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Sea Life Surveys

The Sea Life Surveys crew with Ray Mears, 2012Minke whale, named Kasey, one of the many whales in our photo-identification catalogueBull orca seen August 2012, photo by Julia SiartSula BeagMinke whale approaching Sula Beag

Sea Life Surveys, established over thirty years ago in 1982, was the first and is now the most experienced whale watching, porpoise, shark and dolphin watching, marine survey, and education programme in the UK.

Establishing the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust in 1992, Sea Life Surveys is still actively conducting a research programme focused on the Minke whale and contributing directly to marine conservation

For over 30 years Sea Life Surveys have been successfully operating specialist wildlife trips on the west coast of Scotland in the fascinating and exciting waters around Mull, Coll, Muck Eigg, Rum and the Treshnish Isles. The rugged isles and clean seas provide the perfect environment for the wildlife to flourish and the sea area supports a huge abundance of breeding birds, seals, otters, whales, porpoises and dolphins to name a few. However, it was the mysterious minke whale which first gripped naturalist and skipper Richard Fairbairns imagination and brought Sea Life Surveys to where it is today.

It was a close encounter with this magnificent animal that inspired him, in 1982, to take the first tentative steps towards investigating the little-researched cetaceans of the Inner Hebrides. In order to finance and practically carry out the surveys it was decided to invite people from all works of life to come and enjoy this very special marine environment while knowing that they were actively contributing to our understanding of it. Although 26 of the 83 known species of cetacean occur in British waters, Richard discovered that very little research had been carried out on them. The dearth of information on cetaceans in Scottish waters prompted him to set up a project to investigate them. With advice from whale biologists Vassili Papastavrou and Jonathan Gordon, he created the research organisation, Mull Cetacean Project, (MCP).

 

Months

March • April • May • June • July • August • September • October

Duration

Short (1-3 hours) • Half-day (3-6 hours) • Full day (6-9 hours) • Multi-day

Vessel types

Large boat (50+ passengers) • Small boat (0-50 passengers)

Times and prices

Whalewatch Explorer - 7 hours

£80 (under 14yrs not recommended)

Depart Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, 09.30am

  • Join us on the UK’s first and most experienced whale watching cruise aboard Sula Beag.
  • Professional guide onboard.
  • An island landing (weather permitting) or anchoring somewhere special for lunch.
  • Up to seven hours looking for whales, dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks, seals and many species of seabird.
  • Weather and tides permitting explore the waters around Mull, Coll, Muck, Treshnish Isles or the Ardnamurchan peninsula.
  • Your experienced skipper and professional wildlife guides will be there to ensure personal attention and keep you informed wherever we go, answering any questions you may have.
  • Be part of our ongoing, fascinating research projects or just sit back and relax, with cups of tea, coffee and munchies, enjoying the magic of it all.

Wildlife Adventure - 4 hours

Adult - £50, Child - £40, Family (2+2) - £150

Depart Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, 0930am and 1400pm

  • Go in search of whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea eagles, basking sharks, seals and many species of seabird.
  • Visit a Fish farm, a seal colony and learn about the history and geology of the area.
  • Listen to prawns chatting on the seabed and dolphins when they are about, with our underwater hydrophone.
  • Show off your new found knowledge by taking part in our quiz. Prizes for winners.

Ecocruz - 2 hours

Adult - £30, Child - £20, Family (2+2) - £75

All Year. Monday - Sunday

  • This cruise is similar to the Wildlife Adventure but shorter to suit all from toddlers to grannies.
  • Visit a seal colony, cruise alongside a fish farm, haul a lobster pot.
  • Learn the secrets of the famous Spanish Galleon.
  • Possibly we will see sea eagles, golden eagles and of course many seabirds.
  • Listen to prawns chatting on the seabed and dolphins when they are about, with our underwater hydrophone.
  • Minke whale and dolphins sometimes appear in these waters, so you never know?
  • Show off your new found knowledge by taking part in our quiz. Prizes for winners.

Seal Cruise - 1/2 hour

Adult - £10, Child - £5, Family (2+2) - £25

All year. Monday - Sunday.

A short cruise to the local seal colony. Enjoy views of 'Balamory' from a boat, and look for some of the houses from the popular children’s series.

About our skippers and naturalist guides

Richard Fairbairns (aka Popz) set up Sea Life Surveys over 30 years ago and can still be found skippering on many trips. One of his sons, James, who was brought up on the Isle of Mull helping out Popz from a young age is also a skipper, 2nd Coxswain of the Tobermory Lifeboat, RYA instructor and now runs the family business along with a team of fully trained, experienced guides.

