In this video, Shetland-based wildlife cameraman Nick McCaffrey shares the joy of witnessing whales in their natural habitat.
Seeing a whale or a pod of orcas skirting the Shetland shoreline is a highlight of many a local or visitor’s summer. Orca sightings have become increasingly common throughout the islands, particularly during the summer months between May and August.
If you’re hoping to spot a whale during your visit to Shetland, check out the Shetland Orca Sightings Facebook group, where locals post the latest sightings across the isles. It’s also worth booking a trip with a local wildlife tour operator, who will be able to share their local insight and knowledge of cetacean activity. See our Trips and Tours page for a list of operators.
If spotting a whale is on your summer bucket list, we ask that you follow the Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code to minimise disturbance to marine wildlife.
If on the water in a kayak, paddle board, fishing or pleasure boat, and come across whales or dolphins, please follow this advice:
- Keep your distance – at least 200m for pods with calves.
- Slow down your speed to less than six knots. If the animals come to you, maintain a steady course and speed.
- Let the animals be in control of the encounter. They should choose how close to approach. If they choose not to interact, or to depart, this should be respected.
- Signs of disturbance can be quite subtle but include changes in animal behaviour, such as swimming speed, tail slapping or ceasing previous behaviour such as feeding or socialising. If you see any changes then back off and slow down.
In Shetland, we’re fortunate that whales often come close to the shore so you can happily enjoy an encounter with them from land, at a safe distance and with no chance of disturbing them.