Joined a 3 day trip in Oban with one night based in Tobermory and another in Coll. I didn't know what to expect but based on pictures on the website I hoped to get close to a basking shark.
Meeting at Oban to load up the boat there was the promise of some good weather for the first 2 days which is always a bonus when you are taking part in an outdoor trip in Scotland. Our first stop was in Tobermory which was buzzing since it was the day of the Highland games where we dropped off our overnight bags and picked up some food and drink for the day.
The forecast was the weather to get even better throughout the day so the crew planned for us to have a long day out on the sea to take advantage of this. We travelled to the cairns of Coll for our first in water experience snorkelling around the little islands, meeting seals in the deeper pools and having short walk over the white beaches. The water was clear, blue and warm. A perfect intro to the sea.
From here the boat travelled out to begin looking for bigger marine life. We soon saw porpoises and there were huge flocks of seabirds all around. The sea was flat and glistening in the sun. We needed our sun cream not our waterproofs - a real treat - when the weather is good Scotland looks fantastic.
Our big animal treat was a show put on by one of the minke whales we saw which made repeated trips alongside and under our boat giving us close up views of all sides as it did this. So much closer than I expected and a real treat.
We also got basking shark action later in the day and had our first chance to get close to one of them. The team are very very good and their focus is on your safety and the well being of the marine life at all times. With the snorkel gear on it was possible to get close to the shark, but this does involve a bit of swimming these are animals in their domain and they decide if we see them close up or not! The shark swam towards us and then went straight under me as it dived deeper and disappeared from view. I was smiling as we swam back to the boat. We spent more time out on the water watching the activity as the sea birds flew around - the gannets were diving to feed, there were masses of birds - a treat for birdwatchers. As it the sun dropped we headed back to Tobermory and could see the fins of basking sharks which was a good sign for the next day.
After a short night in Tobermory, staying at the youth hostel, we made our way to Coll where we dropped off the night bags in the bunkhouse before making our way out for another day on the water. Unbelievably the weather was better than the day before and the sea was even flatter.
What a great day we had. An ocean sunfish was spotted by the guides and amazingly it stayed around us for a very long time. We were able to go in the water in small groups to see it and it swam right among us - a real wow moment and not something I would have expected. We saw more minkes but they were not as playful today. Later in the day we were treated to seeing basking sharks feeding which we could see clearly from the boat. They were harder to get close to since they were circling and focused on feeding so we had a few swims where they were close, then moved away. This lets you see how effective their swimming is - they feel like they are within reach and then the next time you look they are far far away.
Another great day with more seabird activity including huge flocks of shearwaters flying alongside the boat and seeing the effect that a great skua arriving had as all of the birds took off and left the water.
After 2 days of sun the water was really warm on the surface - what a delight to float in the Atlantic in a swimsuit and not feel cold!
Day 3 saw the clouds return and some rain appear but we still had a great day. We made our way from Coll to Fingal's cave where some of the group got the wetsuits and snorkelling gear on to swim into the cave while others used the inflatable canoes to see inside. What an awesome structure - from the water looking up to the ceiling is a breathteaking view. We followed this by a trip to see puffins who will soon be heading off as the chicks are now ready for flight. Swimming into the island and then walking up to see them in a wetsuit is not something I expected to do and I know that the other tourists were a bit surprised to see figures in wetsuits join them. The top of the cliff was a mass of puffins who were not at all scared of us. Another amazing image to take away from this once in a lifetime trip.
The rain began to fall more heavily so we made our way downhill and swam back to the boat where we reflected on a truly fantastic 3 days on the journey back to Oban via Tobermory.
Nobody can guarantee the Scottish weather, but the knowledgeable guides will do everything they can to make sure you enjoy your trip, while they share their passion for marine life with you.
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