Aberdeen Harbour Tour & Dolphins Galore

From 1 April 2017 Clyde Cruises will start its Aberdeen sailings for the Spring/Summer season. Aberdeen is known for its dolphins which often venture south from the Moray Firth for a little day out to the Granite City – how civilised. In warmer water dolphins grow to around 2.5 metres but in the chilly Scottish waters you can potentially see the largest dolphins in the world. The animals are so commonplace off the coast of Aberdeen that the RSPB regularly holds summer dolphin spotting events in the city which are an excellent tourist attraction, but there’s something special about actually getting on the water.

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Our vessel for dolphin spotting.

Clyde Cruises holds three different sailings out of Aberdeen Harbour. Fish & Ships lasts 45 minutes and encourages visitors to ‘Take in the sights and sounds of Aberdeen harbour, one of the UK’s busiest ports, while you enjoy Scotland’s best fish and chips from the famous Ashvale Restaurant.’ I agree that the fish and chips from the Ashvale are particularly good.

20160827_141503_resized_1The Aberdeen Harbour Tour is 45 minutes and shares the secrets of one of the busiest ports in the UK, with over 28,000 shipping movements taking place annually. Getting in amongst the huge oil industry support vessels is pretty impressive.

We opted for the Dolphin Adventure Tour. It lasts an hour and a half which is no problem for little ones if they’re engaged, and offers potential sightings of bottlenose dolphins, white beaked dolphins, risso dolphins minke whale, basking sharks, porpoises. This is how we got on.

20160827_131536_resized_1The journey starts with a little education. Meet in a wee portacabin where an audio visual presentation explains all the facts and information about Aberdeen’s dolphins. There are  information panels to read too. My toddler, possibly one of the ‘Octonauts’ and ‘Andy’s Baby Animals’ biggest fans, didn’t sit through this at all as it wasn’t a film, more an images and voiceover style presentation, but he liked the pictures on the info panels – go figure. Unsurprisingly we were therefore first at the quayside impatiently waiting to board. We were able to take our double buggy onboard and got seats at the bow of the ship.

Our boat seemed pretty spacious and sturdy until you passed the huge vessels associated with the oil industry. We were definitely small fry – mere krill next to those whales. The boys, and Mr Husband, loved seeing these massive vessels which must be home to hundreds of crew. As we left the harbour walls, passing the iconic communication tower and the Silver Darling Restaurant (one of my favourite seafood restaurants in town due to its excellent food and unbeatable views) the search for the dolphins was on.

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Leaving harbour, sailing past ships that support Aberdeen’s globally renowned oil industry

No cruise ever guarantees sightings so I did wonder if we were on a hiding to nothing, but within ten minutes there was Flipper! The kids went berserk, the front of the boat filled up with other passengers who suddenly were willing the brave the great outdoors (whilst our little sailors had been facing down the north sea winds like the determined little pirates they are). The dolphins leapt and frolicked, swimming pretty close to the boat – they seemed to be having a grand day out too. The boys shouted, ‘Dolphin, Dolphin’, just in case no one else onboard could identify the creatures. But every passenger was captivated.

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Not a bad dolphin photo if I do say so myself.

After about twenty minutes of watching the animals we started to sail back to harbour. I always love seeing a coastal city or town from the sea as it gives you a whole new perspective on it and makes the desperately familiar seem brand new.

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Spot the dolphin.

Admittedly we were lucky with the weather, and lucky to see such playful dolphins, but it was a  novel afternoon that left us talking about it and telling other people what we’d been up to. Lovely for the kids to see animals in their natural habitats too.

Tips – Aberdeen Harbour is a pretty vast place so if you’re not familiar with it read the directions carefully or phone the company who’ll gladly talk you through exactly where they’re located. We arrived dead early as we didn’t want to miss the boat so we decided to take a wee exploratory walk to kill time. Aberdeen Harbour is an operational, working harbour therefore there are no safely precautions for toddlers. The thought of a child falling into the water is one thing, the thought of anyone falling into the narrow gap between a boat and the harbour wall is unthinkable. It’s great to see the ships so close up but care and precaution is needed. Lastly, wrap up warm, even on a sunny day it’s windy and far cooler out at sea.

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In April, May, June, September and October the cruises are running on Saturdays only, increasing in July and August to Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The tours start at £44 for a family ticket, and our Dolphin Adventure tour cost £66 as a family.

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