Underwater documentaries charting the wonders of the marine would leave even the greatest couch potato with a deep sense of wanderlust but getting too many of the locations featured often comes with a hefty price tag. 

As we watch high definition footage of killer whales in Alaska or blue whales off the Canadian coast to a backing track of a stunning symphony orchestra, we could easily be left feeling such wonders are beyond our means. However, what we should remember is that as an island nation we also boast some incredible unspoiled natural underwater wonders of our own! 

Simon Berrow, CEO of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, said that Ireland is an excellent location to view some of the best marine life the world has to offer. West Kerry, in particular, is an excellent spot to get the "full-on marine wildlife experience" according to the expert. 

"You have seals, sea birds, whales, dolphins, basking sharks depending on the time of year", he said.

Mr. Berrow said that Irish waters even host the biggest animal on the planet the blue whale at certain times of the year but they  "tend to be offshore".

"If you want to see them you need to go way offshore", he advised. "But they are here every year and they pass by the west coast of Ireland offshore on the shelf edge". 

While the average person may not get the chance to catch a glimpse of the ocean giant, another massive mammal also visits Ireland and is more accessible. 

"The second biggest whale on the planet and the second biggest animal on the planet the fin whale does occur close inshore along the coast", Mr. Berrow explained.

He advised those hoping to catch a glimpse of a fin whale to take a boat trip off the south coast during the winter months or to bring a flask of tea and perch themselves on a headland.

To date, 24 different species of whales and dolphin have been recorded in Irish waters right around the coast including the striking orca also known as the killer whale. Last November, a pair of the black and white whales were seen as close to the capital as the skerries coast while even in the middle of the city the odd seal has been known to appear in the Liffey. 

Fans of dolphins should make their way to the Shannon Estuary where bottlenose dolphins are seen regularly. The IWDG keep a log of sightings which they regularly update so that people can get out and see the creatures for themselves rather than relying on documentaries. 

"If you actually sit on a headland with a nice fleece on and a flask of tea and then you see something - the actual personal experience is much greater than if you just stick Attenborough on or watch blue planet," Mr. Berrow said. 

"I think we are disconnecting a bit with the reality of life and certainly with wildlife". "People need to realise that the search and the pursuit of trying to see a humpback whale breaching or to experience a seabird colony in full breeding season is part of the journey", he continued.

Despite the wonders in Irish waters, pollution continues to pose a problem to our wildlife and, according to Mr. Berrow, there is "no justification" for this. "No one can walk on a beach anywhere in Ireland and not be shocked at the amount of plastic especially the small fragments that are washed up". However, he admitted that it was great that there "is such a reaction to that and we are now getting change on a political level".

He warned that whales and dolphins continue to be most affected in Irish waters by noise pollution. "Boats generate noise, industry generates noise, coastline activity generates noise", he explained 

He concluded that the "cumulative effect of the noise" is extremely damaging to "animals that use sound to communicate and navigate". So when planning your trip to see some sea life this summer be sure to travel with a company that respects our wildlife.