The Perfect Time to See Puffins

During June and July, some 6,000 pairs of puffins come to Skomer Island for their breeding season.
During June and July, some 6,000 pairs of puffins come to Skomer Island for their breeding season.

With its penguin-like coloring and oversize beak, the Atlantic puffin is undeniably adorable. It’s also famously hard to spot, living most of its life at sea. But every summer, some 6,000 pairs nest in the volcanic-rock cliffs of Skomer Island off the southwest coast of Wales for their breeding season. The two-month window of June and July when chicks are hatching and fledging is the ideal time to follow suit and flock to the island; it’s also one of the only times you can. Managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, Skomer is only open for day trips between the months of April and October, and even then, visitors are capped at 250 per day. But what the limitations protect is the reason worth going: the wildlife. Puffins aside, Skomer’s headlands and inlets are also home to razorbills, guillemots, gray seals, and glow worms that light up summer evenings. —Gabrielle Lipton

How to Get There
From Cardiff, it’s about two and a half hours by car to Martins Haven, a pebbly beach in Pembrokeshire from where 10-minute boat rides shuttle passengers to and from the island.

Where to Stay
Those keen on staying on Skomer itself should book well in advance. Its sole lodging—an old converted farmhouse—only sleeps 16 guests (from US$46). On the mainland, Crug Glâs (44-1348/831-302; doubles from US$230) is one of the top places to stay in Pembrokeshire, with five luxe rooms set in a Georgian country house and two cottages on a 242-hectare working farm.

What Else?
For an up-close look at the island’s fauna, the Skomer Island Photography Workshop (US$146 plus ferry and island fees) is run throughout the summer by Andy Davies, a professional wildlife photographer who has been based in Wales for the past 16 years.

This article originally appeared in the June/July print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Puffin Stuff”)

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