Experience Torbay from a new perspective! 

Joseph Bulmer

Coming from the south-west of Germany with precious little sea in sight, the close proximity to the coast and water is one of the most exciting aspects of living in Torquay for me. Thus, I thought I’d educate myself a bit on the wildlife inhabiting the waters of Torbay.

I spoke to Michelle from Torquay Watersports, a local business offering a variety of boat rides around Torbay, to learn more about the marine wildlife this part of Devon has to offer. “We have quite a lot of wildlife in the bay,” Michelle told me. They see common dolphins or seals on most of their tours, something that really shouldn’t be taken for granted, as ten years ago you would hardly ever spot seals. They used to be killed in order to protect the fish that are so valuable for Brixham harbour, which is why it is all the more amazing to see them in such abundance now.

In addition to dolphins and seals, Wild Atlantic Bluefin Tuna have turned up this year. “They were massive. We saw some out just by Dartmouth and thought they were dolphins, they were that big,” Michelle explained. But Torbay also has something to offer that is much harder to spot and hardly ever gets the same attention as dolphins or seals. “Underneath the waters here there’s 200 acres of seagrass. It looks a bit like seaweed and is 70% better at decarbonization than the Amazon rainforest.” Personally, I had no idea seagrass was such a super-talent when it comes to fighting climate change. Obviously, that makes it even worthier of protection, and one way of doing so is through education. As Michelle explained to me, every time a boat anchors in seaweed it rips it all out. Raising awareness for its existence and vital role for protecting the planet is thus among Torbay Watersports’ biggest priorities during their boat trips.

Recently, one of their videos of dolphins joining them on one of their tours attracted a lot of attention on social media, as you can spot baby dolphins towards the end. Dolphins get sucked along with the boat, riding the waves and thus not having to swim as hard. Very inquisitive in nature, they love to play and hang around in pods. Porpoises, meanwhile, may look a lot like dolphins (although they are smaller) but prefer to be on their own and don’t like being disturbed.

Having sufficient knowledge of the wildlife is therefore key to ensuring boat trips aren’t just fun for the customers, but also safe for the animals. “We work really closely with the charities that look after the animals because we want to understand them so that when we take people out, we don’t harass them. It’s really important to us that all our skippers know how to behave around them,” Michelle stressed. Torbay Watersports is therefore part of the WiSe scheme, set up by the British marine. The scheme offers a wildlife course enabling participants to minimise the disturbance caused to wildlife during trips.

It might just be me as a non-local from a country with far less coastline than Britain, but I was very unaware of the richness in marine wildlife this part of Devon has to offer. Experiencing it first-hand on a boat must be a lovely way of educating oneself, but also seeing Torbay from a different perspective.