Lundy is a small island, about three and a half miles long and about half a mile wide, which lies off the North Devon coast. Lundy is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bristol Channel and, as you can imagine, has some unique features because of this! For those who don’t know, in 1971 Lundy became the UK’s first voluntary marine nature reserve and in January 2012 the island became the first Marine Conservation Zone. This protected status, along with the waters of both the Atlantic and the Bristol Channel create a unique marine environment – with spectacular diving! For more information, have a look on Lundy’s website and the Island’s Marine Conservation Zone website.
I’ve wanted to go to Lundy long before I started diving, having been intrigued by the island’s charm… what boy doesn’t want to go explore on an island in the middle of the sea… and having heard tales of puffins, seals and even the occasional whale my interest only grew! So, as soon as the opportunity for a dive trip came up, I jumped at it! This was to be a trip of 10 divers for some diving and camping over a long weekend in July. Perfect! We stayed in Ilfracombe overnight, before our 8am ropes off time for the crossing. The plan was to head over, unload our camping kit and get a couple of dives in! Luckily, the pre-booked glorious sunshine and flat calm seas arrived in time for the crossing, and stayed for the entire time we were there.
On arrival, the Island Warden was already waiting for us, loaded the camping kit into his 4×4 and drove it up the hill to the campsite for us. Top man! We then headed straight off to the first dive site. On the way over, we saw dozens of Seals sunbathing, had a flyby from a pair of puffins and even spotted a Sunfish at the surface! No pressure for the rest of the trip then… Our first dive site was a collection of un-named, wide, deep gullies with depths available anywhere from 20 to 40m. The skipper had warned us in his briefing that vis was pretty poor at the moment, even throwing in an apology! So, as regular south east coast divers, imagine our surprise to find a good 12m visibility! For a first dive this was pretty great, with plenty of life and a real sense that this island is a special place.
Over the next few days, we’d follow up this first dive with a drift or two (not always intentionally!), a couple of pinnacles, a dive on the wreck of the Robert (a great wreck and a great dive) and of course, a couple of playful seal dives!
This trip was to be the first time I’ve dived with a large marine mammal, and I was both excited and a touch apprehensive as I took a stride off the side of the boat. Our first seal dive was spectacularly devoid of seals, which isn’t that un-common as any playtime is very much on the seal’s terms. Instead, we hung about in the kelp admiring the colours of the Jellyfish (have to say, my new Fourth Element Arctics were lovely and warm despite us trying to remain still and intriguing…). Seal dive number 2 then, had a lot to prove… and it did just that!
Hopping in, my buddy and I gently hovered slightly above the kelp, hoping that we’d be just that little more interesting to the seals above, rather than in, the kelp. Sure enough, after about 10 minutes we spotted these huge eyes peeking from behind some of the plants, looking straight at us! Gradually, the lure of these two floaty bubbly things became too much and the seal started to move closer, grabbing a few cheeky nibbles on a fin or two as well! It was such a fun, and typical, Lundy experience! Over the 3 days diving, we saw countless seals, dogfish, scorpionfish, a pipefish lurking in the plants, dogfish and mermaid’s purses, loads of little nudibranchs, some absolutely huge crabs, lobsters and massive conger eels hiding in the gulleys.
The trip totally exceeded my own expectations, and I’d happily recommend Lundy to anyone who enjoys great U.K. diving. The island itself was stunning, and the tavern staff were friendly, easy going and knew how to cook just the right food for a load of hungry divers! It’s a beautiful, special place and you should all experience it!