Award-Winning & Longest Established Noss Boat Tour Busines


A snippet from a magazine featuring Seabirds and Seals

“In a year of staycations and holidays at home, many people across Shetland and the wider UK have come to appreciate, more than ever, what we have on our doorsteps. One business which has been doing the isles proud and doing a wonderful job of showcasing them for almost thirty years is Seabirds and Seals”.

Marie & Brian – Noss Boat Tours Team are delighted to be featured in the latest edition of ii magazine! They would like to thank all their customers and business associates for making them well and truly THE Number One boat tour to Noss – as voted by TripAdvisor members and reviewers.

Seabirds-and-Seals is a well-established award-winning business, founded in 1992 by naturalist Dr Jonathan Wills, making it the longest established Noss Boat Tour Business.  Brian has been intimately involved with award-winning tour company Seabirds-and-Seals since it started up in 1992 by naturalist Dr Jonathan Wills. In 2017 Marie & Brian Leask bought the business and continued the good work that Jonathan had been doing for years. 

Like so many native Shetlanders, Brian & Marie instinctively grew up to be dedicated bird watchers and naturalists.  Their experience and knowledge of the sea, nature and the local heritage around them is extensive and – to their passengers’ delight – highly entertaining.  Their fun, personal and engaging style appeals to all ages and varying interest.  Always two crew in the interest of safety, passenger comfort and welfare, they look after your every need to ensure you are having a fabulous experience.   A new series of TripAdvisor and Google reviews, started after their busy first season in 2018, those were extremely positive and show how popular this fascinating nature tour still is, after all these years! After just one full season they were awarded the Scottish Tourist Board’s 4-Star distinction and TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence. Their tours consistently generate great reviews, leading to TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice award in 2020 and again in 2021.


Seabirds-and-Seals Wins TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice 2021


Seabirds-and-Seals are delighted to share their fantastic notification received this morning, what wonderful news to waken up to on a Saturday morning, both chuffed to bits.

Seabirds-and-Seals Wins 2021 Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Award and now Ranked No.1 On TripAdvisor. We would like to thank all our amazing passengers for making this fantastic award possible.

This achievement celebrates businesses that consistently deliver fantastic experiences to travellers around the globe, having earned great traveller reviews on TripAdvisor over the last 12 months. As challenging as the past year was, Seabirds-and-Seals stood out by continuously providing a fantastic experience for all passengers on-board their Noss Boat ‘Seabird’.

Statement from Kanika Soni (TripAdvisor Chief Commercial Officer) – “Congratulations to all the winners of the 2021 Travelers’ Choice Awards. I know the past year has been extremely challenging for tourism businesses. What has impressed me is how businesses adapted to these challenges, implementing new cleanliness measures, adding social distancing guidelines, and utilizing technology to prioritize guest safety. The Travelers’ Choice Awards highlight the places that are consistently excellent – delivering quality experiences time and time again even while navigating changing customer expectations and new ways of working. Based on a full year of reviews from customers, this award speaks to the great service and experience you provided guests in the midst of a pandemic.”

Seabirds-and-Seals was established way back in 1992, making it the longest operating Noss Boat Tour. Brian(Tour Guide & Skipper) has been part of the business since it started, acting as marine engineer and on occasions as crew. Next year we have a big Birthday to celebrate – 30 years of Seabirds-and-Seals.

All the reviews you read on TripAdvisor are since we took over the business from previous owner ‘Dr Jonathan Wills’ in 2018. We are absolutely chuffed to bits with all our successes and we have consistently won TripAdvisor awards each year since we took over the business. After only 1 season of trading – we were awarded 4-Stars from the Scottish Tourist Board.

“We are delighted to be recognized again for this award and showing as No.1 on TripAdvisor.  Glad to see that our hard work, passion and dedication has delivered as we certainly aim to provide our passengers with a most amazing wildlife/boat tour experience on-board ‘Seabird’. Thanks again to all our amazing passengers for making this award possible.  Our aim is to continue providing you with the best boat, best wildlife/boat tour experience, best guides and the best value for money, for many more years to come.”

Thank You
Marie & Brian – Seabirds-and-Seals Noss Boat Tours


Bob Our Bonxie Follower

Awesome slow motion footage showing Bob – our hungry Bonxie follower.  Great Skua is known by the name Bonxie – a Shetland name of Norse origin.


