Seal Diving Trip at Lundy Island – 01-08-2014

Didn’t think it was going to happen this year but was over the moon with a free place on a seal diving trip to Lundy Island with A&A charters aboard Obsession II. So you are now thinking I am a jammy sod, you would be right but I am so grateful to Sue Barnes, a PADI instructor, who gave me her place as she was unable to make the trip. She messaged me on Thursday evening to ask if I wanted it, I was lost for words (doesn’t happen often) as it was something I wanted to do for a couple of reasons, the first being a friend died recently and I wanted to do a calender in memory of her to raise money for the Marie Curie Hospice that looked after her and her husband in her last couple of months. I can never repay the debt I owe her for her kindness and friendship 12 years ago so this feels like a small token in comparison; the other being that I really wanted to experience seal diving, and what better place than a colony that was used to divers.

If anyone is going to go on one f these trips I recommend finding a camp site, hotel, B and B, or just sleeping in the car at the harbour and arriving the day before, I only live 90 miles away from Ilfracombe where Alec and Andrea run the charter from but I was up at 4.30am to make sure I had everything packed, camera was ready and to load the car, my plan was to leave at 5.30 but I wasn’t rolling out of my courtyard till 6 as I had only had about 30 mins sleep from the excitement of what was ahead.

After an easy first part of the drive up I came across road works, lots of little ones in North Devon and I arrived around 8.15, just in time to load kit onto the boat and meet the other divers. I had of course forgotten to take my wide angle lens out of the bag in the car and had to run (walk quickly in flip flops) round the harbour to the car, which was parked in a reasonably priced car park at £3.20 for the day, the main harbour car park would have worked out at £10 for the day.

I was told to wait on my side of the harbour by the ladder and they picked me up before heading off, after my experiences with flip flops and cliffs a few weeks ago (where I slipped 20ft down a cliff looking at a potential dive spot (to be written up when I get the chance)) I took my flip flops off and gingerly climbed down the ladder.

We left the harbour and were on our way

Ilfracombe Harbour

At a steady 15 knots we headed to Lundy, the boat was noisy and the divers were quiet in anticipation, or was it trying to avoid sea sickness on the hour and a quarter journey to the island.

_8011223As we saw North Devon disappear there was a brief time when it felt like being out in the middle of the Atlantic, then in a haze Lundy started to appear, it was at this time one of the best quotes of the day was mentioned and it went something like this ‘I feel fine, I don’t mind the boat going up and down so much, it is just when the boat shudders that it makes me feel like Jaws is attacking the boat.’ but I guess you would have had to be there as the boat rose, then crashed down over the wave as he said it.

The closer we got to Lundy the more beautiful it became.

Lundy Island


Then as we pulled into Brazen Ward we saw the models we were going to be diving with, and this is the start of the boring bit, I hope you have a cuppa in your hand.




After Alec gave the dive brief everyone kitted up excitedly and entered the water




Then it was a question of ignore the seals, explore the cove and let them come to us.


A kelp forest greeted us as we reached 5m and I noticed a lot of furrows


I bet you are now sitting there wondering what on earth I am wasting my time taking pics like these for, I agree but with the seals circling round us at a distance like Native Americans back in the old West, we had to be patient.



They started getting closer as they knew we weren’t a threat and then this little guy popped up



and he just wanted to play



I thought Nat was very brave sitting with this little fella so close, then I saw my worst fear, a torpedo coming at us


I stayed calm and went back to watching the little fella who was definitely not camera shy








Before I knew it about 30 mins had passed, so after waiting the first 20 mins for them to come play it was nearly time to surface and I saw Paul Scubysnaps Woodburn, an amateur (semi?) professional photographer who I had met through Facebook and had been looking forward to diving with for a long time.


and you can see why, I reckon his camera weighs more than the rest of his kit. We all exited the water by the lift on Obsession II


and were excitedly showing each other our pics and chatting about how awesome the dive was, Lesley was on the case with the tea and coffee for us and it was the 2nd best cuppa ever (can’t tell you the first but it had nothing to do with diving, over 18’s will know) and I was given a memento for breaking my seal diving virginity to stick on my keyring, to be in the special club you will have to go dive with A&A.

