Monday, September 8, 2014

SMALL-SHIP CRUISING IN THE INNER HEBRIDES (Part 3)

Our safari van
After a quiet night anchored in Tobermory Harbour, everyone went on a full-day island safari with David Woodhouse. He is a naturalist and owns Isle of Mull Wildlife Expeditions. The safari, for that is what it was, lasted from 10am to 5:15pm. Our leader brought lunch (hot soup and sandwiches), and coffee, tea, and cake for snacks.

Looking for otters and seals
David's van is a huge 10-pax Ford and everyone has a window.   David is an
expert on birds and otters. Stopped for sea eagles (3 ft tall) and rare; deer; golden eagles (rare); Red-throated divers, the Great Northern Diver (loon), mergansers, eider ducks; and seals. Sadly the otters did not appear for us.

Isle of Inchkenneth  in the mouth
of Loch Scridain
Around every corner the views are stunning: mountains, lochs, and islands. The north coast is wild and unspoiled (machair) with strong cool winds. The east coast has more trees, thus sheltered and making it feel warmer. A whole peninsula is part of a nature conservancy area and is inaccessible by road. Only hikers can get in. 

The day was a mix of sun and cloud with a cold wind blowing, that discouraged the patience we needed to locate the rarer birds and mammals. We persevered.

Anyone who takes a tour like this needs to be aware that there are no toilets enroute, but bushes work if you can find one. If you are not passionate about birds, choose another tour that focusses on scenery and history. Either way, take thick sweaters, windproof jackets, toques, gloves and scarves. Low cut hiking boots are essential, to say nothing of binoculars and cameras with long lenses.

Mull is too big to tour in one day if you are stopping every five minutes to photograph a scenery or wildlife. 
The glen to the east

We drove south from Tobermory to:
  • Loch Na Keal and did both sides
  • Though a glen (mountain pass) to Loch Scridain with views of Inchkenneth, Ulva, Staffa, and several smaller islands.
  • Northeast via another glen to Duart Castle and Craignure.
  • Hence to Tobermory where the tender met us and took us back to Glen Tarsen.

That night the crew put on a huge, surprise birthday party for two passengers complete with decorations. The table groaned with seafood — lobsters, oysters, scallops, etc. all caught this morning. The chef even produced birthday cake with candles. The Victoria sponge with butter icing was demolished at one sitting.

IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2014. All rights reserved