Scottish Wildlife Cruises

Scottish Wildlife Cruises

Above And Below The Waves

All our Scottish cruises throughout the islands and Sounds of the Outer and Inner Hebrides and Argyll are designed with the region's spectacular wildlife in mind and our guests are always delighted at the wealth of wildlife they encounter on our cruises. All of our Scottish small boat cruises are wildlife cruises.  From the decks of the St Hilda and from the tender we can see an incredible amount of rare bird and marine life. Just below the surface of the sea we can sample and examine the minute and spectacular world of plankton. We can set lobster pots, explore the rock pools and even fish for our supper - all this makes for a perfect wildlife holiday in Scotland.

Over 24 species of birds have been recorded in one day: from large rafts of Manx Shearwaters and Guillemots, to sightings of sea eagles.  We regularly see porpoises, dolphins and seals and occasionally orcas, minke whales and basking sharks. Anchored near the shore we spot wild mountain goats, roe deer and otters. In the St Hilda's tender we can carefully approach colonies of grey and common seals basking in the sun.

Recently we had a humpback whale breach in front of the boat  - that was a truly unforgettable example of wildlife Scotland.

St Hilda's guests are able to use the onboard microscopes to examine the spectacular underwater world of microscopic plankton that we have collected earlier on by dragging a very fine-meshed net from behind the boat. 

The Wonderful Invisible World Of Plankton

Plankton means to "wander or drift" and Scotland's "ocean drifters" travel to the rhythms of the ocean currents and winds and live and die in an underwater environment that is only now just being understood. Microscopic plankton is made up of bacteria, viruses and plant (Phytoplankton) and animal (Zooplankton) single and multi cells in a complex interdependent mix. Their role is fundamental to the survival of the planet as the plankton provides us with oxygen and mops up the carbon dioxide. Their environment could change rapidly, because global warming will affect their habitat and their distribution. For many years aboard St Hilda we have been collecting and looking at Scottish plankton especially for any plankton species that are found only in the tropics. There is a direct route from the tropical seas by the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Current to our cruising grounds on the west coast of Scotland as well as the Slope Current that travels up from the warmer waters of Spain along the continental shelf.

In 2016 a St Hilda's skipper published a paper on tropical plankton collected from the waters of Belize and the Gulf of Honduras. He used the same methods of towing a fine meshed net over the stern, as do the guests on St Hilda. To date the guests haven’t found any tropical species but it doesn’t mean they are not there. What they have discovered though is the wonderful underwater world of microscopic plankton – a true microcosm of life.

St Hilda Sea Adventures is very aware of the special nature of the environment in which it operates and makes every effort to run the boat in a way that protects the pristine places it visits.

At times my sides were aching with laughter with endless funny stories from the crew and other guests.

Andrew Swales, 2016