Facilities

Access to wheelhouse • Deck with 360?vision • Disabled access • Hands-on materials (bones, shells etc) • Naturalist guide(s) as well as skipper • On board hydrophone • On board video • On-site visitor center / museum • Onboard research • PA system • Posters / displays / maps • Public participation in research • Reading material available • Restrooms / toilets on board • Scenic backdrop to encounters • Snacks / drinks • Support conservation • Use a code of conduct

We frequently

Listen to whales and dolphins • See leaping dolphins • Watch whales and dolphins

Baleen Whales

Minke Whale

Ocean Dolphins

Bottlenose Dolphin • Risso's Dolphin • Short-beaked Common Dolphin

Porpoises

Harbour Porpoise

Other wildlife and points of interest

Fin Whale White Sided Dolphin Killer Whale/Orca

Address
Taigh Solais, Ledaig
Town / City
Tobermory
State / County
Argyll
Zip / Postcode
PA756NR
Country
United Kingdom
Website
Tel
01688302916
Email
Fauvé
French review
Traveled: 2013-07-11, Reviewed: 2013-10-06
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
Une "attraction" exceptionnelle. Courtes ou longues, toutes les sorties en mer ont en commun d'être très agréables, très enrichissantes et très intéressantes. Milieux marins et côtiers très bien connus des équipages, tout en restant sauvages, riches et respectés. Importance de l'engagement écologique, de l'implication socio-economique locale, recherches sur la faune locale, expérience maritime approfondie, érudition et capacité de vulgarisation, gentillesse, prudence, curiosité, tout est qualité chez Sea Life Surveys. Extrêmes rigueur et professionnalisme dans la pratique quotidienne du whalewatching. En tant que voyageur comme en tant que naturaliste / cétologue amateur, j'y ai passé d'excellents moments.
*** *** ***
An exceptional "attraction". Short or long, all boat trips have in common to be very pleasant, very rewarding and very interesting. Marine and coastal milieu is very well known by the crews, while remaining a wild, rich and respected environment. Important ecological implication, real local socio-economic involvement, conducting research on wildlife, extensive maritime experience, scholarship and outreach capacity, kindness, care, curiosity, everything is great at Sea Life Surveys. Extreme rigour and professionalism in the daily practice of whalewatching. As a visitor as as a naturalist, I spent great moments.
Claire Harrison
Brilliant!
Traveled: 2011-07-12, Reviewed: 2011-10-03
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
A fantastic day of Whale Watching with Sea Life Surveys. The guides knew their stuff and were keen to share their knowledge with the passengers. Very impressed with the general approach and ethos of the company - they clearly have huge respect for the marine life which they follow. Well worth the money (we were on the all day trip) and would cheerfully recommend to anyone. I suspect this will not be the last whale watching trip I take with sealife life surveys! BTW Minke Whales, Basking Sharks, Common Dolphins and Porpoise were spotted!!
Kevin Rowe
Beautiful day
Traveled: 2008-07-08, Reviewed: 2011-08-28
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
Had a very fortunate half day trip with wonderful sunshine off the coast of Mull. We saw Basking Sharks and seals but sadly no whales. However, I found the part where they hauled up the crabs very interesting so I was happy. A lovely trip & good to support such a worthy cause.
Hannah
Minke Whale!!
Traveled: 2011-08-16, Reviewed: 2011-08-20
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
I've been on a number of trips with Sea Life Surveys on my summer holidays over the past 3 years and I have to say I've never been disappointed. The guides and captain are incredibly knowledgeable and clearly love their jobs. I have been fortunate enough to see Minke every time I have been out with Sea Life Surveys in addition to basking sharks, porpoise, sea eagles and the numerous sea birds. This is an organisation that is clearly in the business for the right reasons and I would have no qualms in recommending them to other people - I'll certainly be returning next summer!
burrow
Great Day
Traveled: 1901-12-13, Reviewed: 2011-08-16
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
I have always wanted to witness basking sharks close up and was not left disappointed by SLS.. I found the on board staff ( Lydia, Ruth and Capt Jim ) very knowledgable about the wildlife encountered and the surrounding coastline and enjoyed their company throughly. I had the added bonus of heading further up to Tyree where we spent an hour or so on the beach whilst waiting for the Mull golf society members to board for the return trip. All in all a very pleasant and informative day rounded off with a few quay side drinks with some of the crew !
Rebecca Irwin
Amazing trip! Great fun!
Traveled: 2011-06-27, Reviewed: 2011-08-14
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
Decided to take a trip with Sea Life Surveys after an extremely enthusiastic report from a friend who visits Mull often and always raves about the amazing sights, brilliant crew and how her day out with SLS is always her favourite day of the family holiday :)
We were not disappointed! 2 minke whales, basking sharks, porpoises, seals, gannets, puffins and a sea eagle!!! Pops, Ruth and Holly were great fun, super knowledgeable and friendly, we really feel like we learnt a lot. The island landing for our lunch on the Cairns of Coll was truly unforgettable.
