Snorkelling with Young Carers at Lundy Island

This summer we have had the great privilege of running two trips to the magical Lundy Island. Lundy sits just 12 miles off the North Devon coast, and its surrounding waters are a part of the UK’s first marine protected area. As a result of the fast flowing water around the Bristol Channel, and the protection offered to the island and its marine habitats, the area is absolutely teeming with life!

You can learn more about Lundy Island in the short film we made here.

As part of our Vitamin Sea Project, we wanted to show people just what we have underwater here that’s worth protecting. Often times the ocean and its inhabitants are out of sight and out of mind, but there’s a whole world down there just waiting to be discovered! And it’s a pretty special place to experience.

Not only do we hope to offer mindful ocean experiences to those who might not otherwise have the chance for the therapeutic benefit, but our aim is for this to translate into an appreciation of, and into caring about, the marine environment. People will protect what they love, but they can only love what they know.

Over two different days, we took two groups of Young Carers from North and Mid Devon to experience Lundy for the first time. Many of our group had never been on a boat, and none of them had been snorkelling before! The ages ranged from 12 to 22, and they had varying caring responsibilities. Over the course of the days, we saw our participants really start to come out of their shells, and even where there had been fear initially, by the end of the day there were grins all round.

The first experience was when a pod of common dolphins joined our boat on the journey over to Lundy! Out of nowhere, fins appeared, then the dolphins spent 20 minutes playing around the bow of the boat, so close we could have touched them. It was an incredibly levelling experience, and so early on in the day the perfect way for us to feel connected to each other through our mutual delight, and to the ocean through this phenomenal experience.

Getting into the water was frightening for several members of our group. This was the first time for many of them doing anything like this. Fortunately we had spent some time in the pool with our hosts, Easydivers, the night before, getting used to snorkels and masks and fins. Even so, putting that into practice in the ocean was very different. We really took our time and had enough facilitators to be able to support the most apprehensive children one on one. It took one of our group over 45 minutes to finally let go of the boat, but once he put his head underwater and saw what was there, he exclaimed “this is epic – I wish I’d got in sooner!” After that, he was away enjoying the amazing sealife, and at our second snorkelling site was first in and last out!

We were very fortunate on both trips to be joined by Lundy’s famous Atlantic Grey Seals. Seals are, of course, wild animals, and so we were very cautious not to disturb them, or spend too much time in their environment, but their curiosity led to many members of our group having their fins or even bottoms nibbled by juvenile seals investigating these strange, neoprene-clad animals!

All of the children said the wildlife was the highlight of their trip – whether that was the dolphins or the seals, or the seabirds we watched gliding past our boat on the trip home. We believe the day was really impactful for many of them, instilling a sense of wonder and awe and insight into a place they had never spent time before, yet is so close to where they live. We also saw their confidence grow, and with it their grins. Many of these amazing young people have serious caring commitments, and we felt very grateful to have the opportunity to widen their horizons, literally and figuratively, and help them with a dose of Vitamin Sea, that we hope continues to inspire them and inform their choices long into the future.

We plan on running more sessions with Devon’s Young Carers community in the future, including stand up paddleboarding which was a special request from one of the girls!

Huge thanks to The National Lottery and dryrobe’s Warmth Project for helping to fund our North Devon Vitamin Sea Project events.

Massive thanks to dryrobe and Palm Equipment for helping us with kit.

Thank you to our wonderful, patient hosts Easydivers, and the team on our boat for the trips, Obsession II, and to Tracey and Immy from the Young Carers for coming along to Lundy with us too!