Scuba diving in the UK is not always the top of divers’ bucket lists. However, once you start exploring more you’ll find that some dive sites in the UK offer world-class diving. One of those dive destinations is Lundy Island in England.
We visited Lundy Island in July 2020 to check out the resident seals and majestic kelp. We wanted to find out which is better – scuba diving with seals, snorkelling with seals, or swimming with them. It’s all about the seals at Lundy Island.
How to Get to Lundy Island
There’s only one way to get to Lundy Island – by boat. Lundy Island is a small island lying in the Bristol Channel, accessed from the town of Ilfracombe in North Devon. It takes about 2 hours to cross from Devon to Lundy on boat. Sometimes the crossing can be a bit rough – bring seasickness tablets!
Lundy is never crowded, even in the height of summer. During peak season, the passenger ferry MS Oldenburg, brings day-visitors who stay for a few hours. At all other times, the residents and those who are staying on the island have the island to themselves. With only 23 holiday properties, the island is a peaceful haven!
Scuba Diving With Seals on Lundy Island
Lundy island is actually one of the UK’s top dive destination. As a marine nature reserve and because of its isolation, the habitat for wildlife is often compared to that of the Galapagos. There are over 40 dive sites around Lundy island with a mix of wrecks, reefs, drop offs, and pinnacles. However in this article we are just talking about scuba diving with seals.
If you are a certified scuba diver you can scuba dive with the seals around Lundy. The benefit of diving with the seals is getting to interact on more of an eye level than a swimmer. It is also better for any underwater photographers who want to capture a close up steady shot of the seals.
The dive itself doesn’t involve too much ‘diving’. You may find yourself sitting among kelp at 5m (15ft) for over 60 minutes. That’s where the best seal action is happening! Around the shores of Lundy Island there are plenty more dive sites that you can go deeper and explore more.
If you want to scuba dive with seals you need to bring all of your own equipment, including cylinders and weights. Unless stated, you don’t have a dive guide. This means that you need to have a buddy and make a dive plan together.
UK waters are always cold – even in summer – so make sure you either dive in a drysuit or a 7mm wetsuit. You can hire cylinders and equipment with Easy Divers and they will deliver it to the boat for you in the morning.
Snorkelling, Freediving and Swimming Lundy Island
If you aren’t scuba certified, or if you want to check out a different experience with the seals, you can swim, snorkel or freedive with them. Some benefits of this is you can follow them up, down, round and round (they love to twist and turn with you), and you may also have more seals come to check you out (some are lazy and just prefer to stay on the surface or on the rocks). Both scuba diving and swimming give you incredible experiences with the seals, so choose which ever one you feel, you could even do one scuba dive and one swim.
If you want to freedive with the seals (they LOVE it) make sure you are certified and you have a weight and weight belt and keep within your limits.
To swim or snorkel you also need a wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins. Gloves and a hood are also recommended to keep you warm.
What equipment do I need for seal swimming at Lundy Island?
- Wetsuit, mask, snorkel, fins (they are provided on free on the boat, but we recommend you bring your own). A 5mm wetsuit is recommended plus a hood and gloves if you have them
- If you want to duck dive/free dive you will need your own weight belt with weights
- Your own packed lunch/snacks/waterbottle
- Reef-safe suncream
- Warm clothes
- A set of dry clothes to change into
- Seasickness tablets if you get sea sick
Water Temperature at Lundy Island
The water temperature is around 16c all summer, that’s cold for us, that may not be for you, but we always find it’s better to over-prepare and bring more than less. To swim and snorkel we wore a 5mm wetsuit, rash vest and leggings underneath a hood, gloves and booties/socks for fins.
You’re going to want to capture this day! A GoPro is great, as is any other camera, but you most certainly don’t have to have a professional camera to capture the seals. It is also nice to have a surface camera for the walk on the island and on the boat. We shot these shots on a GoPro Hero 8 on video mode and screen grabbed on the GoPro app to create the photos.
Walking Around Lundy Island
Make sure you ask the captain of the boat if you can schedule in some time to walk on the actual island. You can’t come all this way and not set foot on Lundy. An hour is all you really need to do a short walk to the top to check out the beautiful view. Or, if you fancy a beer, there is one pub on the island called Marisco Tavern!
Keep your eye out for puffins and other wildlife often spotted on Lundy!
Booking Your Trip to Lundy Island
Trip duration is usually 8-10 hours depending on tide and weather. Trips are planned around the tides and with this, in mind start, times vary slightly according to the state of the tide on the day. We leave at 09:30 and aim to arrive back between 6:30pm-7pm.
Dive boats go out as day charters for a 8 hour trip, you need to pre-book your dive/snorkel trip – and during summer they get booked up. We booked our trip with Wild Frontier Charters.
Something to be aware of is all of these dive boats that go out to Lundy island also fish (catch and release) around the Bristol channel and some have been reported to have caught (and released) sharks. We spoke to Mark at Wild Frontier Charters and he assured us they don’t ever target sharks to fish and if they ever catch one they release it back.
Where to Park for Lundy Island Trips
The post code to the car park at Ilfracombe Harbour is EX34 9EQ. If you are driving, there is a car park on the pier. Car park charges £11.60 for full-day parking.