Islay Sea Adventure's Story
Taste of Place Trails Stories
Gus, the managing director of Islay Sea Adventures, was born and bred on Islay and, as a commercial diver and fisherman, has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the waters around his native island. He started Islay Sea Adventures in 2014, with one boat from which he would dive for scallops while his guests waited on board with a dram, before resurfacing with a seafood feast which was cooked before their eyes.
Local knowledge and passion
Hannah is the newest recruit to the Islay Sea Adventures team, having joined after completing her zoology degree and a chance meeting while on a boat with Gus. She brings a wealth of expert knowledge about the local wildlife to the boat tours they operate around the island. She says she had always thought Islay would be somewhere she would like to live. Growing up on the coast in the North East of England she always loved the sea and marine wildlife, and says that “being out on the boat every day is just the best.”
It is interesting to hear two perspectives simultaneously: one from a native islander who has spent his whole life on Islay, and has a natural love for the place he calls home, and the other from someone who has moved to the island much more recently, who is captivated by its beauty and the wildlife which thrives there. Both Gus and Hannah are passionate about sharing the island – its awe-inspiring landscapes, history, culture and, of course, seafood – with visitors, and Gus says what’s great about working with a team like his is that everyone contributes something different to the business.
Boat trips with a difference
Islay Sea Adventures offer a range of different trips on their boats, from wildlife spotting tours to golf “taxis” between Islay, the Scottish mainland and Ireland. Their seafood trip is a popular one, which sails around the south-east coast of Islay and culminates in some of the freshest seafood imaginable being served on-deck. “We’ve got some of the best seafood in the world,” Gus says. “It’s as fresh as you’re going to get. People have the chance of getting a scallop from the water to a barbecue within five minutes, that’s unique in itself.”
Since starting with one boat in 2014, their fleet has expanded and now there are four, with a fifth boat on its way soon. Gus has many different projects on the go – part of being resilient on an island, he says – and also runs a boat yard which services the boats, as well as other businesses involving fishing, diving, and glamping pods. Through his service yard he has ambitions of converting his boats to run on electric power – he is conscious that they need to do as much as possible to care for and conserve the wildlife habitats and natural beauty of Islay. Technology isn’t quite advanced enough to let them run their longer trips on electricity, but it is possible with shorter journeys, so Gus is keen for this to be their starting point. He is also keen to run their offices on renewable energy as soon as possible, and is currently looking at funding options to make that happen.
Alongside their group tours which run regularly through the summer season, Islay Sea Adventures are very open to creating bespoke adventures for people who want to experience a different side of the island, or a different island entirely. Gus reels off a list of possible destinations, “Gigha, Iona, Staffa, Corrievreckan Whirlpool, Colonsay…” it seems that no matter the destination, Gus has a way of getting you there. “Argyll’s got a lot to offer and we’re trying to show that,” he says. “Whether it’s the wildlife, whether it’s the destinations, whether it’s the seafood.” He mentions that Hannah had spotted a sea eagle flying past the window that morning, pointing out how immersed in the wildlife they are. When they are living their daily lives surrounded by the beauty and culture of Islay, who could be better placed to show people all that it has to offer? Gus says you never know what you’re going to encounter from one day to the next on islay, but that’s part of the magic of the place – “next week it could be a dolphin!”