The Devon coastlines are bursting with marine life. What better way to learn about it than donning your snorkel and getting into the water!
Wembury and its surrounding coastline form a marine conservation area, as well as being a site of special scientific interest and a special area of conservation. Meaning that the whole area is protected for its scenery, geology and biodiversity. Having Wembury Marine Centre there opens up this conservation zone to allow all of us to learn more. One of the events that they run throughout the summer is their Snorkel Safaris. Where a group of you head out into the waters with a guide to hopefully see some fantastic marine life.
Joe and I joined one of these snorkel safaris back in September. It was the last event of the year as winter was setting in. To start off there was a short briefing by the guides at Wembury Marine Centre, giving us an idea of what to look to look out for and all the safety advice. After gearing up in wetsuits, gloves, masks and snorkels, we were ready to hit the chilly waters.
So what did we see?
LOTS. Well, it started off being rather murky with visibility less than a metre. Heading along part of the rocky shoreline looking around in small gaps and coves for any signs of life. Apart from a fair bit of kelp and various seaweeds. Which in my opinion are fascinating in their own right. We didn’t see too much. Coming through a passageway between some large rocks the water started to clear up a bit.
Heading over to the other side of the cove area we were exploring was great. Deeper water to practice some ‘duck diving’ (heading under the water to get a closer look) and heading over this mini kelp forest. We spotted a few nippy fish that darted around and under us before delving into little hiding spots. Along the rocks were Beadlet Anemones and Snakelocks Anemones. Snakelocks are a very common Anemone and one that I enjoy finding on my snorkels. They prefer to be in seaweed-rich areas, in rocky reefs in shallow brightly lit waters. Usually a rich green colour with purple tips however due to the murky waters they were more of a dull grey colour. Still a nice sight to see waving in the waters.
Another find that at first, I could not identify is this holdfast, but thanks to Wembury Marine Centre on Instagram who ID’d it for me. So it is a holdfast (also known as an anchor) for a species of kelp called Furbellows. This kelp is one of the larger kelps around the UK and the holdfasts keep it stuck to the seabed rocks. Holdfasts offer shelter for various other smaller marine life such as the sea snails you can see in the photo.
The Gems of the Safari
There were 2 of the stars of the safari, starting off with a Smallspotted Catshark (or Lesser Spotted Dogfish). It was a lucky find and the guides were just as excited as the rest of the group! Not often spotted at Wembury, it has a greyish brown body with numerous dark spots and a white belly. A common shark encountered by divers all around the UK. It looked like it was resting at the time we were snorkelling. Not the best of photos I could have got but the conditions of the water and the Catshark resting deeper meant a slightly more blurry photo.
Now the next spot was found by one of the Wembury Marine Centre guides and it was super exciting. A Spiny Starfish. I have wanted to see a starfish for ages and to see this huge starfish sitting under the kelp was fantastic! This species of starfish is the largest you will find in the UK and is more commonly found on the west and south-west coast. Although they look rather armoured with all of those spines, they are actually quite soft. Meaning that if over-handled or hurt they can discard their arms. The Spiny Starfish can grow these arms back and it is a common sight to see them with a smaller arm when spotting these starfish.
All good snorkels have to come to an end
However, it is never too long until the next sea adventure begins. After finishing up and being some of the last to leave the water Joe and I headed up to the centre. A big thank you to all the guides for sharing their information and showing us some of the marine life south Devon has to offer. We will definitely head back there to snorkel and dive again soon. Wembury Marine Centre offers many opportunities to snorkel with them throughout the summer as well as having interactive displays and information in the centre. They also host rockpool safaris, if you don’t fancy getting into the chilly waters.
If you want some more information here is Wembury Marine Centres website.
Anyone else been snorkelling in this area? And what was your favourite marine life find? It’s great to hear all about everyone else marine adventures and what they find out there.
See you next time and happy adventuring!
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