Wild Shetland – and the hope of Orca!

Holiday overview:

  • Timed to target and prioritise Shetland’s Orca excitement
  • Connected into Shetland’s news networks for wildlife sightings
  • All-inclusive itinerary – everything from your arrival to departure
  • Led by resident naturalist guides – unrivalled local knowledge & insight into Shetland life
  • Dedicated Otter-tracking day – small group size offers unique and unparalleled insight
  • Late-night boat excursion for Storm Petrels & boat trip to a world-renowned seabird colony
  • 2 hotels – venues used to ensure best locations and logistics for itinerary
  • This tour will include a short beach clean as part of our commitment to protecting Shetland’s natural environment

2024 Dates:

  • Saturday 13th July – Saturday 20th July, 2024

A question many guests ask about our holidays, “will we see Orca?” or “which is the best time for us to see Orca?” During our core spring/summer season Orca usually put in an appearance each week. It has become clear over recent summers that July has consistently been the peak summer month, with sightings on a near daily basis.

Though they, like all other wildlife, are far from guaranteed, this regularity gave us the confidence to launch this Orca prioritising itinerary.

Like other itineraries of the season, we will enjoy Shetland’s most iconic species and locations through the itinerary such as Storm Petrels on Mousa, Red-necked Phalarope on Fetlar, the Gannets of Noss, the awe-inspiring spectacle of Hermaness and our speciality- the otter! Orca sightings will however be priority and the ‘hoped for’ headline act!

News of Orca sightings has never been so accessible in Shetland. There is a growing and proactive community, sharing sightings and information across various social media platforms. This helps us know when and where sightings occur and so gives us the best possible chance of encounters.

On any itinerary we might receive news of a sighting but might be committed to an excursion, a majority vote through the group may go against an adrenalin fueled Orca chase from one island to another. This can and does happen. On this tour though – if logistically possible – we WILL GO!

An itinerary overview, bearing in mind that it could change at any time if we receive news of Orca:

Day 1

On arrival at Sumburgh Airport you will be transferred to Sumburgh Hotel, just a short five-minute drive away. Meet in hotel reception at 1830hrs where all guides and guests will become acquainted before a welcome dinner.

The standard for excitement and adventure is set from the off on this first evening with a late-night excursion as we visit the enchanting island of Mousa, a small RSPB reserve which lies to the east of South Mainland. Here during the twilight of the late evening thousands of dainty Storm Petrels, our smallest breeding seabird, return to their nest-sites in the walls of the Iron Age broch – arguably the most impressive broch of its kind. Watching the petrels fluttering like bats against the summer night sky and listening to their incredible purring song is a simply unforgettable experience! We will also provide an exclusive insight into the petrels’ behaviour, ecology and breeding success.

Overnight at Sumburgh Hotel.

Day 2

We begin our voyage of discovery at Shetlands southern extremity, and RSPB reserve, Sumburgh Head. Headland extremities such as these are fantastic watchpoints for cetaceans, not least for them to be a turning point for coasting pod of Orca, but also for feeding aggregations for species such as Minke Whale, Risso’s, White-beaked or White-sided Dolphins, and of course the smallest of them all, Harbour Porpoise.

While scanning offshore thousands of seabirds entertain and enthral with Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and our first Puffins! Sumburgh is the ideal setting in which to start to get to know some of Shetland’s breeding birds, with everything close at hand.

In the afternoon we shall take time to savour such iconic vistas as Loch of Spiggie (an R.S.P.B. reserve), the stunning St Ninians Isle, which is joined to the mainland by a world famous sand beach tombolo and the tops of Mossy Hill. We may even venture slightly further north into central Mainland depending on recent sightings on the grapevine.

Overnight at Sumburgh Hotel.

Day 3

After breakfast we are bound for Shetland’s capital, Lerwick, where we join the multi award winning Shetland Seabird Tours. Onboard the MV Ayda Ruby II we enjoy the renowned expertise of skipper and naturalist, Phil Harris, for an unforgettable two-hour trip to the tiny island of Noss. Here we visit the spectacular Noss National Nature Reserve to marvel at its breathtaking cliffs, which are alive with the hustle and bustle of one of the largest seabird colonies in the islands. We enjoy an exhilarating cast of seabirds including Kittiwake, Shag, Common Guillemot, Razorbill and Atlantic Puffin, but the star of the show is the Northern Gannet, with well over 12,000 breeding pairs, not to mention the spectacular feeding frenzy, plunge diving just metres from the boat, is not to be missed!

After lunch we continue on to the northern part of the Shetland Mainland. Along the way we will soak up the stunning scenery and make strategic wildlife stops; this, combined with commentary from your guide throughout the journey, is an ideal way to adapt and become familiarized with the Shetland environment. On route we follow the east side of Shetland Mainland via Nesting and onto Vidlin before making our way into North Mainland where we check in to St Magnus Bay in Hillswick.

Overnight at St Magnus Bay Hotel.

