Bird Quest 2021

Bird Quest 2021

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The seabird islands of the western British Isles are the envy of the birding world, yet it is not easy to sample the wonderful diversity of their character and come face-to-face with seagoing inhabitants. This unusual expedition cruise will appeal to those who wish to explore our coastal waters, observe the marvellous seabird and marine life and walk across untouched coastal wilderness areas. The focus of our expedition is the prolific birdlife but the region is also rich in historical and cultural heritage and we will visit the spiritual island of Iona, Northern Ireland’s walled city of Derry and the islands of the St Kilda archipelago.

Cruising aboard the 84-passenger Ocean Nova, we will be able to enjoy expedition cruising at its best. Although we will set sail with a schedule, it will not be set in stone. The Captain and expedition team keep a flexible approach allowing you the opportunity to fully experience the unexpected, whether it be a sighting of dolphins, a whale or any unusual event. Our exploration of inlets, estuaries and protected coastal waters will be made all the more enjoyable by the use of our Zodiac landing craft which enable us to land in remote places such as St Kilda and Lunga, providing for an unusual perspective and making the otherwise inaccessible readily available. This is a wonderful opportunity to see some of our most beautiful places and view some of the extensive birdlife. No matter your level of expertise you will find a warm welcome and a cornucopia of stunning sights and sounds.

Trip Name
Bird Quest 2021
Vessel Type: Expedition Length: 73 metres Passenger Capacity:86 Built / refurbished: 1992 / 2006 The ice-strengthened expedition ship Ocean Nova was built in Denmark in 1992 with high ice class to serve Greenland’s west coast. In 2004 to 2005 she was completely refurbished and has now a career as a small and comfortable expedition ship. The Ocean Nova accommodates 86 passengers in single, double and triple cabins, all with sea-view and private facilities. The double cabins have either two lower beds or upper and lower beds. The triple cabins have upper and lower beds. In your cabin you will also find a desk with chair and ample storage space for clothes and equipment. In the dining room you are treated to delicious meals in between landings and in the panorama lounge you can enjoy a drink with a breathtaking view of the surrounding polar landscape. This is where PolarQuest’s on board specialists entertain and educate you with lectures on polar biology, history, geology and conservation. There is also a library with panoramic views and a good selection of polar books. On board there is a satellite phone, gym and medical doctor. Passengers are welcome on the bridge around the clock and there is always something to see or search for from the spacious observation decks. The ship has North European officers and there is a friendly and informal atmosphere on board. Travelling with this small expedition ship offers an entirely different experience and perspective than you can get on a larger and more conventional cruise ship. Ice Class: Ice 1B, E0 (Hull Ice 1A)  


