Wildlife watching from a canoe

This section of the page features an image gallery, so if you're using a screen reader you may wish to jump to the main content.

Paddling in a canoe or kayak is a great way to get closer to wildlife, here are some simple guidelines to make the most of the experience.

Group size and noise
Be mindful of how threatening a group of paddlers and any associated noise could appear to wildlife. Paradoxically, a solo paddler can also be incredibly quiet, make sure you don’t surprise wildlife by suddenly appearing.

Take a pair of binoculars or camera
Binoculars will let you observe behaviour from a distance that is less likely to disturb. Waterproof dry bags for cameras, binoculars and smart phones are invaluable.

Keep a minimum distance from animals and birds
Give seabird nesting sites and seal haul-outs a really wide berth (200 metres) – that’s why you have binoculars! Birds are particularly sensitive during the nesting period from 1st March to 31st July. Remember that some wildlife such as basking sharks are legally protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). Constantly assess wildlife. If you see they are disturbed move away. Please also remember that certain national and international rare and important conservation sites are protected and designated accordingly.

Move on
Watch for a few minutes and then move on so animals and birds can carry on as normal. Choose a clear course to give wildlife space and help them predict your movements. It can be very easy to push wildlife along a narrow channel, so stop and change your route if you get into this situation.

Being watched
Some animals may choose to watch you, and close encounters like this can be very special. Make sure you behave in a predictable way, keep your distance, move on and leave escape routes for both the wildlife and yourself. Try not to split a group or get between a mother and her young.

Getting in
When launching use, where possible, slipways, quays, pontoons and platforms and avoid “seal” launching or dragging boats that is damaging to riverbanks, vegetation, foreshore and sea beds.

Getting out
It’s always nice to stop, stretch your legs and have a break. Don’t land near gathered birds or seals – you could disturb their feeding and resting time.

Share your info
Report your wildlife sightings to the relevant Wildlife Trust  or the Marine Conservation Society these reports improve understanding and inform management and protection for the future. Report sick or injured animals to the RSPCA; or sick or injured marine animals to the British Divers Marine Life Rescue.