The wild and unforgettable Skomer Island

Versione in italiano

Skomer Island is an absolute paradise for all those who love unspoiled nature, the birds of the Northern Europe and conservation areas far from the mass tourist flood.
Located in front of the Pembrokhire Peninsula, in southern Wales, this 3-sqm island is open to tourists only from April to October. Exception made for the researchers and the volunteers working there, in the opening months only 250 people a day can land on Skomer Island, and only 16 are allowed to stay overnight.
These restrictions are needed to protect the island's spectacular natural heritage, unique of its kind. Skomer Island is the favorite nesting site for about 6,000 pairs of puffins in summer, but also for guillemots, razorbills, cormorants, kittiwakes and many more. Approaching Skomer by boat, you are literally overwhelmed by puffins resting at sea or flying incessantly between the nests and the waves to bring food to the chicks: they are fabulous flyers, flapping their wings up to 400 times a minute and speeding through the air at up to 88km an hour!

Puffin Skomer Island
The puffins give also extremely funny shows when, with the beak full of herrings, hakes or sand eels caught diving deep under water, they sometimes perform clumsy landings to reach the nests. Before sunset, they happen to socialize in large groups on the cliff edges and, if you stay silent and still enough, you can watch them for hours at a very close distance. The deep sound they make when interacting with each other and the noise of the beaks clashing are one of the sweetest soundtrack of Skomer Island.

puffin fish in the beak

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Some cliffs are so full of nests the puffins dug out using their sharp daws and beaks that they look like huge Swiss cheese pieces overlooking the sea.
But there is also another special phenomenon that makes this an unforgettable island. Due to the total absence of terrestrial predators, Skomer Island is chosen each year by the 50% of the world's Manx shearwater population (about 316,000 breeding pairs) to lay eggs Just before midnight, when the complete darkness protects them from the ravenous seagulls, they come to feed the chicks in the nests, and their unmistakable shouts ring far and wide in the night. They simulate an aggressive behavior to hide their extreme vulnerability, as they are almost incapable of walking and appear awkward and cumbersome on land. You have actually to be careful and use a red-light torch to not step over them.
We stayed for one hour in the absolute darkness, surrounded only by a huge expanse of ferns and no other human being, feeling the flapping of hundreds of wings close to our bodies. Their loud, desperate squawking, vibrating in our ears and down our spines, was a unique, primordial experience.

Manx Shearwater Skomer Island
If in daytime Skomer Island donates you the infinite tenderness of the puffins, during the night it drags you into the deep, wild side of nature.
On the other side, if you are more on seals, August, September and October are the months in which the gray seals that swim in the St George’s Channel give birth to their pups. On the island there are also several rabbits, which are the only animal brought here by man centuries ago and whose dens can be seen literally everywhere.
If you love wildlife and you want to go back home with unique memories, Skomer Island is definitely the place for you.

seals Skomer Island

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TRAVEL TO SKOMER ISLAND

A small fishing boat departs Martin's Haven cove, in Pembrokhire, three times a day (at 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, no sailings on Mondays) to take the daily visitors off the island and bring them back in the afternoon. It is advisable to be at the ticket office quite early in the morning, as the 250 daily tickets go sold out quickly.
The ride takes about 10 minutes.

TICKETS

Daily tickets to the island can be bought at the Lockley Lodge (the Information Centre between the car park and the harbour), while boat tickets are sold directly on board.
Island Access Tickets: £ 10 (adults from 16 years old) £ 5 (1-16 years old)
Ferry: £ 11 (adults from 16 years old) £ 7 (1-16 years old)

STAY OVERNIGHT

Only 16 visitors per night can stay at the hostel on the island and they sail at 9:00 from Martin's Haven. The hostel has a fully equipped communal kitchen and it is a self catering accommodation: everyone has to bring his own food and then take the rubbish off the island when he leaves. No wi-fi and just two sockets available. Reservations open every October for the year after.
E-mail: [email protected]
Tel .: +44 01656 724100 (Mon-Fri 9: 00-17: 00)

ACCESSIBILITY

There is a 86-step stone stair from the ferry docking point to the first path available. On the island there are no roads, only trails: wheeled luggage are useless. A small tractor helps the overnight visitors to move their luggage from the docking point to the hostel.

EQUIPMENT AND GEAR

Comfortable and sturdy hiking shoes and waterproof clothing in case of rain (there is no way to dry wet clothes) are strongly recommended. It is advisable to bring with you binoculars and/or cameras with zoom lenses to spot birds, seals, and dolphins. Binoculars are also sold on the island. For those staying overnight it is necessary to have a red filter torch to not bother the animals.
Bed sheet or sleeping bag + pillowcase, towels and toiletries are required if you stay overnight.

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