Skomer Island welcomes visitors again for first time since before the pandemic

  • Watch the video report by ITV West Wales Reporter Jess Main

Skomer Island off the coast of Pembrokeshire has reopened to visitors this week for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Known as 'the wildlife jewels in Wales' crown', Skomer and neighbouring Skokholm islands are home to hundreds of thousands of sea birds.

For more than thirty years, Skomer, which is managed by the Wildlife Trust, has welcomed visitors between April and October.

The island is also home to thousands of Guillemots

Wardens and volunteers were ready to open as usual last year when the first lockdown put a halt to everything.

Lisa Morgan, Head of Wildlife and Marine for the Wildlife Trust said it was a 'devastating time' for the charity.

"We haven't had any visitors here since 2019", she said.

"It's devastating really because the income from our visitors helps to fund all of the conservation work all our seabird monitoring work, our seal monitoring work, and our seasonal staff as well."

"It's so important for the Wildlife Trust to have some kind of normality back, and if we can do that safely and everyone has a good time then that's great we will have done our job." 

The island is less than a mile off the Pembrokeshire coast and visitors are taken over by boat

The charity says like all businesses they've had to adapt, and visitors to Skomer this year can expect to find a one way system around the island, and a new online booking system for tickets, to avoid long queues. 

Warden Leighton Newman says it's too soon to tell whether the lack of guests over the past twelve months has had any impact on the wildlife, though populations of seabirds are thought to be thriving.

Despite less monitoring work in 2020 than usual, 34000 puffins were counted last year. "It's really difficult to tell", says Leighton.

"Certainly some of the paths are a little bit better, and that's always going to happen when you haven't had people walking on them for a year. We normally receive around 20,000 visitors in a year but apart from that it all seems really good."

The island is famous for it's thriving puffin population, which reaches it's peak in the summer months. 

34,000 puffins were counted on the island in 2020

But it's also home to Guillemots, Razorbills and Manx Shearwaters; in fact, Skomer is known as the most important breeding site of Manx Shearwaters in the world. 

Wildlife Trust staff say they can't wait to welcome visitors once again, and they're also planning to continue their online 'Skomer Live' project too, to bring the island into people's homes.

Warden Leighton says it's another example of how they've adapted.

He said, "hopefully people that aren't able to visit this year will still be able to see the sights and sounds of Skomer".