We have a lot of wildlife encounters while cruising and on shore trips, but part of the adventure is not knowing when it will appear because it is never guaranteed! We increase our chances due to the combined wildlife experience and local knowledge of our crews. They know the hotspots for minke whales, basking sharks, dolphins, otters, eagles, porpoises, red deer and a host of other species. When on board, when other crew are busy, our wildlife guides are on deck, or in the wheelhouse, scanning the sea for tell-tale signs of whales, dolphins and eagles. If the wildlife is there, they are very likely to spot it! Our expertise is just as important on our shore trips - apart from spotting wildlife while on land our guides will find and identify plant life and insect life as well. Our policy of accompanying our guests onshore with a wildlife specialist ensures they have the best wildlife experience possible on every shore excursion
Sightings will be influenced by the month and the itinerary of the cruise. Many bird species arrive each year to nest on the Hebridean islands and St Kilda. Puffins can be seen on the sea surface near land and nesting onshore in burrows from the end of April until the beginning of August, while other seabirds nest in colonies on cliffs from the Treshnish Isles to St Kilda. The various species of tern arrive in early May and leave in September while Manx shearwaters are already on the Isle of Rum breeding in early spring and set off again for South America in July.
Basking Sharks are not normally seen in numbers until the middle of July but can be earlier. Dolphins are seen at any time but more often and in bigger pods from August onwards due to the fact the fish (such as mackerel) are forming bigger shoals at this time.
Minke whale, common dolphins, porpoise, grey and common seals are spotted on almost every cruise while the rarer cetacean sightings are likely to occur off the Islands of the Outer Hebrides. Rarer dolphins such as Rissos dolphins and white-sided dolphins are seen there, also Orca although these have also been seen in the Sound of Mull.
Amazing sightings can be seen off the coast of Ardnamurchan in late August and Septembers when large shoals of fish attract thousands of seabirds including Manx shearwaters, gannets and guillemots. This in turn will attract hundreds of common dolphins and usually minke whales which can be viewed at close quarters
For a variety of wildlife, one of the best locations is the delightful “Small Isles” of Eigg, Muck, Canna and Rum. It is very easy to spot red deer on Rum and on Canna our guests are guided to visit the dramatic Stac on the south side of the island with thousands of nesting puffins.
On our Mull cruises we call in at the Treshnish Isles where guests can get very close to hundreds of puffins, who have no fear of humans. Many other nesting bird species can be seen at close quarters. Mull is of course a hot spot for white tailed eagles, as well as dolphins and otters and we usually see the rare corncrake on Iona.
Our cruises to St Kilda are always very special for both crew and guests. Owner and Skipper Rob has been to St Kilda over 200 times and has passed his knowledge on to the crews. They know where all the different species nest in huge numbers and our perfectly designed vessels can get within metres of the cliffs. Ashore, they can find birds from the unique St Kilda wren to the Great Skua and take our guests to the best places to watch the wildlife, including observing cetaceans and basking sharks in Village Bay from the cliffs above.
Generally we expect to see minke whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, deer and white tailed eagles on every cruise as well as over 60 bird species. Read our news pages to read about some of the sightings on our cruises and have a look at our wildlife galleries.