Charmed by the curious stars of the Scilly Isles – snorkelling with seals will take your breath away
- Caitlin Davies ventured to The Isles of Scilly to swim with Atlantic grey seals
- She stayed at the Star Castle Hotel, a 16th Century former castle in St Mary’s
- Another highlight was a trip to Tresco Abbey Garden, a ‘botanical paradise’
The last time I saw a seal was on a boat trip off the Kent coast, when the skipper warned it would take off my arm as soon as look at me. Now, here I am face to face with one, its whiskery features so close I can see inside its nostrils.
But then this is the Isles of Scilly, home to 700 inquisitive Atlantic grey seals, and where Scilly Seal Snorkelling trips have been running for 20 years.
As we near the isle of Menawethan, seals begin to pop out of the water, their faces watching our progression. We put on snorkels and flippers and launch ourselves into the water. It’s mid-May and 10C but we’re barely aware of the cold as a dozen seals gather round us.
I turn to see a seal eyeing me closely. I’m so thrilled I can barely breathe, but a few seconds later it is gone.
Scilly’s five inhabited isles are home to just 2,200 people and the temperate climate and sandy beaches make it ideal for birdwatchers and walkers.
We stay at the Star Castle Hotel, a 16th Century former castle with views over St Mary’s, the largest island.
Inquisitive: An Atlantic grey seal in waters off the Scilly Isles
On day two we take a boat to Tresco Abbey Garden, a botanical paradise with 20,000 plant species, followed by lunch at the Ruin Beach Cafe.
In the evening we venture to the small isle of Bryher to tuck into a seafood feast at the Crab Shack. You share benches with other diners and I tell everyone within earshot that I’ve achieved a lifetime ambition – I’ve swum with seals.