Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Howdy, Birders,
Traveling by ship through the isles of Scotland has long been a dream of mine. Well, it is about to become reality! I invite you to join me on a journey to the Hebrides and St. Kilda on an all inclusive voyage, 24 April through 2 May, 2012.
This unique voyage which begins in Oban, takes us to the Inner and Outer Hebrides. Followed by NORTHERN GANNETS, below, NORTHERN FULMARS and ATLANTIC PUFFINS, we will explore the lovely green island of Iona, the spectacular cave Fingals's Cave on the small island Staffa and other beautiful islands. This unique voyage is strictly limited to 12 guests. As of this writing, 8 berths are available.
Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides and is often referred to as the "Queen of the Hebrides." It is renowned worldwide not only for its many distilleries producing single malts with smooth, full, rich and peaty character. We will visit the single malt distillery, Laphroaig, below. I've wanted to visit this particular distillery ever since the Scotsman, Peter Roberts, offered me my first glass of this distinctive, peaty single malt on my first Antarctica voyage on board the M/V Explorer, in 2001!
We will visit Iona, Staffa and Treshnish Islands. Iona has been an island of deep spiritual significance for more than 1000 years. No less than 62 Kings of Scotland are buried here, including Duncan I who was murdered by Macbeth. Weather permitting, we will make a stop at the island of Staffa to view the amazing Fingal's cave. We'll sail west and explore the tiny Treshnish Islands, located in the waters between Mull and Tiree. Now uninhabited, this group of low islands are home to thousands of seabirds and a large population of Common and Atlantic Gray Seals. We hope to land on the largest of the islands, Lunga, to walk amongst the surprisingly tame Atlantic Puffins and see remnants of past habitation that dates back to the Viking period.
Through the Sound of Harris we shall head to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of St. Kilda, a remarkable uninhabited archipelago some fifty miles beyond the Outer Hebrides. Far flung and breathtakingly wild, St. Kilda is one of Scotland's most outstanding natural spectacles. It is a dual World Heritage Site, listed for both its natural environment and cultural significance.
We will drop anchor in Village Bay on the main island Hirta and wander through the remnants of the village. The last islanders were evacuated in the 1930s. We will cruise past the impressive island of Boreray and the amazing Stac an Amin and Stac Lee, where tens of thousands, indeed the world's largest colony of NORTHERN GANNETS nest. (60,000 pairs) Up close it is difficult to know what is more impressive: the seething mass of life or the savage grandeur of the towering cliffs on which the seabirds nest. Along with the gannets are colonies of Northern Fulmars and Atlantic Puffins. GREAT SKUA also breeds here. Boreray is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), part of the North Uist Machair & Islands Special Protected Area (SPA) and a Ramsar site.
On the west side of the Isle of Lewis we shall visit the Callanish Stones, a cross-shaped setting of the standing stones erected around 3000 BC. This is one of the most incredible megalithic monuments in Scotland.
The main occupations on the islands are fishing, sheep farming and tweed production. Other wildlife we may encounter include MINKE WHALE and BASKING SHARK.
The small island of Canna has a tiny agricultural and cattle-rearing population. From a walk along the cliff top we shall have stunning views and may see Golden Eagles, White-tailed Eagles and Peregrine Falcons. The adjoining island of Rum is a nature reserve and an oasis for birders. We shall pay a visit to Kinloch Castle, an eclectic 19th century turreted castle built by the Bullough family. Manx Shearwaters formerly nested on Canna, but have declined seriously due to brown rats.
If this voyage interests you please contact me at debi@shearwaterjourneys.com; 831-637-8527, as soon as possible. It is expected to sell out quickly. The fee of $5585 per person INCLUDES the following: 7 nights on board M/S Stockholm; one night hotel in Glasgow; transfer Glasgow-Oban; all meals on board; all wine, beer and drinks; an experienced Expedition Leader/knowledgable naturalist guide; lectures on board and on shore; all shore excursions and activities by Zodiac; the customary gratuity to the ship's crew; a detailed log book. NOT INCLUDED: Flights to/from Glasgow; travel and cancellation insurance; personal expenses. Some excellently priced airfares are available during the time of this voyage.

Scotland by sea is a voyage not to be missed! I hope you will join me.
Gannets forever,
Debi Shearwater

Please note: Our exact route will depend on weather conditions and wildlife sightings. The places mentioned above are the planned itinerary, but can be changed. We always strive to maximize your experience. Remember, flexibility is the key to a successful expedition. This voyage will take place on board M/S Stockholm, a classic vessel built in 1953 for The Swedish National Maritime Administration. In 1999 she was totally refurbished and began her career as a comfortable passenger ship. She carries a maximum of 12 passengers in outside twin cabins, all with upper and lower berths and private facilities. She is a marvelous piece of maritime history with beautiful brass details and pine decks. This is an entirely different experience and perspective to that of a larger vessel. On board you will enjoy delicious meals in the company of likeminded travelers who enjoy the natural world. The food is of good quality. All beverages are included. A trip on board M/S Stockholm in this remote region with its unique wildlife and intact nature is a most unusual experience.
All images, copyright: Jonas Sundquist, Olle Carlsson, Oscar Westman, Shearwater Journeys.

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