After a long drive from West Sussex I round a corner and am greeted with my first view of Easdale Island. My new home for the next 8.5 months. I’m Calum and I’m a wildlife biologist joining Seafari Adventures as a guide for the 2018 season.
Arriving in the village of Ellenabeich I’m met by Tony, Jess and Carolyn who run Seafari and welcome me with big smiles, telling me to make the most of the sun that is shining brightly overhead. As I unload my bags from my car another new member of crew arrives, Nick from Orkney. Together we load our bags onto the ferry and head across to Easdale. After a 2 minute journey we arrive and begin unloading our bags into wheelbarrows (the primary method for moving anything around the island as there are no cars). Tucked away amongst the white cottages we find the crew house, and begin unpacking our bags. We soon meet Roy and Claire, guides from 2017 who are returning for the new season as they enjoyed it so much last year (definitely a good sign). Our first day finishes with a tour of the island, meeting many of its inhabitants on the way - all of whom already know us by name before heading to the Puffer (the island pub) for a welcome drink.
Our first few weeks fly by in a blur as we try and absorb as much information as possible. We learn the local history and wildlife information for the tours, how to safely tie up, cast off and refuel the boats, driving the land rovers, vans and towing trailers, how to run the ticket office and shop and the organisation of the waterproofs trailer.
It all seems a little daunting at first but it soon becomes second nature and Easdale Island begins to feel like home. It’s amazing how quickly the commute begins to feel normal - there aren’t many places where you get to drive a small dinghy across an open stretch of water in order to get to work…and it certainly beats getting a bus, although it can get a bit interesting in high winds and rain.
Our work varies from day to day but always starts with opening up the shop/ticket office. When we have trips running the next jobs are to sort the waterproofs and binoculars, fuel the boats and write the tickets before our customers arrive. Once they have arrived and have been kitted up in waterproofs and life jackets then the tours begin and we head off in search of wildlife. Some of my highlights from my first few weeks as crew include porpoises, common seals, white tailed sea eagles and wild boar. When there are no tours running there are always plenty of jobs to keep us busy and no two days without tours are ever the same!
Once our customers have all returned from their trips and started to head home there is still plenty of work for us to do before we can head back to Easdale and relax. The shop and the trailer need to be closed down, wet waterproofs need to be hung up and dried and all of the photographs from the day’s trips need to be gone through.
My evenings so far have been really varied, sometimes I’ll spend them watching the sunset from the top of the hill on the island, in the Puffer or Oyster bar with the other islanders, running on the mainland or if I’m feeling particularly brave I may even be found swimming in the quarries.
So far my first few weeks as a wildlife guide have been completely packed and I’ve loved every second…and to think it’s only April.