No other UK tour operator features on this list and beating them to first is a day safari in Kenya – but Mull’s
Martin and Judith Keivers have seen their wildlife trip operation, Mull Charters, ranked No 2 in the world by Tripadvisor.
They knew nothing about their Tripadvisor ranking until Sea Kayaking Scotland contacted them to say ‘Well done’ – and then had to go searching for it.
Mull Charters began by chance.
Martin and Judith run a B&B in Salen on the east coast of Mull – which happens to be the home base for the RSPB’s Mull officer, Dave Sexton who, in turn, happens to be a prime move in the development of the White Tailed Sea Eagles breeding, observation and tracking programmne on the island.
Dave Sexton and Mull are also well known to wildlife television and film audiences around the world through Dave’s advisory work on documentaries and films and his appearances on major programmes like the BBC’s Spring and Autumnwatch series.
Martin and Judith were looking for another service they might run to complement their B&B business and mentioned the possibility of sea tours to watch the sea eagles – and Mull Charters was born.
They took the advice from Dave Sexton and from RSPB Scotland seriously and planned their business accordingly. The result is clear in the worldwide recognition now awarded.
What they do is strictly controlled and Mull Charters is licensed both by RSPB Scotland and by Scottish Natural Heritage. They are told which territories they may enter and when. They are told how much they may feed the eagles without making them dependent – and in fact this is quite an interesting part of what they do.
When the chicks are hatched each year and the parent birds are hunting for food to feed them, the fish they are fed from Mull Charters’ boat Lacy Jane, provides them with food which helps to allay farmers’ constant anxieties about the potential of the birds to take newly born lambs. This may well happen 0ccasionally but far less than the inevitable mythology would have it.
The breeding pairs observed from the Mull Charters tours are already well established, so their business is not creating unsustainable populations.
They feed them by throwing small amounts of fish in the water off the boat when they see that the birds are active in the area. This gives those aboard wonderful opportunities to see the birds close in and to photograph them (see photo two below, of Lady Jane, visitors and a hovering sea eagle close in).
The company take only a small number of passengers – a maximum of 12 – which gives everyone a great view of the birds (who almost always turn up) – and of the other wildlife species around – basking sharks, minke whales, porpoises and dolphins, sea otters and a multiplicity of sea birds.
Martin says that sea birds have had a particularly good season with the seas rich in feeding for them. Manx Shearwaters have been present in some numbers – with their quite spectacular flight.
The Lady Jane used to do a passenger ferry run between Colonsay and Port Askaig in Islay, sometimes between Colonsay and Mull. She now belongs to Mull Charters and operates out of Ulva Ferry on the west coast of Mull, her home sea area for wildlife trips.
The company run scheduled tours which anyone can go on. They also run sea angling trips and charters.
They are the only operator taking people to see Inch Kenneth Island, which is off Mull’s west coast.
This small island belonged to Lord Redesdale, father of the famous Mitford sisters. It was home to Hitlerite, Unity Mitford, for some time after her repatriation to hospital in Britain following her alleged attempt to commit suicide by shooting herself in the head in a Munich park when England declared war on Germany.
Inch Kenneth has its mysteries – we wrote on this in an earlier article, Inch Kenneth, Mitfords and mysteries – and Mull Charters is the only way of getting out to see this fascinating place.
Mull Charters appeared in the BBC’s Springwatch this year – with Martin Keivers (right) with Iolo Williams while filming it; and will feature on a forthcoming BBC series on the Hebrides – Martin Keivers is in the lead photograph, top, with John Aitchison aboard Lady Jayne, during filming for this series.
Congratulations to Mull Charters from Argyll and the Isles Tourism
Argyll and the Isles Tourism is proud of this international recognition for Mull Charters.
Mike Story, its Executive Director, says: ‘Argyll and The Isles Tourism are delighted that a local company has received such well deserved recognition.
‘Martin and Judith Keivers work amazingly hard and some of the images of wildlife captured from the Lady Jane are simply world class.
‘They deserve this recognition and Calum Ross, our Chair and I are immensely proud of them.
‘Mull Charters listing at No 2 in the world reinforces Argyll and The Isles as a world class destination.’
2013 is the Year of Natural Scotland and Argyll and The Isles – possessor of the richest biodiversity in the UK, is perfectly placed to take advantage of the increased publicity arising from Mull Charters ranking on Tripadvisor.
The photographs above are © Mull Charters