Once you arrive in Shetland, Scottish Natural Heritage wardens are available to take you on guided walks and answer your questions. Shetland Amenity Trust's countryside rangers and RSPB staff are also here to help the visitor with an interest in wildlife. Several private guides also operate in the islands, some offering outings that focus on seeing, say, otters.
The top attractions are close encounters with seabirds and sea mammals but Shetland also has fascinating plants, insects and underwater wildlife.
Shetland's seabird colonies are world-famous because they're so big, so diverse, so scenically spectacular and so accessible. No fewer than 21 of the 24 British seabird species occur in Shetland.
Not so well known are Shetland's nationally important populations of wading birds, particularly in summer. Breeding species include Oystercatcher, Redshank, Snipe, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Curlew and Red-necked Phalarope.
In the spring and autumn migration seasons, almost anywhere in Shetland can turn up rare birds, but undoubtedly your best base is Fair Isle, with its internationally renowned bird observatory.