings Worth Celebrating

Today's morning sailings for Mischief and Spirit were very successful! The RIB of course set out first, trundling past the river and bridge and out towards Munlochy Bay. It was here that Mischief encountered our first dolphins of the day, before heading up to Chanonry in the hopes of finding more. When Spirit went out at 10am, they too spotted two dolphins near Meikle Mee; it looked like our locals had arrived nice and early for a spot of salmon for breakfast! After a spirited 4pm interaction with the boat by herself yesterday, Kesslet decided to bring Charlie along with her this time too! It's possible that both the RIB and the Cruiser got an eyeful of our gruesome twosome this morning, and as usual, they seemed very obliging. Pity was, they didn't stick around for long, disappearing up past North Kessock again to the other rivers. It seems that maybe the Ness' salmon is not doing very well, or that Kesslet has a taste for sea trout instead! Such a picky girl.

Scouting Seals

Thankfully, however, we didn't have to just rely on Kesslet and Charlie today on the cruiser; we had seals aplenty to come and say hello too! A few curious seals popped up above the surface to have a sneaky peek at the boat before disappearing again. The mudflats have also been playing home to the harbour seal mums, who just seem to be getting bigger by the day! We've been keeping an eye on the otters too, to see if they reappear. It's an exciting time for young families in the firth, that's for sure!

Fathers' Day Fun!

What better way to celebrate Fathers' Day than an exhilarating ride aboard the Dolphin Mischief? Not only will you get that glorious, white-knuckle experience, you also get the opportunity to see wildlife in all its natural state, up close and personal! It's fun for everyone (as long as they're over the age of 12 and able of course!). Forget to get pops a gift this year? Last minute it with a Mischief gift voucher for you and him to enjoy! Join us today with your dad? Send us your pictures, we'd love to see you all having a great time! 

Meet the Team - Stuart

The Original Super Skipper!

We've been through the office, we've surveyed all the guides, all we have left are the skippers! Today we're starting with Stuart, one of our longest running skippers. The only full-time skipper, working all through winter too, Stuart is a dab hand when it comes to caring for the Dolphin Spirit. Over the past three years, Stuart has got to know the boat inside and out numerous times, through engine replacements and wheelhouse refits. Whenever something needs fixing, you can be sure Stuart will have the solution! He's not just a fancy mechanical mind, but a man of humour too; his wit is so dry it would make the Sahara Desert jealous! Stuart also relief skippers Dolphin Mischief on occasion, and is beginning to build up some dolphin ID skills to rival those of our guides!

Man of Many Talents

Stuart has done many things in his time, from army service to care work, and this experience comes to the fore at Dolphin Spirit too. He has a timely manner, so much so that his safety brief is among the most streamlined of them all without missing any information to ensure we depart on time! He even manages to throw in a joke or two to lighten the mood. When it comes to visitors to his wheelhouse, Stuart is welcoming and jokey, but informative when people ask; young or old. If there's one thing that gets Stuart talking, it's questions about boats! A keen sailor himself, with his own boat, Stuart's knowledge of the route, the firth in general, and boats is pretty impressive. His word is very much trusted on the Dolphin Spirit team! One of Stuart's foibles is his borderline obsession with a clean wheelhouse; there's a place for everything and everything must be in its place! This extends to the cabin below too, where our storage is located, which is always organised as well! Whether it's a foible or boon is a matter of perspective in that respect! Stuart is a keen eye out on the cruiser and the RIB, and readily calls out sightings over the radio or to passengers directly. One of his proud moments so far this year came on one of his first RIB trips, when he returned with a big grin that he was able to identify our local dolphins away out at Chanonry Point without a guide (eek, he'll be vying for our job next!). 

You can guarantee that a trip with Stuart at the helm will not only be safe and comfortable, but fun from start to finish. Why not book aboard and come say hello?

Found Him!

Cheeky Charlie Arrives in Style!

If you've been following our blog, you will remember that yesterday Kesslet had a different visitor with her in the Kessock Channel, Scoopy. After anticipating that Charlie must have been at Chanonry Point with the others then, and finding out that he wasn't, we could only wonder where he'd got to! Well, he couldn't have been too far away, as he turned up in the river this afternoon alongside his mum! Always the playful devil on Kesslet's shoulder, Charlie nudged his somewhat unwilling mum over to come and play with the boat as we left the marina on our 12pm sailing. As they followed us out into the Beauly Firth, they dived deeply in tandem, hunting for fish together, making their way up beyond they Caledonian Canal when we saw them last. Sadly, that would be our only sightings of the terrible two today, but the day didn't end there!

