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North Coast Marine Adventures
Pentland Firth has long been regarded as one of the world's most notorious stretches of water. Now you can sample its wildlife and waters for yourself with 'Northcoast Marine Adventures', a local company set up to offer marine wildlife tours with their new vessel 'Northcoast Explorer', an extraordinarily maneuverable boat which will give you access to places no other local boat can venture.
Recently, Caithness.org were invited along to view the variety of wildlife that Stroma has to offer including seals, fulmar, oyster catcher, puffin and eider duck to name but a few. Wet weather gear and life jackets are essential and thankfully provided for.
After being introduced to the crew of two we were given safety instructions for the journey before making out into the Inner Sound and heading off towards the West Coast of Stroma. Heading north past Mell Head and Castle Nestagd we followed the coast round to what remains of the wrecked 'Bettina Danica',which ran aground in 1994. Only the stern of the vessel remains, but still well worth a look at.
As we carried on up the West Coast, we were greeted by 200 of the islands Atlantic Grey Seals which were drying out on a rock ledge near Falla Goe.
Many of the Goe's are big enough to allow the boat access, as are some of the many caves along this part of the coastline. In 2 of the caves we visited we were greeted by a number of seals that were curious of its visitors and followed us out of the cave entrance as we departed.
Most of you will have heard the saying 'Hubble-bubble, toil and trouble', and Stroma has this as well, in the shape of the 'Swelkie'. The Swelkie, whose name is of pictish origin from svelgr, meaning whirlpool, is just that - a seething mass of heaving water that is brought about by multiple contrary tides. Just edging up to this unbelievable mass of water made the trip worthwhile, at least for me!
After rounding the northern tip of the island we headed south towards the mainland. The East Coast of Stroma is less precipitous than its western counterpart, though is still rich in the abundance of wildlife that Pentland Firth is renowned for.
Northcoast Marine Adventures offer two tours depending on the favorable tidal conditions at the time. The second tour takes you to Duncansby Head and beyond, though due to the condition of the Duncansby Bores (which is a probable result from conflict between the ebb tide on the surface and the flood tide at depth) meant we were unable to go any further on this tour.
If wildlife is your scene then these trips are definitely a must for your visit to John O'Groats and the north of Scotland.
For those who are a bit more daring Northcoast Marine Adventures can offer you a chance to go 'Waveracing', (my name for it not theirs). This allows you to experience at first hand the seaborne version of 'white water rafting'. I'll offer you 2 tips here, do not put your tongue between your teeth and hold on to whatever you can lay your hands on! This is an experience that will remain with you for many years.
Northcoast Marine Adventures is a welcome addition to the north coast and one that I am sure will become one of the favourite tourist attractions north of Inverness.
You can E-mail NMA on email@example.com