Day 4

Hillswick and Eshaness

Today we begin to explore the magnificent and rugged north-western part of Shetland Mainland. From a geological and landscape perspective, this remote corner of the islands is unique and there is much to admire. At 450 metres above sea level, Ronas Hill is hardly a mountain yet it is the highest point in Shetland. At Eshaness lighthouse, the breathtaking views of one of Shetland’s most iconic vistas are guaranteed, and an examination of a nearby blowhole is not for the faint-hearted. If the weather is good, we will spend time scanning for whales and dolphins out at sea. Risso’s, White-sided and White-beaked Dolphins, Minke Whales and of course Killer Whales have all be seen from here with a bit of luck and a keen eye. Harbour Porpoises are the most common cetacean and perhaps more predictable, and we should be able to find these at our regular sites.

On our way back we will we stop off at Urafirth to admire one of the few remaining mainland colonies of the beautiful and nationally scarce Oysterplant.

Overnight at St. Magnus Bay Hotel.

Day 5

Today we journey to the very top of Britain, the island of Unst. Island hopping, via two ferry crossings we make the most of our time on the water, scanning for those iconic fins! The very northern extremity of the islands, Hermaness National Nature Reserve is our first excursion . Setting out on foot through the heart of the reserve, we can guarantee ‘up close and personal’ encounters with Great Skuas, known locally as Bonxies, which nest in large numbers on the moorland interior. Reaching the spectacular cliffs on the west side of the reserve, we hope to be greeted by Puffins before breathtaking views of Muckle Flugga and the most northerly lighthouse in Britain. These and surrounding stacks and cliffs boast well over 20,000 breeding pairs of Gannets, the largest colony in Shetland. As well as seabirds, we shall be serenaded by other moorland species during our walk, from bubbling Curlews and cryptic Golden Plovers to the parachuting song-flight displays of Meadow Pipits and the ubiquitous Skylarks.

Later in the day we visit the Keen of Hamar National Nature Reserve, one of the UK’s most remarkable botanical sites, where the moon-like landscape of serpentine rock, collection of Arctic Alpines and an endemic plant, Edmonston’s Chickweed (found nowhere else in the world), make this a firm favourite. We shall also take time search for species such as Frog Orchid, Moonwort, Norwegian Sandwort and Northern Rock Cress and others.

On route the ferry crossings are ideal opportunity to scan for cetaceans, with a good chance especially of Harbour Porpoise and our fingers will of course be crossed for Orca…

Overnight St Magnus Bay Hotel

Day 6

Unique to Shetland Nature, we will spend the day devoted to one of Shetland’s star wildlife attractions, the wild Otter! In the absence of Badger or Fox, the Otter takes centre stage. With a higher density than anywhere else in the world, it is little wonder that Shetland has long been recognized as the best place to see and study this wonderful mammal. It was in fact around this very species that Shetland Nature was evolved, through Brydon Thomason’s lifelong passion and experience of them. It is little wonder that Otter watching is therefore our signature specialty, and we pride ourselves on our unrivalled otter encounters. We have yet to have a group leave disappointed and we have every confidence in our continued success.

Here is one of the many areas that our guests experience first-hand the benefits of our small group size and the leadership of local naturalists. Our approach is based on our unsurpassed knowledge of Shetland’s Otters; where and when to stand the best chance of encounters and most of all how to search and observe without disturbance. We will visit some of the best sites in the islands to give you a unique insight into the secret lives of one of the nation’s most evocative and captivating animals.

Our sensitivity towards Shetland’s Otters is as renowned as our success with guests’ encounters. We operate under a government legislation Schedule 2 license issued by Scottish Natural Heritage.

Overnight at Sumburgh Hotel.

Day 7

Overnight at Sumburgh Hotel.

Day 8

After breakfast the tour ends and you will be transferred to the airport.

Booking – Holiday Dates

Fitness Level Required
Walks of up to three or four miles (maximum in a day) and at times over uneven terrain
Price: £1,935
2024 Dates
Saturday 13th July to Saturday 20th July, 2024
(due to popular demand we are offering a second holiday alongside our sold out tour)
Sold Out
Saturday 13th July to Saturday 20th July, 2024 Sold Out

Contact us for more information and to register your interest.

Private Tour Options: This holiday can also be arranged exclusively for private booing for couples, families or small groups.

Contact us for information and cost proposal for your own exclusive/tailor-made holiday. Email: [email protected]

Additional holiday information:

  • Read about the hotels we use – view our hotel providers.
  • All meals, accommodation, guiding fee’s and excursions as well as ferry fares and transport are included in package cost.
  • All boat trips are subject to weather availability.
  • Not included in cost are items of a personal nature or hotel bar tabs nor is travel to and from Shetland included.
  • No single supplement charged.
  • On booking please advise of any special requirements medical or dietary.
  • Throughout the holiday some of the activities will potentially involve walks of up to three or four miles (maximum in a day) and at times over uneven terrain. A reasonable level of fitness is advised however this is run at a leisurely pace. We can also provide holidays at an even more leisurely pace; please contact us for details.
  • Please note that all itineraries are subject to change but guests will be advised in advance should it be necessary to make any major changes.

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