Day 1 - Day 1 Plymouth, England.
Embark this afternoon. A transfer will be provided from Plymouth Railway Station at a fixed time. Enjoy welcome drinks and dinner as we sail this evening.
Day 2 - Day 2 Isles of Scilly.
Spend the morning on traffic-free Tresco, walking its idyllic lanes from the beach to the famous subtropical Abbey Gardens. Defying the Atlantic weather, this miracle of a garden is home to more than 20,000 species of plants from over 80 countries. Enjoy time to wander along the paths, maybe visit the Valhalla collection of ship The Itinerary figureheads from ships wrecked on the islands or relax in the café. We spend the afternoon on St Agnes, the most south-westerly community in the UK. Surrounded by rocks and reefs this delightful tiny island offers marvellous coastal walks. The small island of Gugh lies across a narrow sandbar and here we find a single stone monolith called the ‘Old Man of Gugh’ which dates back to the Bronze Age. En route we plan to sail past the nearby island of Annet, the second largest of the uninhabited islands and a bird sanctuary. We will cruise by to see the coastline alive with puffins, European storm petrels and shag.
Day 3 - Day 3 Lundy, Skomer & Grassholm Islands.
This morning we will explore Lundy, a remote island in the Bristol Channel. Walk along its traffic-free lanes and paths, explore the wide bays and coves by way of hanging valleys, observe the puffins nesting in abandoned rabbit warrens, have a drink at the inn and buy the islands ‘puffin stamps’ at the island’s shop. In the afternoon we will sail on to Skomer Island and discover the coastline on a Zodiac cruise. One of the most important wildlife sites in Northern Europe, this island has fantastic birdlife including 6000 pairs of puffins, countless numbers of guillemots, fulmar, kittiwakes and the elusive Manx shearwater and storm petrel. Return to the ship and we will sail around Grassholm; be on deck to view one of the world’s largest gannetries with over 34,000 breeding pairs.
Day 4 - Day 4 Holy Island, Wales
This morning we arrive at Holyhead, adjacent to Anglesey with its spectacular sea cliffs. Here we will visit the RSPB’s reserve at South Stack, a beautiful but fragile maritime sward and heathland which is home to a large population of guillemots and razorbills. If we are lucky, we might also see some choughs. Return to the ship for lunch and spend the afternoon on board as we cruise through the Irish Sea. Maybe join a lecture in the lounge or find a spot on deck to watch for wildlife.
Day 5 - Day 5 Ailsa Craig, Scotland & Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland.
In the early morning we will anchor off the granite island of Ailsa Craig. This tiny island, just 2.5 miles in circumference was once a refuge for sailors and base to a 19th century lighthouse. Today it is an RSPB reserve and home to the third largest gannet colony in Britain. We will use the Zodiacs and cruise the coastal waters for a closer look searching for puffins, guillemots and gulls. Sail in the late morning towards Rathlin Island. Located just a few miles from the North Antrim coast, Rathlin has been settled for more than 6000 years. Today, there are only 80 or so inhabitants, whereas before the famine there were 1200. Enjoy a guided walk which will take in the prolific seabird life with astonishing numbers of auks, kittiwakes and grey seals. In the evening sail past the magnificent cliffs to the north of the island which are home to the largest sea bird colony in Ireland.
Day 6 - Day 6 Derry.
Berth this morning in the historic city of Derry, renowned as one of the finest examples of a walled city in all of Europe. Derry is our base for a morning at the Inch Wild Fowl Reserve, Ireland’s premier wetland site, a Special Protected Area and an important staging ground for migrating birds. On a guided walk we will search for grebes, herons and tern and we may also see otters in the water. Return to the ship for lunch and this afternoon choose to either independently explore the city of Derry, walking the 17th century walls and visiting St Columb’s Cathedral, or alternatively join an afternoon tour to the Giant’s Causeway. Widely known from the 1700s as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ large numbers of visitors come to view this amazing array of basalt columns, it is estimated that there are around 40,000 in total.
Day 7 - Day 7 Colonsay & Iona, Scotland.
Today we will visit two lovely islands in the Inner Hebrides. Colonsay with her craggy, heather-backed hills, picturesque beaches and sparse woodland, has an impressive array of plant and birdlife. Lying between Mull and Islay, we can explore this island on a choice of walks. At Colonsay House, built in 1722 by Malcolm MacNeil and bought by Lord Strathcona in 1904, we hope to visit the attractively dilapidated wooded gardens, which protect the tiny, enigmatic 8th century St Oran’s Cross. We will enjoy lunch on board as we sail the short distance between the isles. For more than 1000 years the island of Iona has been a place of deep spiritual significance and no less than 62 Kings of Scotland are buried here. St Columba came here from Ireland in 563 AD and early Christianity spread through northern Britain from this remote island community. After exploring the Abbey, time permitting you may care to take a short walk on the wild side to the ‘Bay at the Back of the Ocean’.
Day 8 - Day 8 Staffa, Lunga & Coll
In the early morning we anchor off Staffa, where the perpendicular rock face features an imposing series of black basalt columns, known as the Colonnade, which have been cut by the sea into cathedralesque caverns, most notably Fingal’s Cave. Weather permitting, we will use our Zodiacs to explore closer. We will also sail to Lunga, the largest of the Treshnish Isles. Of volcanic origin, Lunga has been described as a ‘green jewel in a peacock sea’. Populated until the 19th century, the island still bears the remains of black houses. There is prolific birdlife on the island including storm-petrels, puffins, kittiwakes and Manx Shearwaters. Later in the afternoon we plan to land on Coll. This rocky, wild and virtually treeless island of Coll was first settled in the Stone Age. Dotted with ruined cottages, this bird haven is picturesquely clad with machair grasslands and moors. It is also a good place to try and see the corncrake and listen out for the repetitive rasping call of the male.
Day 9 - Day 9 St Kilda.
Arrive this morning at St Kilda, a remarkable uninhabited archipelago some 50 miles beyond the Outer Hebrides. After breakfast, spend time on deck and enjoy a morning at sea while we cruise past two of the largest gannetries in the world at Stac Lee and Boreray. These impressive stacs rise 170 metres from the sea and are home to up to 60,000 breeding pairs of northern gannet. Dominated by the highest cliffs and sea stacks in Britain, Hirta, St Kilda’s main island was occupied on and off for at least 2000 years, with the last 36 Gaelic speaking inhabitants evacuated at their own request in 1930. Immediately after the evacuation, the island was bought by the Marquess of Bute to protect the island’s thousands of seabirds including puffin and fulmars, and in 1957 it was bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland. St Kilda is one of the few UNESCO World Heritage Sites with dual status reflecting its natural and cultural significance. This afternoon the local ranger will join us on board before our expedition staff lead several guided walks on the island.
Day 10 - Day 10 Handa & Shiant Islands.
Spend the morning at Handa where we will use our Zodiacs to explore the magnificent sea cliffs of Torridonian sandstone which rise from the Atlantic. The island comes alive each summer when nearly 100,000 seabirds gather to breed, including internationally important numbers of guillemot, razorbill, puffins and great skua. Spend the afternoon exploring the Shiant Isles. Anyone who has read Adam Nicholson’s captivating book ‘Sea Room’ will want to visit these lonely little islands located a few miles off the shores of Lewis. We will use our Zodiacs to explore the coastline and see the abundant birdlife and seals.
Day 11 - Day 11 Oban.
Disembark this morning. Transfers will be provided to Glasgow Central Station and Glasgow International Airport to arrive in the late morning.

Trip Dates

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    • Northern Ireland’s walled city of Derry, also known as Londonderry, is a city on the River Foyle in Northern Ireland. It’s known for the intact 17th-century Derry’s Walls with 7 gates. Within the walls, spired St. Columb’s Cathedral displays artefacts from the 1688–9 Siege of Derry. Near the Peace Bridge, the Tower Museum has city views and historical exhibits. Huge stained-glass windows adorn the neo-Gothic red sandstone Guildhall.