Otter Visitors

It was a strange day, being quite quiet on the passenger front. The bad weather in the middle of the afternoon may have put people off, which meant our 2pm sailing didn't run. Guide Krystyna spent the extra time sitting quayside, keeping a vigil for the dolphins and any other wildlife that may pop up in the meantime. Seems like it was a great shame that the 2pm didn't go, as there was plenty to see; plenty of swallows floating around, herons fluttering between hunting spots, and a hunting otter ducking and diving near the rocky wall, all just outside the marina! When the 4pm went out, it quietened down again, although the otter was still briefly present. But around Munlochy Bay, a red kite passed overhead, and a black throated diver popped out of nowhere right in front of the boat! We have never documented seeing one of these before, so in that regards it was quite special. Maybe it was a bit lost, straying a little away from the lochs into the saltier waters of the Moray Firth!

Dolphins, and Otters, and Seals, Oh My!

A Mighty Sightings Day!

Today started off with a little sunshine and some pleasant wind, but it quickly turned back to its usual grey with a fairly oppressive heat for most of the day. The weather certainly didn't put us off going out though, and both Dolphin Spirit and Mischief got out for all of their scheduled sailings! Both's first trips turned out quiet however, with only seals to be spotted on the dropping tide. As they day wore on however, they were in a for a treat, as some of our less spotted visitors came out to play!

Afternoon Delights

After a morning spent with a great many seals, Dolphin Spirit went out at 12pm in search of more. After watching a couple desperate seals cling onto the last remaining shred of mudflat just outside the marina, the boat made its way out under the Kessock Bridge. One passenger duly noted there was "nothing to see yet", but not to be outdone by the comment, one of our dolphins popped up out of nowhere and buzzed past the boat. Without getting a good look at the forward-facing fin, we could only assume that it had been Kesslet. With fingers crossed that she may appear again, we headed off to complete the trip. Kesslet sadly didn't turn up again, and was absent again at 2. In her place however, were two cheeky otters playing in the water just shy of the rocky harbour wall. They made for some excellent viewing, being quite active at the surface, but still enough to get a few shots of them too! We also had a different kind of visitor in the form of a red kite, spotted circling around South Kessock on our 4pm trip! Mischief's trip out towards the deeper water past Chanonry found some other hunting dolphins; roughly 6 of them were present at the point, fishing for some hefty salmon!

An otter stares at the Dolphin Spirit
A curious otter gets a good look at the Dolphin Spirit

Scoopy-doo, Where Are You?

Kesslet did eventually turn up again at 4pm, this time with her big pal Scoopy in tow. At first, we thought her companion was Charlie, as the cheeky youngster hadn't been spotted among the group at Chanonry. However, on closer inspection, we noticed that the dorsal fin was not only notched on the rear, but blotchy at the front. This meant that Kesslet had brought a different friend down to the channel for a visit; one who had managed to evade both the Spirit and Mischief on his way down here! The pair seemed quite relaxed, cruising along together very closely. We watched at they disappeared out under the Kessock Bridge and away past the ICT Stadium. Scoopy even got quite close to the boat, which is rather unusual, as when we have seen him in the past he has always been quite shy; but with Kesslet at his side, Scoopy was more than happy to give us a little hello before going off again. That leaves us with the question then of "where's Charlie?". We might just have to wait and see if we get an answer to that one!

Meet the Team - James and Freya

True Team!

James and Freya are one of the real "power couples" of our Dolphin Spirit crew! Both of them are only around occasionally, with James working a new internship in Glasgow this summer, and Freya branching out into her own business, but when they are here they can take any job in their stride! James is office and shore crew, and you will have likely met him before welcoming you at the front desk or joining you on Dolphin Mischief. Freya's strength is in guiding, where she will have guided you around the Moray Firth and its wonderful wildlife; a skill she has taken even further in starting out Inverness Historical Tours, a new walking tour around the city of Inverness detailing its fascinating history and stories. 

James skippering
James "skippering" the Dolphin Spirit!

