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Shetland Wildlife & Birding Tour - 8 Days

Shetland Wildlife & Birding Tour

Birdwatching and Wildlife Tour in Shetland

This 8-Day Shetland Wildlife and Birding Tour is leisurely paced and available as a set departure.

The Shetland Islands are an amazing group of islands in the subarctic, much closer to Norway than Edinburgh. Only 15 of the 100 islands are inhabited, making them a safe place for wildlife, and we will cover the entire archipelago from two bases.

This all-inclusive tour is set up so that you can enjoy the islands in the summer when they are at their best. During our Shetland wildlife trip there won't be much 'night' as the famous Simmer Dim, a colourful glow from the north, keeps the darkness at bay and giving almost 24 hours of daylight.

Some of the best seabird colonies in the UK are found on Shetland. On the cliffs, there are plenty of Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills. Great and Arctic Skuas search for lost eggs and chicks, and you can see Arctic Terns and Eiders in the calmer parts of the coast. A boat ride around Bressay and Noss gives the opportunity to see thousands of Gannets and other seabirds noisily nesting on the steep cliffs.

As for mammals, Shetland wildlife includes a large number of Otters and it's a great place to spot whales and dolphins, even from the land. Minke Whales, the Risso's Dolphins and White-beaked Dolphins are all resident in these waters. If you are lucky, you might also see Orcas, which visit the coast of Shetland in summer.

There are some interesting Arctic-alpine flowers on the islands, and Golden Plovers, Dunlins and rare birds such as Whimbrels, Red-necked Phalaropes, Whooper Swans and Red-throated Divers breed in the pools and tundra-like moors.

We will also take a special trip to see the Storm-petrels arrive at an Iron Age broch (fortress) after dark, which is a truly unforgettable event.

Shetland Wildlife and Birding Tour highlights include:

  • Late-night boat trip to visit a Storm-petrel colony at an Iron Age fortification
  • Watching Shetland's famous seabird cities from land and sea, and get a close-up perspective a chaotic Gannet colony
  • Searching for Orcas and other cetaceans along the coast
  • Finding and immersing ourselves with Otters
  • Enjoying a plethora of northern breeding birds including Whooper Swans, Whimbrels, Red-necked Phalaropes and Red-throated Divers
  • Experiencing the unique botanical assemblages on Unst

Please note: this set-departure tour is also available as a private or custom tour on request. Please submit an enquiry with your preferred dates and group size.

If you’d like to try an alternative tour, look at what this Cairngorms Wildlife Park and Coast Tour offer.

Alternative Tour Name: Spectacular Shetland Wildlife - The Ultimate UK Wildlife Experience
Day 1
Day 1 - Mainland Shetland airport or ferry terminal

Dan and Rachael will meet you either in Lerwick or at Sumburgh depending on your arrival plans and we will travel to our hotel where you can settle in. After dinner we may take a stroll down to the coast to see if we can find any local Otters.

Day 2
Day 2 - Fetlar

Today we will take the ferry to Yell and then onwards to the island of Fetlar. This is the UK stronghold for the endearing Red-necked Phalarope as well as Whimbrel and Red-throated Divers. These waders breed in the bog ponds which we will explore. Around the pools Arctic and Great Skua occur and species such as Wigeon can be found breeding along their margins.

We will also search Fetlar for the numerous Otters. In fact, the island holds some of the highest densities of Otters anywhere in Europe. They are also excellent areas to search the coast for Orca.

Day 3
Day 3 - Unst

After breakfast we will once again head north taking the first ferry to Yell and onwards to Unst, the UK’s northernmost island. During the morning we will visit the Keen of Hamar, one of Britain’s best sites for Arctic-alpine plants and another remarkably Arctic landscape. We will also take time to search the coast for Otters and the area holds breeding Arctic Terns, Arctic Skuas, Whimbrel and the island is often great for migrant birds.

