Having missed out on two days in Ireland, I had some tough choices to make as to what I would have to skip. Seafari, for me, was non-negotiable.
Seafari Cruises is run by Captain Ray, perhaps the greatest embodiment of an Irishman you’ll find in all of Kerry. When he’s not running the cruises, he’s still out on the sea, harvesting mussels from the Kenmare Bay.
Walking onboard, we were delighted to find that the boat was equipped with a little play area for kids, as well as stacks of cosy blankets from Kerry Woolen Mills and a whole variety of little snacks and drink in case we got the nibbles.
Armed with binoculars provided to us and some keen eyes, we were able to see all sorts of Irish wildlife hidden within the stunning landscape as we sailed through the Kenmare Bay. We saw everything from cows and goats to sea eagles.
The grand finale, of course, being the seals. We all headed out on deck, packed like sardines and layered under five layers of woolen blankets, and approached the little island where the seals were stretching and sunning themselves.
We sat beside the seals, inching closer and closer with the current, for about twenty minutes. One of the seals popped into the water and was playing hide and seek behind the rocks, but the rest were perfectly content to watch us watch them.
At one point, a motorboat whizzed past in the distance and the seals seemed to get a little nervy. Captain Ray simply whistled into the microphone, and they immediately returned to complete ease. It was unbelievable to witness the connection built between them over the decades.
Eventually Captain Ray whistled our goodbye and we slowly drifted away. Untucking ourselves from the woolen blankets, we scuttled back inside where we had thermoses of hot tea and coffee awaiting us, topped up minutes later with a splash of spiced Carribbean rum. We eagerly clutched to our mugs, dunking biscuits and warming our numb fingers back to life.
We tugged back into the harbour, taking turns with the microphone at karaoke with Irish trad tunes. For her beautiful performance, Aífe’s daughter was awarded a little toy seal by Captain Ray.
Seafari was genuinely the highlight of my little trip to Kerry, and I can’t stop telling everyone about how great it is! For just €30, you can spend four hours sailing along the Kenmare Bay, inclusive of binoculars, blankets, snacks, and the best craic I found in all of Kerry. It’s an unbelievable bargain.
More importantly, Captain Ray’s approach allows you to intimately experience Ireland’s nature without actually disturbing it – something crucial when you see what thoughtless tourism has done to other places like the Cliffs of Moher.
He’s incredibly passionate about marine conservation and protecting the diversity of life in Ireland, and has even launched a campaign to designate Kenmare Bay as a European Marine Park that I’ve since signed onto.
Pulling back into Kenmare, we drove a couple minutes up the road to Sheen Falls Lodge to warm up over a couple of hot toddys.
We sat in their gardens overlooking the Kenmare Bay, watching the sky turn from dusty pink to navy, before finally pulling ourselves away to grab a seafood chowder in a local pub. It was the most perfect day I could have asked for, and a reminder that sometimes the best memories aren’t the planned ones.