Kayaking with Wildlife

Kayaking Trail

Dorset Wildlife Trust, National Trust and Studland Seaschool have created a Kayak Wildlife Trail in Studland Bay. Kayaking can be a great way of viewing marine wildlife both above and below the water if the sea is calm and clear. The trail was officially launched in June 2011 and starts by the slipway at Middle Beach, Studland. As the trail is unmarked and follows landscape features, there is a waterproof trail guide available to purchase, which shows how to follow the trail and also highlights particular species to look out for along the way. These include sea birds, seaweeds and seagrass that can be seen from the surface as well as crabs and fish, including seahorses, beneath the waves. Underwater life can be seen if the water is clear or with the aid of a goggle-viewer.

The waterproof ID guide can be purchased from Studland Sea School at Middle Beach, the National Trust shop at Knoll Beach, Studland or online at our shop for £3 (inc postage) by clicking here

Kayaking Code of Conduct

Kayaking and canoeing is an increasingly popular sport and is an ideal way to view our spectacular Dorset coastline as well as offering opportunities for close encounters with marine life such as seabirds, seals and dolphins. With no noise or carbon emissions the potential impact on the environment is minimal providing that participants follow the Kayaking with Wildlife Code of Conduct.


Assess each wildlife encounter. Learn the signals that tell you if an animal is disturbed or distressed and if you see them, back away quietly. Signs might include:

  • Head erect and watchful.
  • Avoidance behaviour such as paddling/swimming away.
  • Shuffling.
  • Preparing to fly ­ head craning, head turning, head bobbing, wing-flapping in situ.


Please take all your rubbish home for safe disposal. Unfortunately marine litter is a growing problem. It is estimated that around the world 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles are killed each year as a result of litter. Litter gets into the sea from a variety of sources including shipping, fishing, beach visitors and other land sources, storm drains and recreational activities. Did you know that it is perfectly legal for ships to dump waste at sea as long as they are more than 12 nautical miles from the coast!

Why not take an extra bag to bring back any litter you find floating in the sea?

Wildlife Sightings

Please report your marine wildlife sightings to Dorset Wildlife Trust. The more we know about the wildlife in our waters the better able we are to protect it for the future. Record the species, number, behaviour, direction of travel, if any young are present and any other information you can, preferably with a photograph. All verified records are forwarded to Dorset Environmental Records Centre and national recording schemes.

Enjoy but don't disturb wildlife

Explore in small groups. This helps to keep noise levels low and appears less threatening to wildlife.

Use binoculars for close viewing. There is no need to get very close to animals if you have a decent pair of binoculars. They will be less likely to disappear and you will see more natural behaviour if you keep your distance.

Keep a minimum distance from animals. Keep at least 200m clear of seabird nesting sites / cliffs or seal haul-outs. Birds are particularly sensitive during the nesting period from 1st March to 31st July. Some seabirds balance eggs on their feet for incubation and will dislodge them if they panic-fly.

Limit your watching time. Move on after 10 minutes watching to enable animals to relax and carry on their normal activities, whether it be feeding, nursing or just sleeping. When animals become distressed it makes them vulnerable to predators.

Let animals decide how close to be. Marine animals such as seals and dolphins tend to be curious and may approach you to investigate, allowing close encounters. Help them predict your movements by staying on your intended course. However if they swim away do not chase them as this may cause distress and force them to dive to escape. Never get between a mother and her young and never let your group surround an animal ­ always leave an escape route.

Cetacean spotting. Dolphins and Porpoises can sometimes be seen along our coast. A sign that they might be in the area is lots of seabirds diving or ‘rafting’ (floating in groups on the surface). Take a closer look with your binoculars but do not approach marine mammals or rafting birds. If they are feeding you might disturb them and birds may regurgitate food meant for their young.

Take care when landing

Avoid landing where large numbers of birds are gathered. If they have to fly away they will lose vital feeding or resting time.

Avoid trampling or scraping the seabed when beaching your kayak/canoe. If possible, look for sandy beaches or slipways to land so as not to damage sensitive marine life.

Sick, injured or entangled animals

Live strandings of cetaceans (dolphins and whales) or any injured/entangled marine mammals should be reported urgently to BDMLR on 01825 765546 (24hrs).

All other live injured, oiled or entangled animals should be reported to RSPCA 08705 555999

Put these numbers in your mobile phone so you have them to hand if needed.



DWT Kayaking With Wildlife Guide

Download: Kayaking Code of Conduct

Kayaking by Emma Rance

Kayaking © Emma Rance

Basking Shark by Paul Naylor

Basking shark © Paul Naylor

Common Seal by Peter Camp

Common Seal © Peter Camp


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