Terms & Conditions

Your contract is with Sea Life Surveys Ltd ("Sea Life Surveys", "we", "us"). We set out below an explanation of the conditions that apply when you book a cruise with us. It is important that you read these conditions together with the cruise information, as they not only define our obligations to you but also impose some important commitments upon you.

If any part of these booking conditions is found by any court or administrative body of competent jurisdiction to be invalid of unenforceable, such invalidity will not affect the other provisions which shall remain in full fore and effect.

1. Your contract

When you make a reservation you guarantee that you have the authority to accept and do accept on behalf of your party the terms of these booking conditions. A contract will exist as soon as we issue a confirmation email. Once you have received the confirmation email, it is your responsibility to check that the information and booking details, as stated in the email, are correct. If any of the details are incorrect, you must notify us immediately. We reserve the right to refuse to accept and/or not proceed with any booking at any time at our sole discretion. This contract is governed by Scottish law and the jurisdiction of the Scottish courts.

2. The price

We guarantee that the price of your cruise will not be subject to any surcharges once a contract exists between us. This means that you are fully protected, no matter what happens to the price of fuel. Cruise prices can be influenced by taxes, personnel costs, the price of fuel and other associated costs. The price shown is based on current charges and costs but they may go up or down; we reserve the right to alter the price of any cruise, introduce supplements or correct pricing errors, and will notify you of the current price prior to any booking - please call or visit our website for the most up-to-date prices. The price of your cruise as shown in your booking confirmation will not be increased unless you amend your booking. However, Sea Life Surveys reserves the right not to be legally bound in the case of incorrect pricing and acknowledgement of such an error does not mean acceptance of it. Sea Life Surveys has a price promise guarantee for the price of cruises on board our vessels (excluding where cruises which have been sold through a third-party agent). This applies as long as the discounted cruise is the same package offered under the same terms of sale. In calculating any possible saving due, we'll take into consideration all offers and discounts that were applied at the time of booking and compare the overall price that you've been charged with the current price.

3. Paying for your cruise

Unless specified otherwise - when you make your booking you are required to pay the full amount due for the booking and Sea Life Surveys will not consider a cruise to be booked until such a time as full payment is received.

4. If you change your booking

Once a contract exists between us, you may wish to change your cruise arrangements. For example, your chosen date of travel, departure time etc. and we will do our utmost to make these changes but it may not always be possible. You will be asked to pay any appropriate costs for the alteration (such as when changing a child ticket to adult ticket, upgrading to a more expensive cruise etc.).

5. If you cancel your booking

Once a contract exists between us, you have the right to request to cancel your booking and any refund due to you will be calculated as follows:

  1. A cancellation request which is received within 7 days of the contract coming into existence shall be entitled to a full refund.
  2. Not including cancellations to which (a) applies, a cancellation request which is received more than 14 days in advance of the cruise shall be entitled to a 50% refund.
  3. Not including cancellations to which (a) applies, a cancellation request which is received within 14 days of the cruise shall not be entitled to a refund.
6. If we change or cancel your booking before departure

Occasionally, we may have to make changes to your booking and we reserve the right to do so at any time. In the case where we make an alteration or alterations to your booking, in advance of the departure date and time of your cruise, you will be given the opportunity to cancel your booking and receive a full refund.

We also reserve the right to cancel your cruise at any time prior to the departure date and time of your cruise. For example, if the minimum number of passengers required to operate a cruise is not reached or the weather is unsuitable for the cruise to proceed as planned, then we may cancel it. If we are unable to provide the booked cruise, you can either have a full refund of all monies paid, or accept an offer of an alternative cruise, where available (we will refund any price differences if the alternative cruise is of lower value). Please note that we do not have any responsibility or liability for any consequential loss you may incur from arrangements you have made with any other party or parties.

7. If we change or cancel your cruise after departure

On very rare occasions we may have to make changes to the cruise whilst it is underway. Unforeseen circumstances including, but not limited to, mechanical failure, unexpected weather and illness or injury of one or more persons on board may result in the cruise programme and duration being altered. In cases such as these, appropriate compensation may be offered at the discretion of the management of Sea Life Surveys. The value of compensation will not exceed to the value of the booking (i.e. a full refund may be made and a gift certificate offered of equivalent value to the booking).

8. Refunds

If you are entitled to a refund relating to your booking this will usually be made by the same payment method that was used to pay us. In the case of card payment, refund(s) will be made to the appropriate card account(s). Any fees incurred when making a payment will not be refunded unless we cause the cancellation.