Seabirds-and-Seals Book Review – By Local Guide: Laurie Goodlad Pottinger

Seabirds-and-Seals Book Review

Written by Local Guide Laurie Goodlad Pottinger(Shetland With Lawrie).  Laurie is also one of our very knowledgeable relief crew members.  

The book that I reviewed is very fitting to an audience of would-be Shetland visitors. Recently published, it was written by Jonathan Wills who operated guided boat tours around Lerwick and Noss for over 20 years. He shares his knowledge and recollections from his time as a tour guide in this lavishly illustrated paperback.

For anyone who knows Jonathan Wills, author of Seabirds and Seals, it will come as no surprise that this book is packed with light-hearted humour, witty anecdotes and is written in an easy, conversational manner. Jonathan describes himself as ‘a ‘half-moother*’, born in Oxford to a Lerwick mother, he has chosen to live in Bressay for most of his life, raising his own family on the island. He established his tour company Seabirds-and-Seals in 1992 with his small, 24ft boat Dunter. Over the years the company grew as increasing visitors took to the water to see the wonders of wildlife just a stone’s throw from Lerwick. With growing interest in boat tours, Jonathan expanded, eventually investing in the Dunter III that he ran until 2015 when he hung up his skipper’s cap and passed the reins over to Brian and Marie Leask who now operate this popular summer tour.

Over the years, Jonathan completed over 4,000 circuits of Bressay and Noss, and this book is borne from the ‘spiel’ that he developed during this time as he guided 39,000 visitors around his little patch of home. He describes his career on Dunter as “a 24-year voyage of some 85,000 miles in all – more than three times around the world without ever being more than three miles from Victoria Pier.”

Unsurprisingly there is the odd political nuance, however, could we expect anything other from the author? The only part that almost raised my hackles was the tongue-in-cheek dig at Scalloway as Shetland’s former capital. As a Scalloway lass, rather than a toonie, I am primed to spot and react to these. Still, thankfully, they were restricted to the introduction where Jonathan discusses how Lerwick grew as a town, eventually overtaking Scalloway as the islands’ economic and legislative powerhouse.

Political nuance aside, his observational eye has given him a deep understanding of nature and the complexities of the wildlife around our shores. His observations on the evolution of the Purple Sandpipers’ migration certainly provided plenty of food for thought and offered an insight I would never have considered otherwise. I was interested in his photos and narrative about Stobister. The picture (above) showed rock debris on top of the cliffs, presumably dumped by the sea. This is interesting as we see a similar example of this on the east side of Mousa where the Great Storm of 1900 laid down a cliff-top storm beach. Perhaps Stobister’s cliff-top beach was formed in the same event – or, when “da oliks cam doon da lum” causing the folk of Stobister to pack up and leave. His grasp of the patterns of life, the birds and other wildlife, right down to the microscopic phytoplanktons’ is truly impressive and have been developed over years of close observation on his many trips around Bressay and Noss.

A few of the descriptions and observations within the book had me laugh-out-loud. A personal favourite was: “Otters have more homes than most MPs.”

These light-hearted and informative descriptions demonstrate Jonathan’s unique storytelling skills, carefully honed over many years guiding visitors. For example, he can take the Holm of Gunnista as a start point and guide the reader through an in-depth tale of Shetland’s past, using the small holm as a launch point into a historic journey of discovery. We learn about how Shetland, at one stage, was wooded before the introduction of grazing animals by our Neolithic forefathers stripped the land bare and, how today, it is now an island of grazing sheep, punctuated by Greylag Geese. He also uses the Holm as the star in the show to explain the complex processes of peat formation. This skill of being able to take a small, otherwise insignificant holm and turn it into a story of evolution and change demonstrates his real talent as an engaging storyteller.

Yet his storytelling runs much deeper, his knowledge is evident, rooted in his ability to succinctly explain complex processes such as the geological makeup of our islands’. Injections of humour add to this narrative, for example, a simple description of how ‘tangles’ at the Setter of Noss can be used to make compost explains the complexities of soil science. Jonathan says, “it’s particularly good [seaweed] when mixed in the compost heap with what comes out of the rear end of a Shetland pony.” It’s clear that his many years at sea – albeit in a radius of only a few miles from Victoria Pier – has given him a deep understanding of all the natural processes involved in our complex ecosystem.

Moving away from Bressay and Noss, Jonathan sets Shetland on the world stage, from the crash of the kelp markets following the Napoleonic Wars’ to the growth of the Dutch fishing industry that arguably funded the expansion of Amsterdam as the economic giant of the world’s trading nations.

