May04

Hello from the Hebrides!

Hello from the Hebrides!

ORCA Ocean Conservationist Jess has returned to the Hebrides for another survey season with CalMac Ferries

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ORCA Ocean Conservationist Jess

After ORCA kept me busy over the winter with a spectacular trip to Antarctica and the Falkland Islands, I have now returned to the Hebrides to survey marine mammals with CalMac Ferries until October. 

This year I will be surveying marine mammals on the following crossings throughout the summer season: 

  • Mallaig to Lochboisdale, South Uist 

This is a very scenic route to the Outer Hebrides as it sails past the South of the Isle of Skye and the Isles of Eigg, Rum, and Canna. 

  • Ullapool to Stornoway, Isle of Lewis  

This route sails from the beautiful highland town of Ullapool, through the Summer Isles, and out into the Northern Minch, heading to Stornoway, the capital of the Outer Hebrides. 

  • Uig to Tarbert, Isle of Harris

This crossing from Skye to Harris takes you past the Shiant Isles, one of my favourite places in the Hebrides and where thousands of seabirds nest every year. 

  • Uig to Lochmaddy, North Uist 

Another great crossing over the Minch from Skye to North Uist, sailing past Waternish point, a great spot for minke whales. 

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A stunning beach not far from Lochboisdale on South Uist

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Another spectacular beach, this time on Iona.

Although April is still early in the survey season, the cetacean sightings have been coming in thick and fast, and my old friends the, common dolphins, delighted passengers on board the MV Lord of the Isles who were heading back to Mallaig from Lochboisdale.

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A common dolphin swimming in the wake of the MV Lord of the Isles

This year CalMac has teamed up with West Coast Tours to deliver an ORCA Ocean Conservationist Experience onboard the Oban to Craignure ferry for people travelling with West Coast Tours to the Isles of Mull, Staffa, and Iona. West Coast Tours customers with be joined by Hebrides Ocean Conservationist Peter for their 45-minute crossing to Mull across the Sound of Mull, where seals, porpoises, otters, and sometimes dolphins are seen. In March I got a chance to test out this unique trip with staff from West Coast Tours and CalMac. After a year of virtual online meetings, it was wonderful to finally meet some of the CalMac staff in person!

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Staff from CalMac Ferries, West Coast Tours, and ORCA, at the start of our trip to Mull and Iona.

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Another spectacular beach, this time on Iona.

I can’t wait to see what this year’s survey season in the Hebrides brings. I am looking forward to being reunited with my reliable favourites like harbour porpoises and minke whales, and I am really hoping for some more unusual sights this year too, such as orcas, basking sharks, and Risso’s dolphins. Fingers crossed for sunny crossings, more mammals, and less midge bites!

Ocean Conservationist Jess (The Hebrides)