A few tips for watching Otters from a Sea Kayak

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Otters are fantastic animals to watch from a sea kayak. We see them around Arisaig when sea kayaking but they are not very easy to spot, easily confused with small seals and easily startled so vigilance is required as well as knowing what to look for. There is a healthy population of Otters on the West coast of Scotland and sea kayaking is one of the best ways to see them. An overnight trip is ideal for Otter watching – spending lots of time out increases your chances and camping in wild places we often see them first thing in the morning or as the sun is setting.

Otter tails

When an Otter dives the last thing you’ll see is its tail whip into the air before cutting into the water. A sure sign that its an Otter you are watching because seals don’t have tails : )


Otters leaving a trail of bubbles

When an Otter is swimming it will often leave a trail of bubbles on the surface to follow. This is easy to see if its flat calm but more difficult in waves. I have watched this trail of bubbles from my sea kayak and seen an Otter surface – completely unaware that I knew it was there.

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The flat head of an Otter

Otters have very flat skulls compared to Common Seals. This will be very easily spotted when an Otter is swimming, if you see a seal its likely that its head will look much more rounded. An easy distinction to make if you see an Otter swimming whilst out sea kayaking.

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Staying Downwind

Otters have a fantastic sense of smell and will often smell a sea kayaker approach before they see them. I’ve always had the best views of Otters when I’ve been downwind from them – if you see one, make sure you stay downwind and keep your distance and you should be able to watch them for a while without disturbing them.


Good luck!

Dedication and patience is required to see Otters. If you want to come sea kayaking with us then we run an overnight trip through prime Otter territory : )