The Biscay Dolphin Research Programme (BDRP) is a charitable organization that was established in 1995 and they aim to further the conservation of cetaceans and other marine life through scientific investigation and educational activities. Together with a Spanish team from AMBAR, researchers complete two round trips per month on the Pride of Bilbao, compiling information on wildlife in the Bay of Biscay.
The Bay of Biscay is one of the best places in the world to watch cetaceans and the peak viewing months are July and August where 12 - 13 different species of cetacean have been sighted in a single trip. In total over 30 different species of cetacean have been recorded in the Bay of Biscay and if you follow the viewing tips, you may be lucky enough to see some.
The Biscay Dolphin Research Programme's Wildlife Officer onboard the ship conducts informative talks and guided wildlife watches as per the following timetable:
First Morning - Southbound
11.30* - In cinema 1 (deck 8) Introduction to the 'Wildlife of Biscay'
part 1, including information on the onboard whale watching facilities. No tickets are required and it is essential to make this talk if you want to learn 'how it all works'.
From 14.30* (or as announced) - Guided wildlife watch on deck 11**
First Afternoon - Northbound
- Guided wildlife watch on deck 11**
Final Day - Northbound
12.30* - Presentation on 'Wildlife of Biscay' part 2, which includes a fantastic film of some of the whales and dolphins of Biscay.
* Please note: Times are subject to alteration without notice
** Deck watches
are cancelled if it is raining and are subject to weather conditions.
Facilities on Board the Pride of Bilbao
To help you with your cetacean watching there are several facilities onboard:
An observation deck on deck 11
Observation lounges if you prefer to stay inside
Species ID Boards - there is one situated on deck 11 and one in the whale and dolphin room which is situated near the observation lounge.
A size line is situated on deck 11 so you can get an idea how large some of these animals are.
Binoculars are available for hire
Tips for sighting cetaceans include:
Look out for dolphin charge
Look out for whale blow
Look out for unusual shapes or splashes at the surface
Birds activity often suggests that there is food in the area that may attract a cetacean.
Be patient - you may see nothing for hours then you may have a fantastic sighting.
Cetaceans You May See
Cuvier's Beaked Whale - often sighted in the southern sector of Biscay
Northern Bottlenosed Whale - usually over the deeper waters of the bay.
Sowerby's Beaked Whale - deep waters in the southern bay.
Minke Whale - more commonly seen in the channel and the northern bay.
Sperm Whale - deep waters of the southern bay.
Humpback Whale - mainly seen in coastal waters.
Sei Whale - more commonly seen in the deeper waters in the bay.
Fin Whale - deep waters in the southern part of the bay.
Blue Whale - deep waters of the southern bay.
Pygmy Killer Whale - deep waters of southern biscay.
Long-finned Pilot Whale - sighted both inshore and in deep water.
Killer Whale - potentially throughout the whole area.
False Killer Whale - in deeper waters of the southern bay.
Bottlenose Dolphin - any part of the bay and outer channel.
Short-Beaked Common Dolphin - throughout the bay and well into the channel.
Harbour Porpoise - usually in the shallow shelf waters of the northern bay.
Striped Dolphin - mainly in the deep waters in the southern bay.
Risso's Dolphin -
can be seen anywhere, but more commonly close to the coast.
White-Beaked Dolphin - generally seen in the more northerly areas of the north Atlantic.
Atlantic White Sided Dolphin - has been spotted in the northern bay, but it is rarely seen.
There is an array of other wildlife that you may spot from the Pride of Bilbao including:
Biscay Dolphin Research Programme
The Pride of Bilbao is operated by P & O Ferries and any trips that are booked through a link on the BDRP website given above, earns funding for BDRP research. Please support them.