Diving into Pembrokeshire with coasteering pro Sophie Hurst

Sophie Hurst is one of the early pioneers of coasteering. Back in 1988 she co-founded Preseli Venture Eco Lodge and Adventures in Pembrokeshire, determined to forge a sustainable use of a wilderness area. Her aim is to provide an earth-grounding coastal adventure in an increasingly fast-paced, tech-obsessed world.

Coasteering? What’s that?

Coasteering is all about getting you out along the coast – exploring the nooks and crannies of the detailed rocky shoreline. It’s all the things your parents told you not to do when you went to the beach as a child: boulder scrambling, climbing through openings in the rocks, jumping off cliffs, poking about in the sea caves, swimming through channels. It’s so varied and fun. One minute you’re swimming, the next you’re clambering along the shoreline or leaping into deep pools.

What do you personally love about it?

The fact you can really feel the wilderness of the coast – it’s just you kitted up in your wetsuit, flotation jacket, helmet and buoyancy aid, with no fancy equipment. You’re totally ‘at one’ with the natural environment. Once you leave the beach or harbour, you’re immersed in nature, with only the cliffs, rocks, sea and waves for company.

Who’s it for?

You don’t need to be super fit. Anyone can go coasteering as long as they can fit into a wetsuit! We even take non-swimmers as you float like a cork in the wetsuits and flotation jackets. You choose your own level of adventure. And it’s doable year-round, even when the Atlantic waters are at their coldest from January to March. We just pile on extra layers!

What’s so special about the Pembrokeshire coast?

The big cliffs along this rocky, indented and varied coastline make it perfect for coasteering. As it’s a national park coastline, many areas are protected and therefore very unspoiled. There are plenty of secret spots, and we always choose the best one for the conditions on the day, taking into account the wind, sea and swell conditions and tide.

What wildlife and shore life can we expect to see?

Certainly seals in the summer and autumn months (September and October are best). Our head guide Tommy says his most memorable experience was hiding behind rocks to watch baby seals learning to swim off a tiny beach at the back of a rocky inlet. The shore life is exceptional at low tide, when you get to see beautiful anemones and things like sea urchins and unusual seaweeds. We regularly spot sea birds – especially in spring when the razorbills and guillemots nest on high rocky ledges high up, forming large rafts of birds that bob up and down with the swell.

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