It is well known among birders that the British Isles are home to many of the best seabird colonies in Europe. The largest and most spectacular of these colonies are located far from shore on small islands and even rocks, making them accessible only by sea. Land-based travelers can take advantage of local tour boats to cross miles of potentially rough water between mainland ports and these breathtaking bird sanctuaries. However, many birders are now realizing the benefits of reaching these must-see colonies by
Compared with traveling overland and arranging local tour boats, it is far more comfortable, convenient and cost-effective to reach a large number of remote seabird colonies with an expedition cruise. Even those who do not consider themselves to be “cruise travelers” will admit the great benefit of not having to think about arranging the next hotel, the next meal, or the next tour. Better to leave all the logistics in the hands of the friendly and capable crew and just relax until it’s time to have another amazing wildlife adventure!
In addition to being a better way to reach the colonies, expedition cruising offers a better way to experience and photograph the seabirds as well. Expedition cruise ships are larger and more stable than local tour boats and therefore offer more comfortable viewing from spacious open decks, with a lot more elbow room, while still being small and nimble enough to get close to the action. As the ship approaches a seabird site, you hear the sound of thousands upon thousands of birds growing louder and louder until you are in the thick of them. The spectacle ceaselessly unfolds with birds whirling all around, diving into the water, flying back to the nest with fish, deftly maneuvering to avoid marauding skuas, and generally engaging in a nonstop feeding and breeding extravaganza.
If conditions are rough, you and your fellow cruise passengers will have the place all to yourselves because smaller tour boats cannot reach the colonies in rough weather. If conditions are calm, then you have the possibility of getting the best of both worlds. It might be time to board a Zodiac for a cruise around the site, giving you an even more intimate experience with the birdlife from sea level. It might even be possible to go ashore for yet another great perspective of the place. An added benefit of traveling by cruise ship is the flexible itinerary, which allows for the possibility of experiencing magnificent seabird cliffs and sea stacks by the magical light of dawn or dusk. Indeed, sea bird colonies never sleep.
But one must be careful when booking, as not all cruise itineraries are designed with birders in mind. If you are serious about seeing the best seabird colonies in the British Isles, make sure the itinerary includes places like the Skellig Islands, Rathlin Island, St Kilda, the Flannan Islands, the Isle of Noss, Fair Isle, and Bass Rock. The itinerary of