11 - 18
WILD SHETLAND with SIMON KING
Join Simon in the most northerly outpost of the British Isles – the land of the Simmer Dim – as we approach the longest day of the year.
Shetland has as much in common with the High Arctic as it does with mainland Britain. A land dominated by sea and sky, with a wildlife community to rival any in the world.
Simon’s first-hand knowledge of Shetland and its wild inhabitants is born of spending many months living and filming on the islands. Together with help from local naturalists, he will be taking you into some of the most dramatic and elusive of natural encounters.
Simon’s capacity to interpret animal behaviour and shed light on events which might otherwise pass you by is unparalleled. You won’t just be watching wildlife – you will be immersed in the fabric of life on Shetland, from the tiniest detail to the grandest of spectacles. Simon will share his knowledge as a professional photographer and cinematographer and help you develop your skills not only in how you watch wildlife but also in techniques for recording your experiences.
Simon will be your guide on all the adventures the trip has to offer and will enjoy sharing stories with you over supper each evening.
Accommodation is in the Busta House Hotel, a real favourite of Simon’s. Joel and Grant, who own and run the hotel, have a gentle understated attention to detail and ensure that the needs of each and every guest are catered for.
There is an easy, peaceful comfort and atmosphere here – the ideal oasis in which to relax after a long day in the field.
Situated in Brae in the centre of mainland Shetland, Busta has masses of wildlife on the doorstep and is in the perfect position from which to head out on our wildlife watching forays.
Guests make their own provision for reaching Shetland. Some may choose to fly to Sumburgh Airport in the south of the mainland. Others (and that includes Simon) may prefer the sea crossing from Aberdeen – a fourteen hour overnight run by ferry. If you come with your own vehicle you can make your way to the hotel at your convenience; if not, we will organise transport to get you to the hotel.
After you’ve had a chance to settle into your room and freshen up, we will meet for drinks and a chat, during which Simon will give a short presentation on his experiences in Shetland and we will look ahead to what wild wonders may be encountered during the week to come.
After a three course supper, we head for our beds – tomorrow kicks off with an early start!
June 12th – June 18th
We have organised a rich and varied itinerary of events to thrill even the most experienced of wildlife lovers. The days will be full and tailored to the weather, tide and wildlife. For a flavour of what’s to come, read on!
Close encounters with wild otters. Perhaps one of the most iconic creatures in Shetland, and one that often eludes the casual visitor. If there is one animal that Simon has a personal passion for this is it … he is a self-confessed otterholic! Having spent many thousands of hours working with and simply watching these beautiful charismatic creatures, Simon will share with you the in depth knowledge he’s gleaned over decades, ensuring encounters that will touch you but will leave the otters as we found them – wild, free and unaware of our presence.
Watch this short film to get a flavour of what’s to come.
Gannet colonies, which host many thousands of birds will be viewed from land and sea.
This is the largest seabird in the UK, and one of the most dynamic. To be surrounded by a vast throng of gannets as they plummet from the heavens to snatch a fish from the sea is a hugely emotional and exhilarating experience.
Even the more domestic elements of their lives, as they court, nest build and rear their young, are set on some of the most spectacular sea cliffs in the world – a natural theatre you will enjoy from the best seats in the house.
During our chartered boat trip around the Isle of Noss, we will take time to view Marine Life beneath the waves. Using a remote submersible, we will stream live pictures of a submerged shipwreck that now hosts a dazzling variety of curious life forms, from soft corals and sea squirts to gardens of anemones and fish.
Whilst they are notoriously unpredictable, sightings of Orcas (Killer Whales) have become increasingly regular in recent years around the coastline of Shetland. Simon has watched and filmed these wolves of the sea as they hunt seals close inshore on many occasions and on adventures Simon has hosted in the past, guests have had the good fortune to enjoy extraordinary views. Whilst there can be no guarantee of an encounter, Simon’s contact with friends around the Islands ensures the highest of chances that any sightings will be shared. At all times throughout your adventure, be prepared for a change of plan!
Everyone loves a puffin, and there are few places better to get up close and personal with these charming birds. Simon will take you to the very finest puffin colonies on the Islands, giving you the time and space to immerse yourself in their world. At this time of year, the puffins are feeding their chicks, offering the iconic view of birds coming in to the colonies with beaks filled with sand eels. Their activity does not go unnoticed by the Bonxies (Great Skuas) whose piratical raids send ripples of fear and flight throughout the colonies – natural dramas playing out before your eyes.
Night Fairies – The mystical and spellbinding arrival of the Storm Petrels to their nest sites in an Iron Aged Fort under the cover of what little darkness there is at this time of year. We board the boat and leave the mainland late in the evening, in time to explore Moussa with its ground nesting fulmars, terns, arctic skuas and divers. Late into the mid-summer night we gather at the Broch and await the arrival of the petrels. The first hint of their coming is the soft purring of the birds which are incubating eggs within the cracks of the walls – a message to their mate that the time is right. And then they come – a hint of wing flutter near your face, tiny dark forms against the darkening sky. Bat sized birds who have been feeding on the ocean, joining their partners to share the family duties – all the time trying to avoid the predatory gaze of the skuas and gulls. This is one of the most moving and memorable of natural encounters
The Simmer Dim. We brush shoulders with the longest day of the year, when the sun barely sets on Shetland, and take a midnight trip to marvel at the glorious soundscape of this unique place on earth. The chorus of golden plover, curlew, snipe and perhaps the distant unearthly cry of a Diver create an atmosphere at once magical and increasingly rare.
Other creatures and experiences we will be seeking out include:
Unique opportunities to view wildlife from Simon’s portable hides – offering unparalleled opportunities for photographers to get those intimate images and for anyone with a passion for wildlife to get up close and personal with some of the more nervous Island inhabitants.
Revelations of the Camera Trap kind: Simon utilises his suite of camera traps to reveal the hidden behaviour of otters, hares, Puffins and more. Video footage captured by the cameras is downloaded and shared with guests back in the comfort of the hotel.
We will go in search of Island Specialities such as:
Red-necked Phalarope, Great Skua (Bonxie) Arctic Skua, Red-throated divers, Mountain Hares, Grey and Harbour Seals, Black Guillemot (Tysties) and so much more…
The price of your adventure will include:
7 nights in the Busta House Hotel – Breakfast, Lunch (this will often be a packed lunch, tailored to each guests’ needs) and Three Course Dinner with soft drinks (alcoholic drinks to be paid for individually by guests).
All transport once on the Islands, including ferries to each of the Islands visited in the archipelago and all chartered boat trips.
And a few surprises along the way!
Please note, a reasonable level of mobility and fitness is required since we shall be walking over moderately rough ground and boarding and disembarking boats by foot from time to time.