About Your Trip: FAQs

When is the best time to take the tour?
There’s always plenty to see in any month of the year but the greatest number and variety of birdlife is from early May to late July. Outside our scheduled season from beginning of April to end of September, we operate tours on request at other times and often take guests out to Noss when the gannets return from the ocean in mid-January. These magnificent birds stay on the cliff until the end of October.
Should I book ahead?
Yes. To avoid disappointment, we do recommend advance booking, either by email to or by phone to 07595 540 224 or 07818 455 576. The international code is +44.
When should I be at the departure point?
We ask passengers booked on our tours, to be at Victoria Pier Slipway in downtown Lerwick, 15 minutes before the advertised sailing time. We won’t sail without you. If you’re late, just call us on the bookings phone 07595 540 224 or 07818 455 576 and we’ll wait for you.
Will we be back on time?
We never know exactly what we’ll find on our excursions so we do sometimes return a few minutes late. If you have to be back exactly on time, to catch a ferry, a plane or a bus, please let us know at the start of the trip and we’ll make sure to dock on schedule. If you’re catching the Northlink ferry south on a day when it goes via Orkney then we can’t get you back to Lerwick from the afternoon trip in time for last check-in. But if you’re taking the direct sailing to Aberdeen, which departs at 7pm, there’s plenty of time to join our afternoon cruise before you leave Shetland.
Will it be cold and wet out there?
It’s always colder at sea than on land, so we do recommend you dress warmly – maybe in one of those beautiful Shetland sweaters you can buy just a few steps from our departure point in Lerwick! It’s often showery in Shetland so if you want to stay on deck all the time, it’s best to bring some bring lightweight waterproofs as well.
Which are the best seats?
All of them! There are no seat allocations on m.v. Seabird and you’re welcome to sit where you like and move around, depending on what you’re looking at.
How will I know what I’m looking at?
Our cabin has a small library of wildlife identification books and a selection of free information leaflets about Shetland’s wildlife, geology and archaeology. Every Noss boat trip features an entertaining, original and informative live commentary in English. This changes every day so you will not have to listen to a bored person reading from a prepared script for the 500th time.
Do I need binoculars?
Yes, although you’ll see plenty without them. We have binoculars on board for you to borrow if you don’t have your own with you.
Is it worth bringing a camera?
It certainly is. Even an ordinary camera will give you spectacular results on our Noss trip because we can go so close to the cliffs. But make sure you have a wide-angle lens as well as a telephoto!
Will there be puffins?
Yes, but only if you come with us between the last week in April and the first week of August. The puffins usually go back to sea by 10th August – and stay out there for eight months! But their cousins, the black guillemots (“tysties”) are here all year round.
Will there be whales and otters?
Probably not. Our records over the past 23 seasons show that you have a 10 per cent chance of seeing an otter on one of our trips and a five per cent chance of a whale. We’ve had some wonderful sightings of otters and we visit their haunts on every trip but they’re shy creatures and well camouflaged on the tideline. They probably do see us every day, though! Shetland is the best place in Britain to see whales and over the years we’ve enjoyed some spectacular encounters with orcas, porpoises, dolphins and minke whales,  but to suggest that we can guarantee whale sightings would be a false prospectus, so we don’t.
Is there anything to eat or drink?
Yes. We serve complimentary juice, tea, coffee or hot chocolate with biscuit during all our trips.  If you’d like to bring your own picnic with you, that’s no problem.
Is there a toilet?
Yes, with hot water, soap and towels.
Is the boat accessible for Wheelchairs?
Yes, but to access the toilet, wheelchair users must be able to get out of their wheelchair as the toilet door is not wide enough to take wheelchairs.
Can I smoke?
Not prohibited inside cabin and not upwind of other passengers on the deck.
Will I be seasick?
It’s the unspoken fear in the back of many passengers’ minds but which no-one in the tour boat business likes to talk about. At Seabirds-and-Seals we know all about seasickness and we do everything possible to avoid it: always choosing the calmest route; “dodging” round the worst tide-races; and using our powerful engines to whisk you back to calm water within minutes if you do feel unwell. Most passengers are so enthralled by the wildlife and scenery that they feel just fine. If you’re still worried, take a motion sickness pill one hour before sailing. They really do work – but please read the instructions on the packet first.