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BBC Springwatch: a catalyst for the growth of Scottish wildlife tourism?

With BBC’s Springwatch series broadcasting from Islay later this month, residents of the Scottish island expect an influx of visitors following a dramatic increase in tourism to previous Springwatch locations.  Whilst welcoming the growth of wildlife tourism in Scotland, Wild Scotland, Scotland’s wildlife tourism association, also sounds a note of caution, urging visitors to use responsible wildlife guides who will ensure that their impact on the area’s natural history and wildlife is minimal.

Following the broadcasting success of the previous two series of Springwatch, filmed on Mull and Shetland respectively, both locations saw a significant increase in wildlife tourists. On Mull, the number of visitors to the sea eagle hide rose from 3000 to an incredible 5500 post Springwatch, doubling revenue generated.  Extra visits had to be organised to meet demand, with people bookings two to three weeks in advance.  VisitShetland reported a 15% increase in the number of visitor enquiries during the three weeks of Springwatch in 2006, and the number of signatures in the RSPB’s visitor book on Fetlar increased by 67%.

Simon King, presenter of the popular series which attracted over three million viewers last year, will be visiting Islay to film golden eagles, otters, hares, choughs and rabbits for three weeks from 28 May.

Caroline Warburton, manager of Wild Scotland comments, “Our operators on Mull noticed a marked increase in the number of visitors last year, which is a great testimony to the success of Springwatch and reflects the increasing interest in wildlife tourism. This has resulted in the considerable growth of this sector of the tourism industry over the last few years.  It’s brilliant to see wildlife watching shaking off its ‘boffin’ image as more people are getting out and enjoying it.  However, we would encourage people to make sure they use responsible tour operators who can ensure the safety of both the watcher and the wildlife.”

With 56 wildlife and nature tourism operators as members, Wild Scotland is committed to making wildlife tourism safe, fun and ultimately sustainable, working together to safeguard Scotland’s wildlife and natural environment, while making the most dramatic and remote areas of Scotland accessible to all.

Jeremy Hastings, founder of Islay Birding and Wild Scotland member comments, “Springwatch presents a great opportunity to showcase Islay’s special beauty and wildlife and we’re looking forward to welcoming people to Islay and introducing them to its natural history first hand.”

For those that want to visit Islay, the neighbouring islands and the Kintyre Peninsula following Springwatch this year, there are several Wild Scotland members in the area that operate daily wildlife tours.

Wild things to do on and around the Kintyre Peninsula

  • Craignish Cruisesoperates one to four hour cruises around the Sound of Jura and Firth of Lorne to Scarba, the Gulf of Corryvreckan and the Garvellach Islands.  Regularly sighted species include feral goats, eagles, seals, dolphins, deer and whales.   Prices range from £5 – £18 for children and £8 to £27 for adults.
  • Firth of Lorn Wildlife Cruises based on Colonsay runs wildlife cruises throughout the Firth of Lorn, exploring rugged coastlines and powerful currents.  Species to be seen include otters, eagles, puffins, dolphins, whales, shags and terns.  Prices range from £7 – £20 for children and £15 – £40 for adults.  Family tickets are also available.
  • Islay Birding, situated on the Isle of Islay featuring in Springwatch this year, offers dawn and dusk tours, customised tours and day long tours around the island.  Sixty to eighty different species of bird are regularly sighted on trips, and the island is home to over 100 species year round.  Prices range from £20 for children and £40 for adults for the all day trips and £25 per head for dawn and dusk bird tours.
  • Seafari Adventures near Oban offers exhilarating RIB rides around the Argyll coast, complete with island landings and guided walks on Jura, Belnahua, the Garvellach islands, Colonsay, Oronsay and occasionally Islay.  Whales and dolphins are regularly sighted, as are sea eagles, golden eagles, deer and numerous species of bird and wild flower.  Seafari also runs customised wildlife trips and private charters to remote, normally inaccessible parts of local islands.

Wild Scotland is supported by VisitScotland, European Union, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Natural Heritage.

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