Did you know that you can throw yourself off a rocky cliff edge, straight into the Irish Sea…in March…and still live? Judging by the comments I received when I told people how I would be spending my weekend you’d have thought it wouldn’t be possible. However, it is surprisingly fun, even for a self-confessed scaredy cat. You lovely lot need to try it out.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie, add coasteering to your ‘bucket list’, your ‘must-try’pile – whatever you call it, add it. If your adventurous spirit shines a little more dimly, embrace your curiosity and give it a go. I’ve talked about managing phobias on your travels before, but I’m not going to lie it can still be hard to be brave. However, I can promise you that the amount of satisfaction and pride you’ll feel afterwards will leave you positively beaming. You’ll also have a huge amount of fun along the way.
What is Coasteering?
It helps to know what you’re getting yourself into, so for those of you who haven’t heard of this extreme activity before, let me fill you in. Kitted out in a thermal wetsuit (it is Wales after all), a buoyancy jacket and a hardy helmet, you crawl, paddle, and swim along the coastline. You scramble up rocky cliff edges and clamber into magical dark caves. You play like children in the natural whirlpool, letting the waves carry you metres into the air and then spinning you round like a raft in the rapids at a theme park.
You climb up ragged rocks and (with expert help) belly-flop and pencil jump into the waves. You start the jumps from smaller rocks and progress to the higher ones. The instructors are full of encouragement and energy, but there is never ever any pressure for you to do all of the jumps. I absolutely love Paul and Lucy for being such understanding and sweet motivators!
You squeal, laugh and scream as you make your way round the coves and ledges. You peer over the rocky edge, anticipation and nervousness filling your body, and then with one spontaneous burst of courage you freefall into the waters. No quicker than you plunge under the water, you pop back to the surface full of salty water and wearing a silly grin.
Who Can Coasteer?
Provided you can swim, you can give it a go. Even if you’re not the strongest of swimmers (like me), the expert guides and your buoyancy jacket will make sure you get back to the shore safely. My poor instructor even towed me with his muscly leg when I was feeling worn out.
My fellow coasteerers ranged from teenagers to adults, with varying levels of swimming abilities and confidence with heights. Groups normally span around ten people, with one lead guide and one assistant. If you have an injury (be it a weak knee or a condition like asthma), just give the guide a heads up and they’ll tailor the jumps/climbing to help you out.
Where to Coasteer
If you’re going to coasteer in the UK, it makes sense to head to Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park – it is the only one in the UK. The scenery is beautiful and makes for a gorgeous backdrop to your adventure. The rocks you’ll climb are more than 300 million years old and some of them are even splattered with rock holes from a now-dormant volcano.
Preseli Venture, the only 5-star activity centre in Pembrokeshire, offers a variety of watersports, including coasteering. I opted for the Adrenaline Adventure Cocktail Weekend which gave me two-nights and all my meals in the lodge (you can read a review here), and three half-day activities (including coasteering).
The equipment, expert knowledge and friendly guides at Preseli Venture really make the experience an amazing one. Could you imagine having to jump into the waters in just a regular wetsuit, rather than a thermal one?! The great thing about this centre is that it has access to a variety of starting points – there are so many coves, and whether you go in the morning or afternoon will result in different tides. The experience you have will vary whether it is your first visit, or tenth.
When to go Coasteering
Despite the UK not being renowned for blazing sunshine, my visit to Pembrokeshire in March was surprisingly sunny. I was really nervous about the sea being ridiculously cold (especially as I’m someone who really feels the wintery elements). However, with the thermal wetsuit on I really didn’t feel cold, except for the last ten minutes of the morning session when I was feeling a bit exhausted from all the fun. In fact, my jump into the mountain-water pool in Portugal earlier this year was colder!
You may even spy some seals. As I went in March I didn’t see any, but I’m told they like to hang out in Pembrokeshire. Look how cute they look…
I have to admit I was plain terrified about doing this activity. Yes, it was tiring, but oh wow, it was fun, exhilarating and something very, very different. I loved testing myself and getting washed away with all the excitement and anticipation. Excuse the lame pun. For something out of the box, but definitely within the purse-strings, this is the activity for you. X
P.S. Please forgive some of the poor image qualities, but I wanted to share ‘real’ photos using the waterproof disposable camera. Some images (where marked) are courtesy of Preseli Venture and their lovely Go-Pro camera.
I was a guest of Preseli Venture