Sea Kayaking and Skomer Island
There are an estimated 6,000 breeding pairs of Puffins on Skomer Island and the drive from Haverfordwest to see them always seems to take longer than it should. The road winding, gradually getting smaller and smaller as it runs west until you arrive at the small harbour of St. Martin’s Haven. The reward for your journey makes it more than worth while. If you’re a keen bird watcher, or even if you’re not, you will love sea kayaking at Skomer Island in the spring time.
Once safely across the famous Jack Sound and then little Sound, the north coast of Skomer, to the Garland Stone can be relatively sheltered from the prevailing South West winds.
The only landing on the island is in the harbour, making a circumnavigation of the island a committing trip for sea kayakers. Seals pup on the beach and haul out onto the rocks so don’t always presume that you will be able to get out.
Watch the tidal flow though as from Waybench to the Garland the tide could be running at up to 2knots. Beyond it could be running in excess of 5 knots with fast flows and white water to be found between Skomer and the Garland. Larger waves can be found to the north of the stone. Words really can’t describe the beauty of this exposed part of the Pembrokeshire Coast.
Puffins fly above your head, their beaks stuffed full of sand eels. Predominantly on the north cliffs of the island they find protection from not only the previaling south westerly wind but the heat of the mid day sun too. Resting on the ocean surface as you drift silently past them with the tide you can’t help but fall in love with this colourful and comical “Pembrokeshire Parrot”.
As the tide takes you through the gap between the Garland Stone and Skomer Island, Grassholm looms on the horizon; the white “Guano” resembling that of an Greenlandic glacier. Once through, the far west side of the island feels very exposed, and it is. It will take you at least an hour to get back to the mainland from here, providing you have worked your tides correctly. Get them wrong and you may have some very hard paddling against the tide both to continue along the south side or return along the north coast.
As you pass the Pig Stone a view of Skokholm Island, an hour away, comes into sight. Taking in Skokholm Island on the same trip as Skomer and returning via Gateholm is a very satifying day out for those sea kayakers that are capable, testing your navgiation and tidal planning skills.
Stopping for lunch or at least a short rest in the Basin or at the Wick is a must. Floating in your sea kayak, with only Puffins and the odd seal for company, this is one of the best places in Pembrokeshire to eat and one you’ll remember forever. But keep one eye on the time as the Mew Stone may present some challenging water, against the tide if you are late.
Once past here, the views down to Gateholm and beyond to St. Anns Head are impressive. The yellow of Albion Sands contrasting against the red sandstone cliffs. Marloes Sands, just out of sight hiding behind Gateholm was the setting for the film Snow White and the Huntsman.
Kayaking in this area can be surprisingly sheltered from northerly winds, with lots of channels and rocks to explore. Depending on the tide state their are some great caves to discover too.
Skomer Island is one of the trips undertaken as part of Mayberry Kayaking’s Pembrokeshire Classics week in May.