The seal deal in North Wales

by Clare.Jones

Slip silently through the sea in a kayak and enjoy an accessible wildlife-watching experience off the coast of Anglesey in North Wales

Close-up animal encounters don’t have to involve travelling halfway across the world and jumping aboard a safari jeep. You can slip through the sea in a kayak for a totally different kind of wildlife-watching experience, and you only have to go to Wales.

Head to the island of Anglesey and its northeastern tip. Here, the clanging drone of the Trwyn Du, or Penmon Point lighthouse, signals the potential dangers of the swirling waters below. Half a mile out to sea is the low-lying Puffin Island, or Yns Seiriol, home to one of the largest great cormorant colonies in the British Isles, with over 750 pairs.

Bird-watching opportunities are in abundance, with guillemots, razorbills, shags and kittiwakes all nesting here. Small numbers of common eider and black guillemot have also set up home on the island in recent years. The name suggests it is the puffins you might come for. The introduction of rats to the island in the 19th century, however, severely reduced their numbers. But their population is now once again increasing, so you might just catch a glimpse.

But it's what lies waiting on the far eastern shore of the island, hidden from view, that really makes this a special animal experience. Slip silently into the water in a sea kayak and you have the perfect, stealthy way to carefully creep up on this assembled rock-loving community. As you kayak along the northern edge of the island, you might hear them before you see them: the barking calls of the Atlantic grey seal colony will guide you in.

You don’t need prior experience to embark on this journey (kayaks, instruction and a guide are offered by local sea kayak specialists Surf-Lines The shape and length of sea kayaks means they very easily plough a straight line and as soon as my boat slid into the water it felt like it wanted to be off. I wasn’t going to stop it. The journey passed with this wonderful forward momentum, this easy-going dip and slosh of paddle blades propelling us forwards.

It doesn’t take long to slip into this laidback style of travel where you can nose your boat around each rocky outcrop just to take a peek and serenely glide over shallow waters where fronds of floating seaweed pass beneath your hull. This is slow travel that allows you to soak up the landscape, take in your surroundings and get closer to parts you would never normally find a way of accessing.

For wildlife encounters, kayaking is ideal; it offers a much quieter approach, meaning you can sit back and watch the seals basking on the rocks as well as bobbing in and out of the waves. If you are here late afternoon, watch the soft light sweep across the hills of the Snowdonia range and further down the coast to the Great Orme headland at Llandudno. It’s the seal deal.

For more information contact Surf-Lines (Tel: 01286 879001).


Clare Jones is a travel writer and photographer who loves a good adventure and has been lucky enough to make this her work travelling across the globe for a variety of magazines and newspapers. She is co-author and photographer of the international best-selling BBC books Unforgettable Things to do before you die, Unforgettable Journeys to take before you die and the recently published Unforgettable Walks to take before you die. She has also co-authored the AA titles, Extreme Places and the flagship Key Guide to Spain. She has been on assignment in over 50 countries and five continents exploring them on foot, by kayak, under sail, by mountain bike as well as skiing and climbing. One of her most testing adventures was a three-month sea-kayaking expedition from Vancouver to Alaska, as part of the first British all-female team to undertake this 1000-mile epic journey. She is a Winston Churchill Fellow and was honoured with the Mike Jones Award for accomplishing this journey. She is also sponsored by Salomon. Her work has been featured by a variety of publications, including the Sunday Telegraph, The Times, Mail on Sunday, The Scotsman, and The Herald, USA Today, Geographical, Health & Fitness and Traveller. Clare is also an assistant television producer and has worked on several BBC documentaries.