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The coast of Pembrokeshire stretches for over 185 miles as is home to offshore islands abundant with wildlife making for some of the most spectacular kayaking and canoeing in Wales. There are venues suitable for all ages and abilities and many of the Outdoor Charter organisations offer taster sessions in open canoes and kayaks as well as more challenging sessions for more experienced paddlers. The numerous small bays and inlets provide sheltered areas rich in wildlife for families to enjoy coastal exploration from the water.
For the sea kayaker there is plenty of open water to explore. Combined with the small coastal villages you are able to tour almost the entire coastline and ensure that there will be places where you can haul out for a bite to eat.
When paddling the coast or waterway you will encounter some of Pembrokeshire’s wildlife and habitats. Much of the county and coastline are important areas both nationally and internationally for conservation. As such there are numerous designations from Heritage Coast, SSSI’s, AONB’s, Ramsar sites as well as a Marine Nature Reserve and a Marine Special Area of Conservation. As many of the species are protected by legislation it is advisable that when planning any trips you check where these areas are to avoid unnecessary disturbance. The maximum fine for causing disturbance to wildlife is £5000 and up to six months in prison. It’s easy to avoid disturbing wildlife, just take note of the Marine Code for Kayakers when paddling on the sea, and follow the countryside code when paddling inland.
There are likely to be seal pups on remote beaches from August till the end of November. Please do not land on beaches where there are seals or pups except in an emergency.
Sea Birds can be very sensitive to disturbance during nesting season, March to August. Stay well clear of cliffs where seabirds are nesting. Sea birds may ‘bob’ their heads as a sign that they are feeling nervous of your presence. If in doubt, move futher away. Avoid flashing you paddles and avoid creeping up on wildlife. If seals are surfacing, and then splashing nearby move further away. Seals are much happier in the water, so do not approach seals that are hauled out on the rocks.
For the energetic, the Westerly facing beaches provide excellent opportunities for surf kayaking. Many of the beaches such as Freshwater West, Newgale and Broadhaven are also popular surfing spots and are regularly used for both sports. Whitesands is often too busy in the summer to allow you to enjoy riding waves safely in kayaks. Beginners and groups are better off on larger beaches like Newgale.
And finally, for the extreme paddlers there is the renowned ‘Bitches’. A rocky outcrop in the narrow channel between Ramsey Island and St Davids Head creates standing waves and strong currents used for kayaking acrobatics. It has also been the location for a number of Rodeo competitions. NB. The Bitches are dangerous and only highly experienced enthusiasts should paddle here. See landing retrictions above. It is also advisable to get local guidance/advice before venturing out.This website has all the information you need to get out bitching! www.the-bitches.co.uk
There are some wonderful rivers to paddle in Pembrokeshire when conditions are right.
When kayaking or canoeing you should also ensure that you follow the appropriate safety guidelines as sea conditions can change rapidly. There are also local codes of conduct available from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority specifically for kayaking and canoeing activities. Alternatively check out the local activity operators committed to the Outdoor Charter as they can often have guided activities that will suit your needs.
Things to Consider when paddling in Pembrokeshire:
Tides 2006 http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/coast/tides
Inform the Coastguard of your plans and get a local weather forecast: 01646 690909
- PLAN your venue and route with consideration for conditions and ability level of paddlers. Many coastal trips involve paddling in fast-moving tidal streams and some surf beaches can have powerful rip currents and rock hazards. Always consider other water users, especially when surfing.
- ASK about any local codes of conduct, byelaws and restrictions as well as general good practices and safety guidelines and follow them. These are particularly relevant when surf kayaking or paddling to the offshore islands.
- AVOID disturbing nesting birds in the Spring and Seals in the Autumn. Guillemots balance eggs on their feet and can be spooked by paddlers getting too close. Seals may not be able to feed their pups if you paddle too close to some shingle beaches and caves in late August to November.
- CHECK OUT THE ACCESS situation before planning inland paddling trips. www.welsh-canoeing.org.uk is the WCA website that includes information on access to Welsh Rivers.
- LEAVE the area as you found it or better.
If you see:
Any wildlife which you believe to be injured or in distress contact the RSPCA on 08705 555 999