During the afternoon we will visit the truly phenomenal seabird colony at Hermaness, home to tens of thousands of Gannets, Puffins, Guillemots, Great and Arctic Skuas and looking out to Britain’s most northerly point, Muckle Flugga. The site is extensive and we will walk out across the tundra like moor to enjoy the colony. There should be numerous photographic opportunities here.

Day 4
Day 4 - North Mainland

Today we will explore North Mainland visiting sites such as Eshaness, the huge western peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic and is a highlight of the UNESCO designated Geopark (which actually extends across Shetland). The bays hold Otters, Eiders, Red-throated and Great Northern Divers and if we are lucky we might find the stunning Oysterplant on the shore.

On higher ground we can hope to see Golden Plover and Dunlin breeding with the chance of Greenshank and Mountain Hares.

After dinner we will head out for a remarkable dusk experience on the island of Mousa where over 10,000 Storm Petrels breed in and around the Iron-age Broch. We should witness the ‘Simmer Dim’; the continual glow through the night as we are so far north.

Day 5
Day 5 - Mousa

Whilst the experience is still fresh in our minds we will head back to Mousa to experience the island in the light. During the day the Storm-petrels are out at sea or in their breeding burrows but the island teems with life from the hundreds of Arctic Terns to Arctic Skuas that chase them for prey. Grey and Common Seals occupy the coastal bays and we may see Minke Whale or Risso’s Dolphins in the offshore waters. Red- throated Divers can also be found on the lochan.

There will be many photographic opportunities across the island and with luck we will also encounter the resident family of Otters. With plenty of hours of daylight remaining we will also visit the beautiful beach and island of St Ninians, Loch Spiggie for its water birds and Quendale which funnels migrating birds into a small patch of scrub.

Day 6
Day 6 - West Mainland

West Mainland is an extensive area of moor punctuated by big sea lochs (voes), sandy beaches, marshes, bogs, and freshwater lochans. We will have a leisurely day exploring this area which should offer a great opportunity to enjoy breeding and migrating waders, terns, and divers.

Sheltered inlets should hold Eiders and Red-breasted Mergansers and this is an excellent area for Otters. We will also visit a series of islands formed along a huge fault line (an extension of the Great Glen bisecting mainland Scotland). This area is brilliant for skuas, divers, and whimbrels.

Day 7
Day 7 - Noss Island, South Mainland

Today we hope to take a boat trip out to the spectacular Noss Island Gannetry. The views of both the colony and the birds around the vessel are unparalleled and we also stand a chance of encountering cetaceans on our journey out there. During the remainder of the day we will visit other coastal areas as well as some of the smaller lochans where Red-throated Divers breed. The sheltered voes (bays) are exceptionally good for Otters in this area.

We will take time to enjoy the spectacle of birds around the southern section of Mainland Shetland including the heaving seabird colony at Sumburgh Head where close views of Puffins can be had as well as Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Fulmar and Shag. The headland is also excellent for cetaceans including Orca, White-beaked Dolphin and Minke Whale. We will visit other areas on south Mainland Shetland where we hope to encounter breeding waders such as Snipe and Redshank, Arctic Terns and Red-throated Divers on the lochs.

Day 8
Day 8 - Departure

Following breakfast the tour will conclude at either Sumburgh Airport or Lerwick depending on your travel arrangement. The itinerary outlined is indicative and Wild Discovery reserves the right to alter the itinerary if conditions require.

Wildlife species expected to see:

Puffins, Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Shag, Arctic Skuas, seabirds, Otters, dolphins, whales, Minke Whale, Risso’s Dolphin, White-beaked Dolphin, Orca, Red-throated Diver, Whooper Swans, Whimbrel, Red-necked Phalarope, waders, Arctic Terns, Great Northern Divers, Golden Plover and many more…

What is included?

  • Expert services of two leaders
  • Accommodation
  • All meals (B, L, D)
  • Soft drinks, tea, coffee
  • All transport from start to end location
  • All activities and excursions
  • Gratuities to external service providers
  • Support to our conservation partners
  • A native tree planted on your behalf in our woodland grove

What is not included?