Jaunty James

Working behind the desk, James is always at ease and in his element; this really comes through when you first meet him, as he is quite laid back and relaxed, happy for a chat. This has been great for passengers who may be a little nervous, as he can put even the shakiest knees still in a heartbeat with his breezy nature. A whiz-kid when it comes to the Office package, James has set up a number of sheets and databases for us to keep track of all the comings ad goings, and even got a handle of taming the somewhat temperamental cash machine! When acting as shore support, James is timely and casual, setting up for a lovely and enjoyable Mischief experience from beginning to end. There's no doubt that with James around you're sure to start and end every trip with a chilled-out grin!

Freya the Firecracker

Freya has always been one for great ideas and bold ambitions, so of course we weren't going to keep her tied down at Dolphin Spirit for long! After guiding with us for nearly 2 whole nears, Freya took her expert guiding skills and historical knowledge with her to a whole new venture. Inverness Historical Tours has proven a hit with her customers, much the same way her excitable guiding style used to be with our passengers! You may see Freya occasionally around the office visiting, or working the odd cover shift on Dolphin Spirit when we are need of a guide in the know! You will always be able to recognise her, whether about town on her tours or in our office, with her bright hair and just as bright smile; she always brightens up a room, and will brighten up your day for sure! Make sure to check out her new venture over on her website, and maybe consider going for a wander around town with her to learn all the things about Inverness they won't tell you anywhere else! The tours start at Church Street (you can find Freya's handy maps and leaflets on Dolphin Spirit and in the office), and last around an hour. Groups are limited to only 20 at a time, so make sure you book to guarantee a spot on this exciting excursion! 

Dolphin Fashion?

River Ness Runway!

This just in: the new summer fashion trend for our beautiful lady dolphins is seaweed bikinis, as shown by the lovely Kesslet as she hunted around the River Ness this morning. Sporting a delicate over-the-fin number, lovely Kesslet looked glam in the glittery morning sunshine, putting on quite the show for our passengers. In fact, Kesslet made an appearance on every single trip that went out today, not just for Dolphin Spirit, but for Dolphin Mischief too! She must have known she was looking good today! In fact, our 2pm passengers got quite the eyeful, as Kesslet did a marvelous breach just off the rocky harbour wall on our way back in; now that's what you call a welcome home!

A Rotter of an Otter!

Kesslet wasn't the only mammal on our spotting list to make an appearance today; a cheeky little otter was spotted hunting around the legs of the Kessock Bridge too! First spotted resting on the buffers of the legs, the otter immediately scarpered behind the leg and out of view when spotted and pointed out. Not one for attention then! Luckily a few eagle-eyed passengers spotted the tail wiggling into the shadows before it disappeared. A couple of curious seals were out and about today too, one just perching precariously on the mudflats in the morning as it slowly sank away in the rising tide. 

Mischief Goes Fishing with Dolphins

Mischief also got out today in the lovely weather, making their way up to Chanonry through a little drizzle to enjoy the sunshine at the point. While there they encountered a group of active hunting dolphins, but as we've seen before, bellies come first when it comes to dolphins! While they weren't overly keen to engage with the boat while they were filling up on fish, our passengers got some lovely views of them ducking and diving after salmon in the deeper waters past the point. It's always fascinating to watch them hunt, especially in a group, as they can be seen working as a team herding the fish and leaping around after them. 

Two's Company

Kesslet and Charlie Head For the Races

It's been a busy time in the Kessock Channel recently, with more fancy boats appearing and darting about. In particular, yesterday saw the Kessock Boat Race happening in the channel, which provided some new entertainment, not just for our passengers but for Kesslet and Charlie too. The mother-son duo have been around the river and channel a lot the past few days, even in the late evenings too; Kesslet was spotted getting an almost-midnight snack outside the North Kessock Hotel around 10pm! Charlie has been his usual, keen self, engaging with the boat in some nice little hellos; Kesslet is more keen on fishing, as it seems the salmon run has picked up again. Throughout the day, the pair were spotted frequently, sometimes enjoying the quiet of the marina entrance, other times further out. The last sighting of them at 2pm saw the pair taking on some sport of their own; synchronized swimming, with perfectly matched dives as they made their way out of the channel near Kilmuir. 

