June 2016. Last summer, we stayed in north Pembrokeshire near Fishguard, a beautiful area and we quite fell in love with it. The hills, grass pastures, the Preseli Mountains and beautiful coast walks on the Pembrokeshire Coast overlooking the blue/green sea. You stand a good chance of seeing porpoises, seals and dolphins while walking on the coast paths. We discovered that the best time to visit Skomer Island is in June and July when the puffins are breeding. So we put it in our diaries to visit during a gap in the GCSE exams this summer.
We drove over to beautiful Pembrokeshire to Foxdale campsite in Marloes, west of Haverfordwest. It’s an area we’ve been through on holiday 20+ years ago. This time we stayed in a pre-errected Bell Tent supplied with all that we needed.
After a long journey of 7 hrs (Friday traffic) we fell into ready made beds in a heated and spacious tent! (Oh yes, it even comes with 2 oil filled radiators and electric lights too)
The Dawn Chorus struck around 3.30am with blackbirds, great tits, sparrows and of course seagulls which weirdly sounded like police sirens!!
We had been warned it would be an early start as the boat trip is extremely popular. Only 300 people allowed on the island each day and with no reserve booking, it is essential to arrive early to queue as by 9am all the landing tickets are sold out. We joined the back of the queue at 7.45am and only just made the last boat trip at 12 noon. I felt for the people behind us as their only option was a trip around the island from the sea or to try again tomorrow.
After a 15 minute boat ride on the Dale Princess, we landed on Skomer at the base of the cliff. There are eighty seven steps to climb up the cliff side for the Wardens introduction. After that we were on our own, free to wander at will, but only on the designated foot paths with no deviation allowed. This keeps the bird nests safe – after all you don’t want to squash a puffin burrow, do you?
There are fabulous views across St Brides Bay over to St Davids peninsula and Ramsey Island. The footpaths are clearly marked around the island.
There are plenty of things to see: the views, wild birds and the flora and fauna and the chance to spot seals or dolphins too.
In the centre of the island is the visitor centre and accommodation block. Here you find the ecological and slightly whiffy compost loos. The total distance to walk around the island is about 4 miles and we had 5½ hours landing time which was ample to eat our picnic lunch, wander slowly around and take many many photos or bird or sea watch.
Skomer is carpeted with many wild flowers. We found red campion, wood sage, thrift, heather, bracken, sea campion, creeping (purple) thistle, bracken and the odd spear thistle too.
There are 10,000 puffins, 4000-5000 razorbills and 20,000 guillemots on Skomer. Along with 500,000 Manx Shearwaters who only fly at night, 13,000 seagulls (4 different breeds) it’s certainly a bird paradise.
The overall noise from the birds is a shrill, rasping cacophony of noise. Add in the smell of the guano and you know you are in a bird world! The noise from the puffin’s wings sounds like a drum roll as they beat their stumpy wings 400 times a minute. Their call is a rasping brrr a bit like a faint strimmer.
Skomer is one of the most important bird habitats in the UK. For the Manx Shearwater, it’s the most important in the world!
Soon it was time to leave and sail back the 2 miles back to land.
Skomer is administered by The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. You pay a landing fee to them which books your boat pass. You pay your boat fare once on the boat, to Dale Sailing.
Car parking at Martins Haven and is administered by The National Trust. (Fee payable for all day parking.)