Alec was proud of his son who had completed his first dive with seals and he was grinning like a Cheshire cat the rest of the trip


Everyone was enjoying their lunch while we waited patiently for the SI (Surface Interval) to end and the go ahead from Alec to get back in amongst the chaos.



As we were kitting up the smell of baby talc filled the air and it looked like everyone was face painting with white paint, funny how so much more stuff is needed for wimp….I mean drysuit divers, my trusty 7mm 2 piece Beaver semi-dry was more than enough for me.


With lunch and SI over we re-entered the water even more excited than before, this time I was diving with Paul Scubysnaps Woodburn and it was going to be a funny dive, if you are bored of pictures of seals I have to warn you not to continue which is why I thought a picture of a solitary fish would break it up for you.


A few tiny fish had appeared, they would probably regret it later with the seals around, not from this one though who seemed to be asleep, rocking gently to the swell.



I was pumped, Alec and Andrea, and the crew of Obsession II had made the whole trip a great experience, apart from the speed bumps on the way out that the Captain couldn’t avoid we had been given thorough dive briefs with depth and time of the dives, how to interact with the seals and covering all aspects of who was qualified as what, O2 provider, first aiders, rescue divers and higher so everyone knew who was who.


We were being circled as soon as we entered the water, gracefully moving through the water and looking for an opening to nibble on our fins or pull off our hoods.


It was hard to ignore them this time as they came in so fast, one or two as expected with the rest circling at a distance.



Then it happened, my first fin tug of the day, I gently turned around to find this youngster seeing if I tasted good


It was such an amazing dive and I am so glad I had come, after seeing videos on Youtube about seal diving and hearing the stories from others, a bit like the fishermen who swear the big one got away, I was feeling so relaxed and excited at the same time.


As an environmental scientist and naturalist I dare anyone to dive with seals and say animals don’t have feelings, character and soul, each one was so unique and so beautiful to watch.


We cris-crossed the other divers and Nat looked more like a cave diver than an open water diver out to play with seals


Then I felt my second fin tug of the day and turned to find this little fella behind me


He decided my fin was a good substitute for a scratching post and let me scratch his belly before he swam off to find someone else to befriend.


Then I saw a jellyfish and paused a moment, having not had great success taking snaps of jellies in the past, either too small or not enough of them seen by the camera to focus on, I couldn’t resist snapping this little fella




Then I saw Ollie, a Kernow Diver on the trip and I looked at Paul and he made the motion of fin pulling, I chuckled and made the motion back of hugging, just as the seals do to your leg. As Ollie hadn’t seen me I descended down behind him and slowly caught up, gave two gentle tugs on his fin (I thought they were) and then using my wrists hugged his leg, pretending to be a seal. As he turned over he had an annoyed look on his face and I started laughing, even at 3 or 4m it is imperative to keep your regulator in your mouth but mine flew out so fast (so try not to laugh underwater), I was laughing all the way to the surface and swallowed some water, when I was on the surface Paul joined me as I was feeding the fish (being sick) and clearing the water out of my system. After a few minutes I felt better but decided to stop my dive, Paul stayed on the surface and got some amazing shots of the seals on the rocks that can be seen on his Facebook page, and his website when it has been updated.

I de-kitted and packed all my gear away, I had been in the water 36 mins before I surfaced and was still more than happy with the days diving. When everyone else came on board we had another cuppa. Then we started to head back but the Captain had seen a few of the colony in a place we hadn’t, Alec called out jokingly we were going to be nearing the outcrop when suddenly everyone ran to the front of the boat with their cameras.


Seal Colony

They were just basking on the rocks, waiting for the tide to come back in, such beautiful animals and worth every penny for the trip, even though my space was a wonderful gift from Sue, if ever diving in the UK feels boring then it is something worth doing to re-energise the passion all divers have.

A&A divers can be contacted through their Facebook page and Andrea and Alec will make sure you enjoy your experience. Thank You to everyone that made my trip possible, I have a few pictures for the calender so watch this space, if all goes well it will be released in October.

Diving Junkies

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