Still No Seal Surprises

The seals have been spotted quite frequently around the Inner Firth too, with a few more popping up on the mudflats outside the marina. As we mentioned before, there are definitely some heavily pregnant females within the group, but no little pups as of yet. Some of the more curious youngsters have been coming to the surface to check us out; some particularly brave ones sticking around long enough for everyone to have a good look too. It won't be long until they're all bouncing out of the water, and the females start to give swimming lessons to the newer members of the population. It's just a matter of when, so watch this space to find out when that is! Our otters seem to have been very much "Missing In Action" as well, though the local adult male has been spotted on the Kessock piers again after a long disappearance. Does this mean we may soon have the pitter patter of tiny paws too?

What About Winter?

Winter Wanders

People often ask us why the season only runs through summer, and there are a few very particular reasons; first off, the salmon run hits its peak in that time, then the dolphins' breeding season gets underway to coincide with the food stock, and lastly, the dolphins just aren't around in winter. It's hard enough trying to predict the movement of the dolphins during the summer, even when we know where their favourite food is. In winter, the dolphins feed on herring and mackerel, which are full of essential oils and fats to help them keep their blubber up over winter, and for mums to produce a high-quality, fatty milk for their youngsters. This makes them notoriously hard to find even when they remain in the Moray Firth, but, as Kesslet herself proved in winter just passed, there's always room for travel during the quiet season!

Food First

They say an army marches on its stomach, and the same is true for the dolphins; they will move to areas with the food they want or require first and foremost. For some, this extensive travel and see them doing up to 70 miles of swimming a day! When it's summer, and the salmon are running thick and fast, the choice is obvious, and the dolphins will be found hunting in the areas they have found or were taught by their mother. This is typically why Kesslet and Charlie spend so much time in the Kessock Channel and River Ness on their own. However, in winter, that all changes. A dolphin's true identity comes to the fore here, when food is more scarce the dolphins tend to choose what they can get easily and dependably. It has been noted with Kesslet for example, that she will sit in the channel for sea trout and small herring even through the colder season. Not all dolphins are this predictable however, and many will travel further out in the search for food; mainly places such as Aberdeen or down the east coast. 

What Else in Winter?

We have been wondering about running in winter for different reasons however, as the Moray Firth can be a very beautiful place even without the summer sun. One hotspot for winter photography here in the Highlands is a place called Alturlie Point, where locals are known to congregate to photograph the aurora, or Northern Lights. A boat trip out into the firth could easily make a great vantage point for photographs of this sort, or just to enjoy the spectacle when it arises. Winter is also a fascinating time for birdlife in the firth, with Long-tailed ducks and other visitors taking the place of our summer visitors. For wildlife spotters, this could be an altogether different reason to hop aboard!

Would you consider a boat trip on the Moray Firth in winter? What would make it special for you, and what would you like to see? Let us know in the comments!

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Here at Dolphin Spirit, we are very conscientious, not just of the dolphins, but of our local community too. We see charity at the core of what we do, whether that's giving free or heavily discounted trips to local organisations, to our own staff getting involved in events to raise money for charities in their own time. One of the charities we support as a company, and who are in turn very important to the work we do, is the WDC, or Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

Helping Our Stars

The WDC here do vital work in helping to protect the dolphins and other cetaceans we have in the Moray Firth, by providing them with a voice in rallies and in firth-wide decision-making, raising awareness, and working with other organisations such as Seawatch Foundation, CRRU and BDMLR to help those who may be in need. They also run the Shorewatch program, which has been vital in gathering citizen science sightings data to help track the dolphins and their activities. For us, we used to be able to see this work from our office, at the old North Kessock Seal and Dolphin Centre, which is sadly now closed. However, with Charlie Phillips, WDC's Adopt-a-Dolphin Marine Mammal Field Officer, just over the water on a regular basis, we still get to see the work from time to time. Charlie is always welcome on our boat, so you may see him joining us for photo opportunities. We aim to work very closely with the WDC, and are always asking for advice, to make sure we are doing the right thing. We also want to support them and their work in return, and do so in a number of ways; our donations box on the front desk, charitable donations with the purchase of certain gift-shop items, and we have an adoption of our local girl Kesslet in the works too! 

Gamers For Orcas

The reason for this off-the-cuff blog entry so early this morning, is that blog-writer and guide Krystyna is taking part in the WDC's Gamers for Orcas challenge; doing a 24-hour live stream in aid of the WDC's conservation work, starting around 9am (you can read about it and watch here). Of course we wish her every luck in the endeavor, and hope she reaches her target of £200 soon! 

