Survey the Hebrides

Each year our specially equipped research yacht Silurian sails the Hebrides monitoring whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans). We look for animals (visual survey); listen for animals (acoustic survey) and take photographs of their distinct markings (photo identification).

We conduct long-term monitoring of the distribution, abundance and habitat use of cetaceans in Hebridean waters as well as emerging threats such as noise and entanglement risks. To enable this research, we rely on enthusiastic paying volunteers joining us aboard; people who wish to contribute directly to a well-established monitoring programme which advances the understanding of Hebridean cetaceans and other marine wildlife.

Volunteers effectively become marine mammal scientists for the duration of the expedition; living and working aboard Silurian, assisting with the day-to-day running and domestic duties, alongside working together as a team to carry out the survey work.
Please be aware, this is not a whale watching experience, it’s a scientific survey – however, no experience is required as full training will be provided.


As a volunteer aboard Silurian, you will have the opportunity to observe the amazing variety of marine wildlife the UK hosts. You will explore some of the remotest, wildest parts of the British Isles; anchoring each night in a different bay off one of the many Hebridean islands, venturing ashore to explore.

To explore our Marine Observatory - created using data collected from aboard Silurian - please click here.

"My trips on Silurian have been inspirational. It's a privilege to encounter wildlife in such a beautiful marine environment but to contribute to the understanding of the cetaceans in these waters is very special indeed. It's something that will stay with you for ever. Every day different and every encounter significant." Jan Storie, Silurian Volunteer (on multiple occassions!)

The Hebrides is one of the most important areas in Europe for cetaceans, however until recently, remarkably little was known about the mega-fauna found in Hebridean waters. By collecting data over a long period of time we can detect changes, such as a boom in the population or a shift in distribution.
Our aim is to provide those who manage Scotland’s marine species and habitats with the information they need to ensure effective conservation of the area’s diverse cetacean population.

Before committing to participating in a Cetacean Research Survey, please read this information about the expedition and what to expect aboard Silurian.

The Trust runs Standard Surveys (for those aged 18 or older), Teen Team Surveys (for those aged 16 or 17) and Joint Warrior Surveys (to monitor any potential effects of the massive NATO military exercise which occurs twice a year in the Hebrides). 

2017 Standard Survey Information

Please note that the information listed below is a general overview and subject to change - the area surveyed will be at the discretion of the HWDT crew who will join you aboard and the weather conditions.
Tobermory Expeditions

Allows for the monitoring of the Southern Hebrides (Islay, Jura, Colonsay, Gigha and the slate isles) alongside the Argyll Isles (Mull, Iona, Staff, Treshnish, Tiree and Coll) and the Small Isles (Rum, Eigg, Canna and Muck).

Early-season surveys:
These surveys will monitor for the resident populations of porpoise and bottlenose dolphin, alongside noting the arrival of our seasonal visitors. Spring is a fantastic time to visit the Hebrides with the arrival of thousands of nesting seabirds and generally more settled weather. Shorter daylight hours also mean shorter survey days so a perfect choice for those who want a more relaxed experience.

  • 10th – 16th April: £845 (FULL)

  • 2nd – 8th May: £895 (FULL)

  • 11th – 17th May: £895 (FULL)

Mid-season surveys:
These surveys will monitor the Hebrides during the height of the summer season so you can hope to expect sightings of seasonal visitors (minke whale, common dolphin) as well as basking shark. The hours of daylight are at their maximum so expect long days on survey effort if joining one of our mid-season expeditions.

  • 28th June – 9th July: £1,395 (FULL)

  • 12th – 20th July: £1,195 (FULL)

  • 14th – 25th August: £1,395 (FULL)

Kyle of Lochalsh Expeditions

Departure from Kyle (where the bridge to Skye meets the mainland) allows for the monitoring of the Small Isles, Skye (and its surrounding islands, including the Sound of Raasay – the deepest inshore waters in the UK), Barra, South Uist and the Inner Minch.

  • 5th – 13th June: £1,175 (FULL)

  • 15th – 23rd June: £1,185 (FULL)

Ullapool Expeditions

Ullapool is on the Scottish mainland, far in the north west (where the ferry to Stornoway departs). The area surveyed can include the Outer Hebrides, Skye and the north west coast up to Cape Wrath – the most remote parts of our study area.

  • 31st Aug – 8th September: £1,185 (Only 1 berth available)

  • 18th – 29th September: £1,295 (FULL)

To find out more about a specific expedition, or indeed to book aboard, please complete an online form and our Volunteer Coordinator, Morven Russell, will be in touch with more details. Alternatively, you can contact Morven directly HERE.