Marine Wildlife Tourism
Many passenger ferry companies throughout the world are recognizing the value of Marine Wildlife Tourism. For years those who work or regularly use the coastal ferry routes have been both enthralled and entertained by marine wildlife, particularly cetaceans. In Scottish waters, whilst a number of species may be described as fairly rare, species such as Porpoise, Minke Whale and Bottlenose Dolphin are quite regular visitors to the waters and are often seen from Calendonian MacBraye Ferrys operating out of Oban.
Bottlenose Dolphins Entertainment
Porpoise and minke whales generally offer fleeting glimpses but the bottlenose dolphins at Oban have been known to offer splendid displays sometimes lasting for as long as 60 minutes. Recognizing that passengers appreciate sightings of these magnificent creatures the duty officer will announce any sightings across the loudspeaker system. Passengers crowd the decks to watch in awe and amazement as the dolphins are able to keep pace with the ferry as it continues to speed to its destination. Many of Oban’s ferries only make short passages. The seas locally are clear and a deep blue. This includes the seas in close proximity to the ferry terminal and it is possible to see dolphins in Oban Bay itself be it from the ferry or even from the shore.
Not all inter island ferries departing Oban are as large as those of Caledonian MacBrayne. There is a small but growing band of operators who can best be described as offering a water taxi service to a far greater number of destinations than Calmac. Just like a taxi service in a town or city your water taxi will collect and deliver you to exact destinations agreeable to the customer subject to the usual safety provisos. These small boats will not only see dolphins in Oban but throughout Argyll and the multitude of island destinations.
Water Taxi Services & Seafari Adventure
Many of these water taxi services now use boats known as RIBs (Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats) and Seafari Adventures are Oban’s largest RIB operator with 5 such vessels available for water taxis. A company with such a large number of boats operating at any one time will have skippers reporting their dolphin sightings throughout the day so groups of wildlife enthusiasts stand a better chance of sighting dolphins from Oban. Marine wildlife tourism is a growing tourism market. When Seafari commenced operations in 1999 they made a policy decision that their core business would be wildlife tourism.
That philosophy remains today with their open RIBs which offer tours to the Gulf of Corryvreckan (Home of the World’s Third Largest Whirlpool). Seafari now also a separate company with cabined boats that fulfil the water taxi service.