World Oceans Day

Celebrating the Sea in Style

World Oceans Day happens every year to raise awareness of the water around us, its inhabitants, what it does for us, and what we can do for it. There really is no better way to celebrate World Oceans Day (June 8th) than going out and enjoying the water with some friendly, wild, and free bottlenose dolphins! Our passengers today were lucky enough to do exactly that, getting to see Charlie and Kesslet in their natural habitat enjoying a hearty and healthy breakfast! The pair were out and hunting for some big salmon first thing in the morning, scouting out the Kessock Channel in tandem and being their usual nosy selves. With Charlie at her side for the second time in two days, Kesslet came out of her shell a little, and was happy to visit not just the Dolphin Spirit, but another special boat making its way through the channel today!

A Special Visit

The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust sailing vessel was making its way past the marina this morning. The large, white and blue yacht has made a couple of regular appearances in the marina before, and today was another to add to the list. It was a special visit for them too, as Charlie and Kesslet even graced the boat with an escort in their typical fashion, with young Charlie leading the charge at the bow. There is no greater honour in the Moray Firth than a dolphin welcome! Our visitors will have been lucky enough to see the impressive boat in person too, which will have added something a little different to the spotter's sheets! The Caledonian Canal and Kessock Channel are no strangers to impressive or important boats, having seen a fair number of Navy vessels pass through recently, as well as awaiting the arrival of the Vic 32, one of the last Clyde Puffer steamboats that regularly travels around the coast in summer.  

Have you ever spotted a fancy boat while out with Dolphin Spirit (except all those nice, expensive ones sitting in the marina of course!)? We would love to see your pictures of them if you have! It's certainly not just dolphin spotting we do here!

A Little Rain Never Hurt Anyone!

A Grey Day in Many Ways

The Moray Firth, in fact, most of Scotland, isn't exactly known for its glorious weather; we're already beginning to think that our summer is already over with the past couple of weeks of brilliant weather. With today's flood warning and poor wind forecast, there was not a lot the firth had going for it. Dolphin Mischief was called off for the entirety of the day; and a good thing too, as we discovered this morning that the horrible rain overnight had actually resulted in the Mischief sitting up to its console in water! It's a wonder she hadn't sunk! Shore support Alan spent part of the late morning running the bilges to get it high and dry again. Dolphin Spirit was more lucky, and managed to get out into a somewhat unwelcoming firth!

Two Shades of Grey

Despite the 100% chance of rain all day, we were hopefully people would turn up to come dolphin-spotting; when we have days like this it's a bit of a double edged sword. Wet weather, for systems influenced by rivers like us, is fantastic, as it encourages a lot of positive fish behaviour and floods the river of tempting pheromones and actual fish to attract the dolphins. On the other hand, it seems to do the opposite for passengers. Two very brave visitors joined us at 12pm, much to our delight; having seen Kesslet pottering around the river mouth around 9.45, we were hoping she would still be around for our passengers to see. Sadly, she decided to stay hidden for most of the trip, but a glimpse of a fin near the big waves at the Kessock Bridge gave us at least a bit of hope that she may have still been about. And doubly sadly, we will never know if she was, because our 12pm was the only sailing to go out today! Seems like everyone forgot that even without the snuggly waterproofs our 12pm passengers were wearing, you can always stay warm and dry in Dolphin Spirit's heated cabin! Hopefully a few more people will turn up tomorrow; it's looking like a bit of a horrible week weather wise, but our dolphins don't mind, and neither should you! 

Baby Season Begins

The First Signs of New Life!

Summer is a very exciting time for us here at Dolphin Spirit, as the Moray Firth will soon be home to lots of new little bundles of joy, and today we were lucky enough to see our first signs of it! On our 2pm sailing, our local pairing of pied wagtails came by the rocky harbour wall, calling rather loudly over the ambient noises of the boat and work going on in the harbour itself. They were not alone however; they were joined by an adorable and chunky looking fledgling, who was hopping around the rocks alongside them! The little one is pictured above. The birds are usually the first to appear with babies, though in the past this has generally been either the local mallards or swans swimming around the marina entrance and river. It was refreshing today to see this cute little youngster as our first "newborn" instead!

