Calum's Plockton Seal Trips, now one of the best wildlife cruises in the UK had hunble beginnings. Calum Mackenzie, an institution in himself, started boat trips in Plockton using a former River Thames Police Launch having bought the boat for the princely sum of £30. Calum had the idea of taking guests of the Plockton Hotel around the waters of Loch Carron and occasionally further afield to Kishorn to see the construction of the awesome oil rigs on which he once worked!
The boat trips were soon renamed as seal trips as Calum soon realised that Plockton was a great place to see seals and the other magnificent wildlife that the village had to offer. Those early seal trips were the inspiration for a story that has lasted nearly thirty years. It was at this time that a better boat was needed, the police launch had served its time well but was not big enough to cope with the visitors that were now coming to Plockton for the summer.
The second boat was called the Rhibbin Og which had been used as a prawn fishing boat in Plockton but was later moved by its owner to Fort William. After shaking on the deal with his old friend Finlay Finlayson, Calum had to go to Fort William to bring the boat back. So a motley crew was selected for the hazardous voyage of the Rhibbin Og which included Johnda Byrne, Finlay Finlayson, Colin Macandrew and Dave McGhie, the highlight of which was passing the Mishnish Hotel in Tobermory.
The next boat was a 31' Yorkshire coble which was bought from a local boatman in Plockton.
Following that was the Amanda C, an AquaStar 27 from Christchurch in Dorset.
When the BBC chose Plockton to film three series of the now cult television programme ' Hamish Macbeth' in the mid 90's it soon became obvious that a bigger boat was needed. The success of the show bought a massive surge in visitors to the village to see the scenes and meet the people some of whom starred in many of the episodes. Calum himself starred, and was the inspiration for one of the episodes.
As the earlier boats had only been licensed for 12 passengers the search was on for a boat that could take the increasing number of visitors to Plockton who wanted to go and see the seals. After a nationwide search the 'Argus' was purchased locally from Mick Coe who had been operating out of Kyleakin Harbour on the nearby Isle of Skye. After much work and a lot of new paint the maiden voyage of the 'Argus' took place on July 6th 1999 and served well for nearly 10 years.
Sadly in the terrible storms of October 2008 the 'Argus' was lost, slipping her moorings and being dashed on rocks at Kishorn. Fortunately it was the last week of the season, but undeterred, Calum set off once again to find a new boat, bigger and better than ever before the search took him to Tobermory, where the Sula Mhor ( big gannet ) was up for sale. This was just the boat that Calum had been looking for, well suited to the inshore waters of the West Highlands. 'Sula Mhor' arrived in Plockton in February 2009, with Calum bringing the boat himself from Mallaig to where it had been delivered.
Calum and all of the crew look forward to once again welcoming you aboard for the 6th season of the 'Sula Mhor'!
Remember 'if you want to see a flipper, be a seal-trip tripper!!!
And on final note, and just to prove the Captain is a man of many talents! Here he is performing for the crowds at the end of the Plockton Regatta in 2007! What a star!