Puffin Photography on Skomer Island
Skomer Island is located in the far south west of Wales in Pembrokeshire. As you drive down the M4 and then off into the wilds beyond the anticipation rises. The island can be seen as you come over the hill from Marloes village but it isn't until the boat comes in to view that the adventure really begins.
Skomer Island is perfect for a day trip for those who want to see puffins and it is a treat for any wildlife photographer. A day on the island gives time to watch and photograph the antics of these amazing little birds. Due to the environmental importance of the island and its inhabitants it is designated as a National Marine Nature Reserve. Visits are carefully controlled with only a certain number of visitors allowed to land each day and clear guidelines being in place to ensure a balance between conservation and tourism.
Planning your visit to Skomer Island
The adventure starts on arrival at Lockley Lodge in the small cove of Martins Haven. There is day parking here or if you are staying on the island then you must park at West Hook Farm just a short but tough walk up the road. It is a lottery and if you want to visit Skomer Island you need to get there early. Tickets are sold on a first come first served basis on the day. In the peak season these tickets go really quickly so it is better to arrive early and queue.
The boat only sails on Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays and can be cancelled if the crossing is too rough. It is only a mile, but it involves crossing the 'interesting' Jack Sound. You certainly know when you have got to it as the water becomes choppy even on a calm day.
Keep your camera to hand as the wildlife appears as the boat leaves the jetty. Seals are around and about and dolphins buzz the boat as it crosses. Birds appear in increasing numbers as the island gets closer.
On arrival at the island you will be met by the warden who will talk through the key areas on the island and any new arrivals. Even if you visit a lot this is essential. The talk takes place at the top of the steps. There are a lot of steps, but once you are on top of the island it is just an undulating walk for the remainder of the day.
Depending on your crossing times it may be worth heading to The Wick immediately or saving it to the end of the day if you are on one of the later crossing. It can get busy here as this is where the puffins are found in their greatest numbers. However puffins are everywhere, so getting away from the crowds is recommended.
Remember to bring all the food and drink you need. There is nowhere on the island to purchase anything. There are however toilets but no real shelter if it rains heavily so waterproofs are essential. Along with waterproofs a good pair of boots are recommended. The island is rugged and there is LOTS of walking.
Skomer island is perfect for a circular walk with far more to the island than just The Wick
As the puffins are so numerous and close to the path, huge lenses are not essential Some of my best photographs have been taken on my phone whilst with the puffins. However if you want to get some in flight photographs or puffins in burrows then a longer lens is needed to prevent disturbing the birds.
Skomer Island isn't just about the puffins. There is a lot more wildlife on this island including owls, toads and rabbits as well as other species of birds in vast numbers.
Lots of memory and battery power are essential. You will be amazed how many pictures you take in just one day. If you stay on Skomer Island then plenty of batteries are needed. Power is limited on the island and battery charging is not a priority for limited resources.
A waterproof covering for your camera is also a good idea. The rain can be heavy but provides great shots. Puffins with beads of water look fantastic.
More Puffins can be seen in my portfolio. these are mainly taken on Skomer Island with a few from Shetland and Orkney mixed in.
Staying on Skomer Island
One of the best ways to see Skomer Island is to stay on the island. Not only do you miss the lottery of getting a ticket for the day, but you get to cross on an earlier boat than the day visitors.
Accommodation is basic but comfortable and warm. In the style of a bunk house with a shared kitchen and bathroom it is a perfect base for a few nights. You do need to bring all your food and take all rubbish back to the mainland.
Once on the island you are free to explore. The biggest bonus is being able to photograph the puffins during the golden light of sunrise and sunset. If you stay on a Sunday night you get to explore the island on your own on a Monday. There are no day trippers and no boats to get off the island- perfect!
You also get to see the amazing night sky and sometimes even the aurora borealis as we did and hear the manx shearwaters with their haunting call through the night.
Leaving Skomer Island
When it is time to leave ensure you arrive at the allocated time. There is nothing worse than having to sit on a boat for the crossing with everyone knowing you are the reason for the delay.
Once you have visited Skomer Island it will be an experience you will want to repeat. A day trip is enough to give you a taste, but to enjoy it to it maximum a stay is the best option.
Puffin Fact File https://www.welshwildlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Puffin.pdf
Welsh Wildlife Trust https://www.welshwildlife.org/skomer-skokholm/skomer/
Staying on Skomer https://www.welshwildlife.org/overnight-accommodation-on-skomer/
West Hook Farm Parking for staying on Skomer Island http://www.westhookfarm-camping.co.uk/skomer.html
Amazing Photography Days with Drew Buckley, highly recommended
Inspiration for Puffin Photography on Skomer Island
How to Get to Skomer Island
Parking grid reference SM 76059 09068
Parking Lat/Long 51.735464, -5.2446745
Parking postcode SA62 3BJ
Map OL36 (1:25000)