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Wildlife watching: 15 sightseeing tours

February 2017

Puffin on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire by Kevin Robinson
Puffin on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire by Kevin Robinson

Go wild in Wales with an experienced guide who knows the very best places to see whales, dolphins, rare butterflies and nesting puffins.

 

Benllech Beach, Anglesey by davep90
Benllech Beach, Anglesey by davep90

Celticos offers a tour of two North Wales Wildlife Trust reserves on Anglesey. You’ll start by meeting the warden at Cemlyn, a coastal reserve with a lagoon and shingle bank. In summer, it’s one of the most important tern colonies in Wales. Later you’ll explore Cors Goch near Benllech, a grassland, heathland and wetland habitat, rich in butterflies, dragonflies, amphibians and reptiles.

The coastline of Anglesey by C Branston
The coastline of Anglesey by C Branston

Caroline Bateson of Anglesey Wildlife Walks, a guide with over 20 years’ experience in nature conservation, offers half day or full day walks in several sections of the Anglesey Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. She also leads four night nature tours of the island in association with Country Lane Tours. Sightings may include seals, porpoises, rare plants and butterflies.

Bardsey Island from Baich y Pwll
Bardsey Island from Baich y Pwll

Colin Evans of Bardsey Island Boat Trips comes from a family of lobster fishermen who have lived on the Llŷn Peninsula for generations. He runs crossings and day-trips to Bardsey from the appealing village of Aberdaron. When the weather’s good, you can cruise Bardsey Sound, watching seabirds, seals and dolphins, while hearing about the region’s maritime history.

Black grouse, North East Wales by Mick Sway
Black grouse, North East Wales by Mick Sway

Black grouse are rare in Wales and even rarer in England. If you’d like to see one, Coed Llandegla in the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB is the place – 50 per cent of the Welsh population of these charismatic birds live within one mile of here. In the breeding season, from late March to May, RSPB officers lead guided walks through the forest to a lek, where the males screech, display and mock-charge each other to win a mate.

Llangorse Lake, Brecon Beacons
Llangorse Lake, Brecon Beacons

Planet Wales offers bespoke tours of the Brecon Beacons National Park, led by a former nature reserve warden. Exploring the hills, woodlands and waterways of this diverse park, you could see brown hares, otters and water voles, marsh fritillary butterflies and great crested newts. Longer tours which take in Gower, the Glamorgan Heritage Coast and the Severn Estuary are possible, too.

Porpoise swimming off Pembrokshire coast
Porpoise swimming off Pembrokshire coast

From Neyland, opposite Pembroke Dock, the Cartlett Lady cruises around the Pembrokeshire coast in search of dolphins and porpoises. With luck, you may even spot orcas and sharks: basking sharks, blue sharks and porbeagles are sometimes seen in these waters. The boat has a flying bridge for great all-round visibility and carries just 12 passengers, for an exclusive feel.

A pool of dolphins off the Ceredigion coast by A Bay To Remember
A pool of dolphins off the Ceredigion coast by A Bay To Remember

Dolphin Survey Boat Trips offer fascinating dolphin-watching cruises from New Quay, lasting from an hour upwards. On a full-day trip, you’ll accompany researchers from the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre as they collect important data and listen in on the dolphins’ conversations via an underwater microphone. As an alternative, A Bay to Remember offers fun RIB trips from Cardigan, Gwbert and Poppit Sands.

Ramsey Island, Pembrokshire coast
Ramsey Island, Pembrokshire coast

This summer birdwatching tour from Thousand Island Expeditions is led by an RSPB warden. Setting out from the historic St Justinian’s lifeboat station, you’ll circle Grassholm, the world’s fourth largest gannet colony, home to 39,000 pairs. Later, you land on Ramsey, where you’ll hear about the island’s history and ecology. You’re then free to explore, looking for choughs, kittiwakes, peregrine falcons and seals.

Parc Slip, Glamorgan Heritage Coast by christopher james
Parc Slip, Glamorgan Heritage Coast by christopher james

The 300-acre Parc Slip at Tondu, near Bridgend, is the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ flagship nature reserve in South Wales: its meadows and wetlands support over 1000 wildlife species. Guided walks take place on a regular basis, starting from the Visitor Centre and focusing on moths, butterflies, dragonflies or birds. There’s also a weekly Reptile Ramble.

Puffins on Puffin Island, Anglesey
Puffins on Puffin Island, Anglesey

Despite the name, Anglesey’s Puffin Island isn’t the best place in Wales for puffin-watching – Skomer and Skokholm have bigger colonies. But on a spring or early summer cruise around the island with Beaumaris Marine or Starida, you’re likely to see a few, along with crowds of guillemots and razorbills, jostling for space on the cliffs, plus sandwich terns, eider ducks and cormorants.

The Skerries, Anglesey by Kris Williams
The Skerries, Anglesey by Kris Williams

Designed in association with Bear Grylls for wildlife-watchers with a sense of adventure, this RIB trip from Ribride takes you from Holyhead to the wild, remote Skerries, home to a huge population of Arctic, common and roseate terns, plus breeding puffins and kittiwakes. You then continue to North Stack for caves and sea cliffs, and to South Stack for scores of sea birds in the RSPB reserve.

Razorbill on Skomer Island, Pembrokshire
Razorbill on Skomer Island, Pembrokshire

Launching from Martin’s Haven near Marloes, the Dale Princess offers gentle trips around the bird-rich islands of SkomerSkokholm and Grassholm, with commentary from the crew. On a spring or summer sunset cruise, you’ll see puffins, gannets and other seabirds returning to home base after a day’s fishing. High-speed sea safaris by RIB in the Skomer Marine Nature Reserve are also available.

Stackpole Quay, Pembrokeshire
Stackpole Quay, Pembrokeshire

David Blackmore, a Green Badge Guide based in Pembrokeshire, offers five-hour tours of the ecologically diverse region around Stackpole in May and June. Inland, you’ll explore wooded valleys and ancient lily ponds, home to otters, water birds and dragonflies. The coast is a beautiful stretch of cliffs and coves alternating with beaches and dunes.

Dolphin swimming near New Quay, Ceredigion by Shane Jones
Dolphin swimming near New Quay, Ceredigion by Shane Jones

Voyages of Discovery in St Davids have been perfecting the art of whale and dolphin watching in West Wales since 2002. Their detailed knowledge of Pembrokeshire’s coastal and offshore waters ensures regular sightings of resident and migrating dolphins (common, bottlenose and Risso’s), whales (minke, sei and fin), orcas and sharks. May to September are the best months, particularly June.

RSPB Ynys Hir, Ceredigion by Michael Day
RSPB Ynys Hir, Ceredigion by Michael Day

In the summer months, this RSPB reserve in Ceredigion organises fun, informative guided tours and activities for kids. Choose from Wildlife Explorer afternoons, with pond-dipping and bug hunts, and Story Walks, tours with a professional storyteller who weaves stories from the natural world into the experience.

For more articles on Wales click here


 

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