WILDLIFE SAFARI ON THE FORTH

The Scottish Seabird Centre has a new, custom-built catamaran, Seafari Explorer, ready to take visitors out to see the wildlife on the islands of the Forth. The 57-seater vessel has been designed to take visitors swiftly out to Craigleith, home to the Centre’s SOS Puffin project, and then on to the world-famous Bass Rock, the largest single-island gannet colony in the world with over 150,000 gannets at peak season. Thousands of gannets have already returned to the rock to breed; the puffins are expected to be seen on Craigleith any day now. The boat is environmentally friendly since it has an array of solar panels built into its superstructure and engines that run partially on used oil from the Centre’s café.

Image 1The catamaran was officially named in a ceremony just ahead of starting operation during the Easter weekend. The Centre had run a “name the boat” competition, which was won by Margaret Bissett from Pencaitland, who became its first passenger on a trip from the harbour at North Berwick. The new boat will run daily trips until October and will also act as a floating classroom for visiting school groups.

The vessel is part of the long and rich history of passenger boats operating out of East Lothian port. As long ago as the 10th century, a regular service was established from North Berwick to Earlsferry in Fife. At its height some 10,000 pilgrims every year made the journey to visit the relics of Scotland’s patron saint in St Andrews. Throughout the twentieth century many boats took visitors from North Berwick out to see the nearby islands that are so rich in wildlife.

Tom Brock, Chief Executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre, pointed out that the new boat represented “a significant investment in tourism for both the town and East Lothian, and offers a wonderful opportunity to see our amazing local wildlife. With its strong environmental credentials, this fuel-efficient craft is a fantastic way of giving both locals and visitors a wildlife experience to remember in this Year of Natural Scotland. What’s more, the catamaran is suitable for people of all ages, so it’s a trip for the whole family to enjoy. We’re also immensely proud of the fact that schoolchildren will benefit from educational trips when the boat is used as a floating classroom.”

Image 2The catamaran will be operated by Seafari Adventures who run the Seabird Boat Trips in partnership with the Scottish Seabird Centre. Its managing director, Colin Aston, acknowledged that the new boat had taken time to come to fruition, “but it has been worth every minute of hard work. We can now offer visitors a completely new boat trip experience, which will enable them to enjoy the wonders of the Firth of Forth at a leisurely pace and in comfort.”

Seafari Explorer is the latest addition to a wide variety of popular wildlife boat trips offered by the Seabird Centre that include exciting RIB trips to the Bass Rock and exclusive landing trips to the Bass Rock as well as the Isle of May from North Berwick. All trips are accompanied by an experienced guide. Full details of all Seabird Boat Trips are available on www.seabird.org.