A GROUP out on a whale watching trip off the coast of Courtmacsherry last week got more than they bargained for when they managed to catch a glimpse of a rare leatherback turtle.
‘That’s the beauty of being out on the North Atlantic - you never know what you may end up seeing,’ Christopher O’Sullivan, a guide with Atlantic Whale and Wildlife Tours told The Southern Star.
Measuring two metres in length, this turtle’s nearest breeding ground in the Atlantic is in the Caribbean or the east coast of Canada but it somehow was spotted six miles south of the Courtmacsherry coast.
‘It’s a very rare occurrence to spot a leatherback turtle and the 12 people who were on board were delighted to see one as none of them ever had before.
‘It stayed at the surface for about two minutes before it dived back in the water.’
Luckily, Christopher was able to capture this precious moment on camera after another one was spotted while on another trip last week but dived before they could get a shot.
‘We’ve now seen two in total over the last three trips and the reason they are so close to shore here is that there is an abundance of compass and common jellyfish in our waters at the moment.
‘Their sighting is very rare although you do hear odd reports of them getting caught in fishing nets. They are not complete strangers to Irish waters but not many have been photographed this close to shore.’
According to Christopher it has been an incredible summer of whale watching in the waters south of Courtmacsherry and the Seven Heads Peninsula.
The business, which is run by Mark Gannon out of Courtmacsherry Pier has had a bumper season as visitors flock to take part in the tours
‘We’ve seen humpback whales, minke whales, fin whales and dolphins,’ he said adding that the season isn’t ready to wind up yet.
‘There is a large whale season from now until November,’ added Christopher.
See www.atlanticwhaleandwildlifetours.com for more information.