  • Travel before or after tour start/end
  • Trip cancellation Insurance or any other travel insurance
  • Visas
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Other items of a personal nature, e.g. laundry, souvenirs, etc.
  • Anything that is not mentioned in the itinerary and "what is included"

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Why should I book with Wild Discovery?

Wild Discovery was born out of our conviction that the wildlife tourism sector must integrate conservation and sustainability in a more comprehensive approach. We approach everything we do with this mindset in mind. Guests benefit from our trips since we work with and assist conservation organisations. As a result, our visitors are better equipped to support and promote conservation-oriented tourism because of this network of professionals.

Who are the leaders?

Dan and Rachael, founders of Wild Discovery, will be your hosts and leaders during this tour. They are superb naturalists and will bring an exceptional level of knowledge and service to this expedition. From bird songs and moths to plants and ecosystem ecology they will help open up the natural world for you to see the unseen. This exceptional leader-to-guest ratio ensures the highest level of care and attention to your requirements and ultimately a superior travelling experience.

What sort of accommodation do you use?

Our accommodation is carefully selected to be comfortable and well situated (i.e. close to the best sites!). Where possible we select our service providers based on our ‘source locally’ ethos and we support local community businesses at every opportunity. All rooms have ensuite bathrooms.

What is the transport?

We will use 4x4 vehicles and/or 8-seater minibuses depending on numbers.

What is the group size?

4 - 9 guests or we can arrange this itinerary for an individual or private group. Get in touch to discuss your options.

What are the start and end locations?

Mainland Shetland airport or ferry terminal depending on your travel arrangements.

Do you need a minimum fitness level to join this tour?

Our days will have a relaxed pace. There will be optional pre-breakfast strolls in some places. During the day our walks will vary in length and strenuousness. Every walk will be a leisurely wildlife-spotting pace. Some days will involve taking a packed lunch out and we may end up covering several kilometres on those walks (for instance around 6km at Hermaness) but the majority will be much shorter (1-3km over 2-4hrs).

What should I pack for this tour?

We recommend walking boots and a walking pole for days such as at Hermaness whilst lighter, non-slip trainers will be sufficient on other days. The weather can vary hugely between coastal and inland areas. A typical week in June can produce temperatures in the range of 9-14 oC and we would expect a mix of sunshine, showers and wind! We recommend layers that are easy to take off/put on as necessary and waterproof jacket and trousers. We recommend bringing your own binoculars if you have some as they will considerably increase your enjoyment of the wildlife we are there to see. Your leaders will have a telescope with them to enhance your experience.

How do I pay and what are the terms and conditions for this tour?

Payment can be made directly to Wild Discovery via a bank transfer. Wild Discovery’s full booking terms and conditions can be found here: https://wild-discovery.com/booking-conditions For financial protection should Wild Discovery become insolvent Worldwide Traveller Protection via Blue Sky Wildlife (based in the United Kingdom) can offer Worldwide Traveller Protection as a member of The Travel Vault and as part of this membership it has a range of insurances in place to cover the potential insolvency of any of the local wildlife specialists listed on the site, as well as the company itself should Blue Sky Wildlife cease trading. If you would prefer to book through Blue Sky Wildlife and make full payment directly to them to activate this protection at no additional cost, it would also mean the travel contract would be between yourselves and Blue Sky Wildlife. Please refer to their booking terms for more information.

Join Our Fixed Tour Starting Date

Tour Dates Tour Availability From Price Spaces Left
10/06/2023 - 17/06/2023 available GBP 2,195
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You can send your enquiry via the form below.

8 Days

Price & Availability

GBP2,195 / per person
Single Supplement GBP 315
This tour is operated by: Wild Discovery

Quick Enquiry Form

Tour Facts

  • Shetland, United Kingdom
  • Set Departure
  • Set Departure Tour
  • Wildlife
  • 1 to 9 pax
  • 8 Days
  • June, July
  • +15 Years
  • Leisurely
  • No
  • English
  • Sumburgh Airport or Lerwick or Contact Us to Know
  • Sumburgh Airport or Lerwick or Contact Us to Know