All in all a magical experience, well worth the money, can't wait for our next trip with SLS!
Tracey Thompson
brill time will be going back again
Traveled: 1901-12-13, Reviewed: 2011-08-14
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
despite some bad weather the trip was still worthwhile.
staff on board where; friendly,very helpful and explained everything so well I felt i'd gained so much from the day. Only thing that wasn't so good was the typical Scottish weather!
Paul Carver
Not so lucky this time but Gordon was great
Traveled: 2011-07-24, Reviewed: 2011-08-13
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
This was our second trip with Sea life Surveys out of Tobermory, Mull. It was a special trip as Gordon Buchannan was on board to share his wildlife filming experiences. Last year we went out in June and saw porpoise, basking shark and minke whale as well as many species of seabirds including sea eagle. This year unfortunately there were no whales, dolphins or sharks on the day of our trip but we did get good sightings of harbour porpoise up close to the boat and of course lost of seabirds. Gordon made the trip really as he was very friendly and talked enthusiastically and at length with everyone about his experiences and was also very intersested in our own experiences.
Sue Ricci
Great day for it!
Traveled: 2011-08-04, Reviewed: 2011-08-11
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
We had great weather for our 4-hour family whale watch, so that was fortunate. We were also fortunate to have such a great crew who were knowledgable and very nice to boot! We saw a Minke whale, several porpoises and some seals and many types of sea birds. My kids learned a lot (so did we) about the animals and the area in general, and had a fantastic time being on the lookout. We love Mull and Tobermory and Sea Life Surveys!
AlexRissa
Fantastic wildlife and a brilliant, knowledgeable crew
Traveled: 2011-04-15, Reviewed: 2011-08-11
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
I booked on a Whalewatch Explorer trip very early in the season and was lucky enough to pick a day with absolutely stunning, calm weather ;) The scenery around the Sound of Mull is spectacular and the lunch stop at the Cairns of Coll is quite possibly one of the most beautiful spots in the UK! The wildlife in the area is just incredible - I got to see my first ever Manx Shearwater! And the experienced, knowledgeable and friendly crew just completed the first class experience! Unfortunately, I didn't get to see any cetaceans or basking sharks, but it was very early in the season... and the first mars bar of the year had yet to be won :) Even without the big beasties the seals, white-tailed eagles, seabirds, scenery and Popz, Ruth and Ewan made this a magical experience.
isla
1 out of 5
Traveled: 2011-08-13, Reviewed: 2011-08-08
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
Well, been out with these guys five times, and seen five whales. Unfortunately all whales were seen on the same trip. I know they can't guarentee sightings, but it is disappointing to be out on a boat for six hours and see only a seal or two. There is also the nagging feeling that stopping for lunch for a hour benefits the crew more than it does the passengers. This year we're not bothering, which is a shame. But for a family of four, it's an awful lot of money that we could spend on something else.
Andy Smart
Special guest on board
Traveled: 2011-07-31, Reviewed: 2011-08-08
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
The trip was advertised as having wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan on board. From the advert I was under the impression Gordon's input would be a key / major part of the trip i.e. sharing his knowledge of cetaceans etc with the group. This would justify the £200 price (10% to charity) more than double the normal price for their trips. What we actually got was just a normal trip (having travelled with these guys before) with Gordon on board happily chatting informally to everyone, but for more than double the usual price!
The trip was great, Gordon was very interesting to talk to, but it wasn't worth the vastly increased price. I and some of my fellow passengers felt we had been misled by the advertisement and could see no justification for more than a slight increase in price.
Happy to travel with these guys again, at the normal fee, they run good trips. But in future if they run another special like this they need to be clear about exactly what you will get above and beyond a normal trip.
Frank Jarvie
I won the Mars Bar!
Traveled: 2011-06-20, Reviewed: 2011-08-08
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
A magnificent day on the water in which we saw almost everything - Minkie whales, basking sharks, seals, porpoises, Sea eagles and practically every species of sea bird. The "Guides" were so very well informed and enthusiastic about the wild life, their work and research. The captain (Pops) was very generous with his time and in no hurry to cut the trip short. Lunch in the Cairns of Coll was an experience in itself - almost worth the cost of the trip alone. This is a must repeat experience for me.
If you want to know about the Mars Bar, I strongly recommend you go on a trip with this crew - you'll enjoy it immensely - and maybe you can win a Mars Bar too !
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