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A new snorkel trail exploring Lochaber’s beautiful beaches and rocky shores has been created by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and West Highland College UHI.
The self-led Lochaber Snorkel Trail features six sites on the region’s coast and identifies areas that can be explored by both beginner and more advanced snorkellers.
Exploring these areas could lead to close-up encounters with colourful wildlife, including starfish, jellyfish, anemones and crabs, as well as seals and a range of fish.
The trail began as a final year project for a Marine and Coastal Tourism student based at West Highland College’s School of Adventure Studies. It was launched on the shore of Loch Linnhe last Friday (July 9) by students from the college and Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch.
Dr Sam Collin, Living Seas manager at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said Lochaber’s dramatic landscapes, beautiful beaches and internationally recognised biodiversity make it one of the finest locations for marine and coastal tourism in Scotland.
‘The Lochaber Snorkel Trail is a fantastic addition to the network of trails being developed as part of our Living Seas project and we are delighted to have worked closely with West Highland College UHI to create it,’ said Dr Collin.
‘We want to help people realise the importance of protecting Scotland’s seas – helping local people and visitors to safely discover marine wildlife through snorkelling is a fantastic way to achieve that.’
Ms Forbes commented: ‘It was fantastic to have the chance to experience first-hand the amazing coastal environment we have in Lochaber. This initiative goes to show that you don’t have to go to the Caribbean to see crystal clear waters and colourful marine life.
‘I’m pleased to see West Highland College UHI and the Scottish Wildlife Trust collaborating on this new snorkel trail, a welcome initiative during Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters.
‘The work helps to highlight Lochaber’s stunning coast and the amazing life beneath the waves. I’m sure the trail will enhance adventure tourism in Lochaber, and raise awareness of the importance of looking after our local marine life.’
Annabel Lawrence, lecturer in Marine and Coastal Tourism at West Highland College UHI, said those behind the initiative hoped it will lead to a greater understanding, appreciation and protection of these fragile, threatened habitats and iconic species.
‘The trail began as a final-year project for one of our Marine and Coastal Tourism students. The project, developed with support from the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Centre for Tourism Research (CRTR) at West Highland College, has resulted in this new trail around Lochaber, the training and qualification of 12 UHI students as British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) snorkel instructors and also Dolphin Snorkeller training for primary school children in the area,’ she explained.
‘Our Marine and Coastal Tourism degree delivered by the School of Adventure Studies was developed in response to Scotland’s initial marine tourism strategy ‘Awakening the Giant’, which presented the opportunity to create a world class marine tourism sector in Scotland.
‘The degree is in its sixth year of delivery and has had many positive outcomes. Graduates from the course are involved in sea kayaking, sailing, leisure cruises, business start-ups and community marine projects.’