These words of praise are not to say that I agreed with everything he said. I did raise an eyebrow (or three) when I read his sweeping statement about Viking colonisation in Shetland in the ninth century. Jonathan says: “Viking pirates laid waste to Shetland and killed or drove away most of its inhabitants.” A bold statement, and one that I’m not sure has any historical – or archaeological – basis, but, it did make me chuckle – and I would love to see the archaeological evidence. He rightly continues, and redeems himself, by acknowledging that “we’re a few PhD theses short of an answer to the mystery”. So perhaps we can allow his imagination to reign in this instance (and … until irrefutable evidence is sought!).

The book itself is filled with fantastic colour photos, detailed maps and illustrations, all interspersed with lively and reflective poetry, giving a real ‘full-dimensional’ view of Bressay and Noss, all recorded from the wheelhouse of three generations of Dunters’. And, as a fisherman’s daughter, it was with a certain sigh of relief that Jonathan commented that in an island community where fishing is the mainstay industry, it is wise not to say too much about the effects of fisheries and aquaculture on the environment. So with political feathers left unruffled, the book closed on a high after an evocative and comprehensive tour of Bressay and Noss – all from the comfort and warmth of my sofa.

Seabirds and Seals covers a few miles of Shetland’s 1,700-mile coastline, and yet it is packed with information about the area – the people, the landscape and the wildlife – as well as placing Shetland on a truly world stage. The book asks questions and throws up different ways of thinking. For example, perhaps Shetland didn’t break away from North America all those million years ago? Perhaps, just maybe, North America broke away from us and went awol? Is America the missing part of the Shetland jigsaw? Stranger things have happened – we need only to look at the current Trump-Johnson administrations to see this. I couldn’t help but marvel at Jonathan’s deep knowledge of the area and, could only imagine how vast our local understanding would be if there were 150-page companions to every part of Shetland’s coastline, presented in such detail.

Seabirds and Seals is a fantastic history of both people, place and, most importantly, the wildlife we share our shores with. So, if you want to find out how the USSR and Mikhail Gorbachev are responsible for the demise of the kittiwake in Shetland, then I suggest you buy Jonathan’s book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Seabirds and Seals and admire, and thank, Jonathan for the amount of work that has gone into researching this book to share with us.

* A sooth-moother is a local term sometimes used to describe people who move to Shetland from elsewhere. Reference to ‘sooth-moother’ describes how people get to Shetland, via the Sooth Mooth (south mouth) of Lerwick Harbour.


Come Diving Without Getting Cold Or Wet

On our 3-hour trips only we stop off at one of our dive sites to launch our ROV mini submarine, the sites vary depending on what the wind speed and direction is.  The video footage shown below was taken a few years back when we launched our ROV mini submarine in the Orkneyman’s Cave – absolutely amazing and you can see just how clear the water is.  The underwater sights are amazing – usually find jellyfish, hydroids, starfish, deadmen’s fingers, crabs, sunstars and much more.  We sometime come across a curious seal, keep watching this short video clip and you just might spot one. 


The underwater viewing is most popular with all ages. 


Great Skua Keeping Up With Seabird

Known Locally As ‘Da Bonxie’

We have been playing around with some new video software, took me a few hours to figure out how to remove background music to allow me to add sound tracks, was frustrating at times but I was not going to give up and success, so we thought we would share one of our fun clips from a couple who provides a fun tour suited for all ages.  

This video footage was shared with us from one of our guests back in 2019, we or should I say Brian made it a bit more fun with his choice of music.  This footage shows a Great Skua also known as Bonxie here in Shetland, trying its very best to keep up with Seabird going back into Lerwick Harbour after a stop off at the Bressay Lighthouse – one of many stops where we have so much history to share and always makes a nice photo opportunity with the heart shaped archway.


Trip to Noss – Admire Beautiful Blue-Eye Gannets

Blue Eyed Gannets At Noss
A small group within a colony of over 20,000 northern gannets that line the cliffs of Noss each summer. We absolutely adore our season and showing all our passengers these beautiful blue-eyed seabirds at really close range on our 4-Star Seabirds-and-Seals tours.
We are making preparations for our 2021 season and now taking online bookings! We look forward to welcoming you on-board ‘Seabird’.  
Watch this space for many more blogs as the seasons progresses.  
@promoteshetland @nossboat @shetlandwildlife