Kesslet Pays a Visit

Despite the falling tide all day, local dolphin Kesslet was spotted in our earlier sailings today; first near the cardinal marker, chasing another boat before coming to say hello to us, and then later around the river. As with yesterday, she seemed to catch no fish, but was particularly active and playful regardless. It's nice to see her getting back to her old self. Charlie hasn't been around the past couple of days, but he may have been further out with some of the other dolphins that Mischief has encountered recently. Today, another excitable young group joined Mischief in the afternoon out towards the Point, just after a morning of particularly bad rain. We know Charlie has been spending time with Honey and her 1 year old calf as well as some of the other youngsters, so if we get pictures back from these trips we may be able to spot our cheeky Charlie among them!

Good Things Come in Threes

Our 12pm trip was especially successful, spotting seals, an otter and Kesslet throughout the trip. All of them were in the water, with the smaller critters hanging around North Kessock's slipway. With the strong possibility that the resident otter mother is pregnant and a sighting of a heavily pregnant seal on the mudflats yesterday, it might not be long until we are seeing these little ones around the Beauly Firth!

Dolphin By The Dozen

Dolphin Mischief Joins an Excitable Pod!

It was a great day to be out on the water, and even better if you came out with us! Dolphin Spirit got to spend a bit of time with Kesslet, who was enjoying a lazy Sunday just outside the marina. She spent most of the afternoon dancing around the mouth of the river, rolling around near the surface and being nosy with the boats who were coming in and out. She wasn't very active, but it was still nice to see her enjoying her Sunday too! Mischief on the other hand was unsuccessful on her first trip of the day, only encountering the seals at Whiteness at a barren Chanonry Point zone. However, the second trip was a totally different story, with a group of around 10 dolphins to the east of Whiteness, playing and riding along with the boat for a good bit of their journey! Just goes to show that every trip is different, and you just never know what will happen one day to the next!

Sunbathing Seals

It wasn't just a glorious day for us and the dolphins though, as our local seals were spotted sunning themselves on the mudflats early this afternoon too. Two harbour seals and one female grey seal took up residence there throughout our afternoon sightings, resting just out of arm's reach of the water. One curious seal bounced up and down excitedly as we passed by, watching the boat the whole while; the passengers were just as enthralled! As we get closer to the pupping season, we'll be keeping an eye out for more seals on the mudflats, and any signs of little ones floating around the area too. There was certainly as least one very heavily pregnant female in the group we saw today, so it's only a matter of time it seems!

Meet the Team - Sarah

A Lot of Bounce!

And we're not just talking about her tremendous, curly locks! Today's Meet the Team feature is about Sarah, another of the core crew members at Dolphin Spirit. Along with Jenni, Sarah is one of our full-time office staff, and has been since last year! Sarah is known for her bouncy locks and personality, making her a warm and friendly welcome to all of our passengers. When she's not working at Dolphin Spirit, Sarah has a number of other jobs that she works; she doesn't stop! Even in the office she always finds something to keep her busy; whether it's cleaning up, sorting the coffee machine, or updating the booking system with all the incoming bookings, there's never an idle moment!

Busy(ness) Bee!

Sarah is another of our "photography types" here at Dolphin Spirit, with her own business too. All of our crew portraits that you see hanging in our office behind the desk were taken by Sarah on our training days. She's not only a dab hand at portraiture, she also takes atmospheric shots for our Instagram account now and again (although the equipment she uses for this is nowhere near the setup she'd like; it's our company mobile!). When she's not being snap-happy or working the desk, Sarah also does Temple Spa nights; showcasing their range of spa-inspired body care. Her pitch and calming influence is not only perfect for getting you in the spa mood, but great for reassuring our passengers that they're in for a great time, even if the conditions look a bit scary! 

I'm On A Boat!

Sarah was one of the first people to join boss Yvette aboard the Dolphin Mischief on its maiden voyage; ever since she has been itching to hop aboard again! I suppose she certainly won't be the last to feel that way either! Whether it's photographing, inspecting, or joining the boats, Sarah is always keen to be involved with them and the dolphins too. She is even known to sneak down onto the pontoons during quiet times to snatch photos of the other boats in the marina if she spots a good photo op! As I said, there's never a quiet moment with Sarah!

Next time you pop into the office, look out for a warm smile and excited hello from Sarah; she'll make your Dolphin Spirit experience get off to a fantastic start! 



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