9. If you have a complaint

We are proud of our high reputation for customer satisfaction and strive to reach amicable settlement of the small number of complaints we receive. If you have a problem or cause for dissatisfaction, please inform us at the earliest opportunity (this will often be by informing a member of crew during the cruise). This allows us the opportunity to put things right on the the spot. If we are unable to solve any issues immediately, please inform our office by phone, email or in person at your earliest convenience (email: cruises@sealifesurveys.com; telephone: +44 (0) 1688 302916; address: Sea Life Surveys, Taigh Solais, Ledaig, Tobermory, Isle of Mull, PA75 6NR).

10. Your responsibilities

Your responsibilities are as follows:

  1. You are responsible for the behaviour of yourself and your party. We reserve the right to refuse your booking or to remove you or a member of your party from any cruise, if your demeanour or behaviour, or that of a member of your party, is disruptive, dangerous or annoying to other people. No refund or payment of any costs incurred by you will be made by us under these circumstances.
  2. Each passenger is responsible for their personal safety and the safety of their personal possessions whilst on board, embarking and disembarking any vessel.
11. Mobility and assistance

Whilst we welcome passengers with restricted mobility, we are limited as to the number of disabled passengers or passengers with restricted mobility that we can carry. We reserve the right, where deemed necessary by the Master of the vessel for safety reasons, to stow wheelchairs for the duration of the cruise and request that wheelchairs users use the seating provided on the vessel.

Please advise us at the time of booking whether you or any member of your party has reduced mobility or would require assistance in an emergency, or as soon as possible before departure should there be a change in circumstances.

Our crew are available to provide assistance, where needed, with boarding and disembarking the vessel.

12. Medical information

You are responsible for ensuring that any existing medical conditions or disabilities which may require assistance are declared to us as early as possible in advance of your cruise and no later than 48 hours before departure. This is essential for all bookings. Women who are pregnant are welcome at all stages of pregnancy but be aware that during the course of the cruise we may be, at times, several hours from medical assistance.

13. Data protection act

By providing us with your personal data and contact details, you consent to the use of that data and to you being contacted by Sea Life Surveys by post, email, SMS or other electronic means, to inform you about any products and services which it considers may be of interest to you unless you have stated otherwise. Where you provide information about another person, we accept it on the basis that you have their permission to give us access to their personal data (including any sensitive personal data) and that you have told them who we are and what we will use their data for, as set out above.

You can contact Sea Life Surveys at any time to suppress contact for some or all products or for the right to access and, if necessary, rectify information held about you. Please click here to review our Privacy Policy.

Privacy Policy

When it comes to protecting your privacy we never compromise. We will always be clear about why we need the details we ask for, and ensure your information is kept as secure as possible. How we do this is explained below.

This privacy policy has been compiled to better serve those who are concerned with how their personally identifiable information ("PII") is being used online. PII is information that can be used on its own or with other information to identify, contact, or locate a single person, or to identify an individual in context. Please read our privacy policy carefully to get a clear understanding of how we collect, use, protect or otherwise handle your PII in accordance with our website.

Short Version

  • We collect anonymous statistics about your visit, like which of our pages you viewed.
  • Some 3rd parties like Facebook and Twitter may know you visited this website, if you use their services. We can't control them but we don't believe this knowledge poses any threat to you.
  • If you sign up with us we take great care to keep your information safe and we'll never share it with others without your express permission.
  • We never share your data with 3rd parties except to help us deliver our own services.

These are just the key points. If you need detail, keep reading.


What personal information do we collect from the people that visit our website?

When ordering or registering on our site, as appropriate, you may be asked to enter your name, email address, mailing address, phone number or other details to help you with your experience.

When do we collect information?

We collect information from you when you place items in your basket, place an order, subscribe to a newsletter or enter information on our site.

How do we use your information?

We may use the information we collect from you when you register, make a purchase, sign up for our newsletter, respond to a survey or marketing communication, surf the website, or use certain other site features in the following ways:

  • To quickly process your transactions.
  • To contact you and/or send you information relating to your order or reservation.
  • From time-to-time, to make you aware of special promotions that you may be interested in.
Do we use cookies?

Yes. Cookies are small files that a site or its service provider transfers to your computer's hard drive through your Web browser (if you allow) that enables the site's or service provider's systems to recognize your browser and capture and remember certain information. For instance, we use cookies to help us remember and process the items in your shopping cart. They are also used to help us understand your preferences based on previous or current site activity, which enables us to provide you with improved services. We also use cookies to help us compile aggregate data about site traffic and site interaction so that we can offer better site experiences and tools in the future.

We use cookies to:

  • Help remember and process the items in the shopping cart.
  • Compile aggregate data about site traffic and site interactions in order to offer better site experiences and tools in the future. We may also use trusted third party services that track this information on our behalf.

You can choose to have your computer warn you each time a cookie is being sent, or you can choose to turn off all cookies. You do this through your browser settings. Each browser is a little different, so look at your browser's help menu to learn the correct way to modify your cookies.

