Grey Seals on Black Rock
Grey Seal on Black Rock

Grey Seals

Grey seals can pop up almost anywhere and at any time of the year. One of the most reliable places to see them is on the rocks around Black Rock in the mouth of the Carrick Roads. At low water seals can often be seen hauled out on the weed strewn rocks and can be viewed from the shore through binoculars from Pendennis Point.

Close up views can be had from the popular wildlife boat safaris run from Falmouth Harbour. Even during a gentle stroll around the harbour you may be lucky to see the head of a Grey Seal pop up amongst the moored boats or beside the quays. Seals are very curious and will often lift their heads out of the water to see what anglers are doing on the rock marks. You may even find yourself swimming within a few feet of one off Gyllyngvase beach. If you want guaranteed close-up sightings then you can always visit the Cornish Seal Sanctuary at Gweek, about a twenty minute drive away on the Helford River.

Bottlenose Dolphin alongside a sailing yacht in the Carrick Roads
Bottlenose Dolphins in the Carrick Roads, Falmouth


In the waters around Falmouth, schools of dolphins, also known as pods, are not uncommon and may be seen breaching, bow-riding and thrashing their tails as they feed. The main species to be sighted are the Common Dolphin and Bottlenose Dolphin and these may appear at any time of the year but their movements are unpredictable.

There are also less frequent sightings of rarer species, such as Rissos Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise, in nearby coastal waters.

The Carrick Roads seen from Pendennis Point
View from Pendennis Point to St Anthony lighthouse

Where to see dolphins in Falmouth

Although it is possible to see dolphins from anywhere along the South West Coast Path and the beaches of Swanpool and Gyllyngvase it is from the headlands such as Pendennis Point and St Anthony Head, on either side of the entrance to the Carrick Roads, and Rosemullion Head on the west of Falmouth Bay that offer the best chance.

It is not unusual to see dolphins in the deep waters of the Carrick Roads, the main shipping channel of the Fal Estuary. From Pendennis Point it is possible to scan the mouth of the Carrick Roads as well as out to sea. On the eastern side of the estuary, close to the castle at St Mawes, is another good vantage point from where you may see them. You may even be lucky and see dolphins when making the trip across on the ferry between Falmouth and St Mawes. The ever alert ferry skippers are very quick to let passengers know of any sightings and if possible will slow and manoeuvre to provide customers with the best views.

Offshore the fast wildlife boat trips run from the harbour can cover many miles of sea during a two hour excursion and regularly delight their passengers with good close up sightings of dolphins.

Basking Sharks

These are the true giants of the sea and can be seen annually in the seas around Falmouth and occasionally in the estuary. Pendennis Point is a good place to see them from the shore but you have to be very lucky as they may turn up for only a day or two each year. A better chance to see them is from the Sea Safari wildlife boat trips run from Falmouth harbour which can cover many miles of sea during each trip and can be tipped off by other vessels of any sighting.

Being plankton feeders the best time to see basking sharks is during good weather in the summer when they arrive inshore to sift the water through their cavernous mouths, filtering out the microscopic animals and algae. Look out for their dorsal and tail fins scything leisurely through the water.


Although sightings of whales are rare, even from boats, there is always the chance of seeing a whale from the shore. The most likely whale to be seen is the Minke and this is the species thought to have come close to Swanpool beach in February 2008. In fact it came so close to the beach that there were fears it was going to become stranded.

Within and hour of Falmouth

For those keen to see marine mammals and basking sharks then within an hours drive of Falmouth are some of the countries top sea-watching places such as Lizard Point, Land's End, Porthgwarra / Gwennap Head, The Island at St Ives, Cape Cornwall and Godrevy Point.

Useful Links

The Sea Watch Foundation would appreciate reports of sightings to help with their research into the movement of dolphins and other species around the British Isles.

The Shark Trust welcomes any sightings and photos to help with their research into the behaviour and population trends of basking sharks.

The Marine Code of Conduct requests boat owners not to get too close to Dolphins and Basking Sharks.

Links to other parts of the Illustrated Falmouth Wildlife Guide