Having experienced snorkelling previously in Australia and other warmer climates, I was surprised to learn of friends that did this in Scotland. I was even more surprised though when I tried it for myself and discovered the abundance of life and beauty on our shores and in our seas.
The Scottish Highlands are famous for their stunning wildlife and wild places, but our seas are somewhat under-appreciated by many who live and visit. Scotland’s seas are full of life and whilst diving may be too costly and involved for many people, snorkelling is an affordable and easy means of stepping into this new world under the waves. Our waters do require a decent wetsuit, and the location and accessibility of a site needs to take our changeable weather into account, but for a small amount of outlay you can get up close and personal with some of the best sealife and marine habitats the UK has to offer.
The locations chosen for our North West Highlands Snorkel Trail are all easily accessible, some just metres from the side of the road. They were chosen for being safe and sheltered and are all within easy drives from the villages in the area that attract numerous visitors each year. The trail is also near the new North Coast 500 route that has successfully attracted many visitors who seek the natural environment and seclusion that this part of the world can offer.
As well as being of interest to visitors, we hope that the trail will introduce many locals to an activity they may not have considered before. With some of the trail sites falling within the Wester Ross Marine Protected Area, we hope that the local community develops a deeper understanding and appreciation for this special area. Some people may not realise why these protective measures have been put in place, so what better way to understand than by seeing first hand by snorkelling.
As well as engaging locals that live along this stretch of coast, we hope that people from nearby towns and cities will jump into their cars and take a day out to come and experience this too. Hopes are that if we gain enough interest we might be able to expand the project, maybe training people to become snorkel instructors and establishing a local snorkel club for kids.
My position as Living Seas Communities Officer involves looking for ways to engage and inform people of the amazing life and habitats in our seas. I believe the new snorkel trail fits that bill perfectly. I’m delighted that it gives other people the chance to experience our living seas and hope that they share their stories with us and with their friends and family so that yet more people can enjoy the magic that we are so lucky to have just a breath away under the waves.