Your personal data

We do not sell, trade, or otherwise transfer to outside parties your PII.

Gift Certificates

Give the gift of nature to your loved one with a Sea Life Surveys gift certificate.

Purchasing a Gift Certificate

Purchasing a gift certificate couldn't be easier:

  1. Select the cruise and number of passengers using the form below.
  2. Enter the name of the recipient and the delivery address.
  3. Confirm & pay for your order.
  4. We'll confirm by email and send the certificate out the same day. Expect delivery within 2 to 3 days.

Certificates are valid for a year from the date of purchase and can be redeemed at any time, either over the phone or online.

Redeeming a Gift Certificate

Simply select a date, cruise and number of passengers before adding it to your basket as you would normally. Then, from your basket, click Got a voucher. Enter your voucher code and PIN number and click Apply.

You can read more about the cruises we offer by clicking here.

About Us

Sea Life Surveys has been successfully operating specialist wildlife trips around the rugged islands and clean seas of the west coast of Scotland for over 35 years.


History
Research

How it all began...

It was the mysterious minke whale which first gripped naturalist Richard Fairbairns' imagination and brought Sea Life Surveys into existence.

Inspired by a close encounter with this magnificent creature in 1982, he took the first tentative steps towards investigating the little-researched cetaceans of the Inner Hebrides. With advice from whale biologists Vassili Papastavrou and Jonathan Gordon, he created the research organisation, Mull Cetacean Project. The aims of the project were to investigate the cetacean populations over an area of 300mi2 to the north and west of Mull using only benign methods to study their behaviour (particularly that of the minke whale) and their place in the ecosystem of the area.

Funds for this work were to be raised by the introduction of commercial whale watching holidays and day trips run by Sea Life Surveys. Data collection was to be carried out from the whale watching vessel by Richard, a crew of student volunteers and paying members of the public under supervision.

The Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust

In 1994 the Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust was created, which has now taken over much of the education and conservation activities of the Mull Cetacean Project. Research activities of Sea Life Surveys continue to focus on the minke whale and cetaceans in the area which complements further studies by the Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust.

A New Generation

More recently the company had been under the direction of Richard's son, James. James continued to take the company from strength to strength, offering a range of day trips and package holidays, with success being highlighted with a GOLD Green Business Award in 2013 & 2015 by the Green Tourism Business Scheme.

Sea Life Surveys today

In August 2016 Sea Life Surveys was acquired by Staffa Tours. By harnessing the strengths of both businesses, we hope to continue our growth and continue to operate at the high standard that our customers have become accustomed to.

Recording Sightings

In 1992 a new computer program called LOGGER was provided by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) for the collection of sightings and environmental information during our surveys. Data are collected on board using the laptop computer which is linked to other instruments on the boat. During a trip, LOGGER is constantly collecting data, recording our survey route and environmental data such as water temperature, depth and wind conditions. Other information such as weather, sea conditions, number of passengers etc. is fed in manually. When whales and dolphins are encountered, the species, number and behaviour is recorded.

Minke whale

This project has resulted in a database of over 5000 sightings and supporting environmental information. These data are then analysed to investigate how the whales and dolphins are distributed throughout the survey area and to highlight important areas for feeding and breeding. Constant monitoring of our survey area is essential for conservation. It provides information required for protecting animals and habitats against harmful activities such as pollution.

Minke Whale Photo-Identification

In collaboration with the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, Sea Life Surveys have been conducting a photo-identification study of minke whales since 1990. Over 100 whales have been identified and catalogued, many having been seen year after year.

Photo-identification is a technique used to recognise individual whales and dolphins. Every whale and dolphin encountered is photographed and these photographs are analysed for identifying features such as notches and scars on the dorsal fins or bodies of the animals.

Minke whale

Minke whales migrate to warmer waters in the winter months but return to the coastal waters of West Scotland every summer to feed on the plentiful fish. The results of this study have shown that many whales return specifically to the coastal waters of Mull each year and appear to be seasonally resident in the area. This highlights the importance of this area for the minke whale.

This project is also gathering evidence that suggests that marine litter is a real cause of concern for our local whales. Nine of the catalogued whales have encountered marine litter. Two of the whales have plastic strapping wrapped around their rostrums. The looped plastic straps have become trapped in the baleen plates of the whales and are cutting into the flesh on the rostrums. This could affect feeding behaviour since the baleen plates are used to sieve prey from the water.

Globally, an estimated one million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die each year from entanglement in, or ingestion of, plastics. Plastics pose a particular threat to the marine environment because they float on the surface of the sea or within the water column. Plastics can be transported for miles across the sea and will remain in the marine environment for many years.

Minke Whale Surfacing Behaviour

One of the few behaviours that can be collected (if time & weather permits) quantitatively in the field is the rate of surfacing. Whales and dolphins breathe air and so must come to the surface regularly. The rate at which they surface represents their respiration rate which depends on their levels of activity. Surfacing patterns give us clues as to what the whale is doing - travelling, resting or feeding. Measuring surfacing rates could be particularly useful in assessing whether or not whales are being disturbed.

Data on surfacing patterns is also essential for correctly interpreting many types of visual surveys such as those conducted by the International Whaling Commission to estimate minke whale populations.

Precise recordings of surfacing rates have been collected from individual minke whales off Mull since 1989 by Sea Life Surveys.

Basking Shark Satellite Tagging Project

Scottish Natural Heritage and the University of Exeter have joined forces with an exciting new tagging project which will help to solve some of the mysteries about basking shark behaviour.

Tagged basking shark

There are a number of questions we hope this work will help to answer;

  • How long do basking sharks remain feeding in certain areas in Scottish waters?  
  • How are the sharks using these areas which are important to them for feeding and potentially breeding?
  • Where do basking sharks go after their summer feeding in Scotland's seas?
  • Do the sharks remain in deeper waters off Scotland over winter?

There is a post fieldwork report written by Exeter Univesity which you can download from the SNH website here.

Harbour Porpoise Research 

The harbour porpoise, one of our most frequently encountered species, is particularly susceptible to entanglement in fishing nets both around the UK coastline and worldwide. Increasing concern over this problem has led to the development of pingers (acoustic alarms), which make nets more 'visible' to porpoises.

During 2002 and 2003 we assisted with research into the effects of these pingers on porpoise behaviour and monitoring porpoise distribution using porpoise click detectors (PODs).


Reports and Publications
Spatial and temporal distribution of the minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) in relation to undersea topography and seabed sediment off the Isle of Mull, Scotland. 

Macleod, K., Fairbairns, R.S., Gill, A., Fairbairns, B.R., Gordon, J., Blair-Myers, C.
2001
Paper SC/53/E10
presented to the IWC Scientific meeting

Effects of the diet and seasonal cycles on the dive duration of the minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

Stockin, K., Fairbairns R.S, Parsons, E.C.M., Sims, D. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. U.K.
2001
81, 189-190.

Photographic and strandings data highlighting the problem of marine debris and creel rope entanglement to minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) and other marine life in Scottish waters.

Gill, A., Reid, R.J. and Fairbairns, B.R.
2000
European Research on Cetaceans 14 (ed. P.G.H. Evans, R. Pitt-Aiken & E. Rogan),
pp. 173-178.
Cork: European Cetacean Society.

Some observations of the minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) feeding behaviour and associations with seabirds in the coastal waters of the Isle of Mull, Scotland.

Gill, A., Fairbairns, B.R. and Fairbairns, R.S.
2000
European Research on Cetaceans 13 (ed. P.G.H. Evans, J. Cruz & J.A. Raga)
pp. 61-64.
Valencia: European Cetacean Society.

Photo-Identification of the Minke whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata off the Isle of Mull, Scotland. An update.

Gill, A.
2000
Report to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust

The use of geographical information systems to investigate the spatial and temporal relationships between minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) distribution and seabed topography/sediment type off the Isle of Mull, Scotland.

Bowe, S.
1997
M.Sc. Thesis
Department of Zoology, Aberdeen University
75pp

Assessment of relative abundance and distribution of the minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) using data collected from a whale watching operation.

Fairbairns, R., Gordon, J., Hiby, A., Leaper, R., Lovell, P. and Papastavrou, V.
1997
European Research on Cetaceans 10 (ed. P.G.H. Evans)
pp. 154-158
Kiel: European Cetacean Society.

Investigating the feasibility of a long-term ecological study of the minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) on the west coast of Scotland.

Gill, A.
1997
Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, Mull
43pp.

Analysis of data collected from a whale-watching operation to assess relative abundance and distribution of the minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) around the Isle of Mull, Scotland.

Leaper, R., Fairbairns, R., Gordon, J., Hiby, A., Lovell, P. and Papastavrou, V.
1997
Reports of the International Whaling Commission 47: 505-511

Respiration rates of minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) on the west coast of Scotland.

Leeming, G.
1997
Undergraduate Thesis. Royal Veterinary College, London.
61pp.

Photo-Identification of the Minke whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata off the Isle of Mull, Scotland.

Gill, A. and Fairbairns, R.
1995
In Whales, Seals, Fish and Man (ed. A.S. Blix, L.Walloe and O. Ulltand),
pp. 129-132
Elsevier Science, Netherlands.

Range tracking of the minke whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata, off the Isle of Mull 1994.

Fairbairns, R., Gill, A. and Sargent, T.
1994.
Report to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.
52pp.