A mix of wild, coastal terrains, from rugged rocks, caves and gullies to soft shimmering sands ensures the Channel Islands is perfect for epic shoreline discovery. Sarah Woods takes at look at how ‘coasteering’ in Guernsey and Sark combines rock jumping, water wading, cliff-top hikes, shoreline swims, rocky climbs and saltwater scrambles - and discovers an exhilarating experience for every member of the family.
Simple, inexpensive and enjoyed in rugged coastal terrains all over the world, the coasteering scene is thriving in the Channel Islands where the shoreline is perfect for exploratory adventuring. Rocks, caves, waves, pools and cliffs become a fun-filled obstacle course with coasteering trips surprisingly easy to arrange through several Channel Island tour operators.
Coasteering doesn’t require Iron Man brute strength or stamina, just good mobility - though confidence and some swimming skills are a definite plus. Trips can be tailored to individuals, from wave-lashed rocky scrambles along jutting headlands to gentler forays around spiny bays exploring caves, nooks and crannies. Pull on a wetsuit, stick a safety helmet on and a pair of old trainers then choose a colour-coded coasteering route much like you would a ski run - for ease they are graded Yellow, Blue and Black.
Yellow routes are suitable for most people, from youngsters (age 10+) to grandparents, and make up the bulk of coasteering explorations. They make great use of a mixture of gullies, caves, scrambling, and jumping - but non-swimmers are able to take part. Most coasteering routes in Guernsey and Sark snake along the base of cliffs with short climbs to escape the strongest sea-spray. Yellow routes tend to run in Petit Bot, La Moye and Moulin Huet. Don’t want to jump or climb high? No problem. The instructors will show you a variety of techniques and alternatives. Jumping is not compulsory on any route - but most people can’t wait to try it!
Blue routes are more challenging and include higher jumps and more demanding climbs or swims. You’ll explore parts of the coastline normally inaccessible by foot and therefore requires reasonably good fitness and confident mobility. A blue route is ideal for anyone who has already tried a Yellow route and is ready to up the ante! They can be suitable for non swimmers (ask for this at the time of booking). Some of the most popular yellow route trips include Saints Bay, Peastacks, Telegraph Bay and Pleinmont.
Coasteering trips run daily in Guernsey and Sark from April until November proving that it isn’t just a summer pursuit.
Black routes are longer, more challenging and therefore can provide more of a buzz as they maximise the excitement and thrill of natural, rocky coastal terrain. Some have near-impassable rock obstacles that need scrambling over. Others tougher stretches with harder, slippery sections where jumping in and out of water is required from higher cliffs. Sark’s steep cliffs make any exploration along the coast absolutely epic! The west coast, close to the Gouliot caves, is a popular coasteering location - routes start in low rocks and progress to mega leaps with treks up and over granite outcrops over churning white water. Slippery scrambles lead out to swell-filled gullies to the entrance of Victor Hugo cave. Swim in to be spat out by the sea at full force for a spectacular “whoa” moment in magnificent blue-green depths. Only fully accessible on a low spring tide, the Gouliot Caves are almost cathedral-like in ambience and stature with shafts of sunlight piercing the shadows over a rainbow of sea anemones and sponges.
These death-defying leaps from the weathered cliffs are part of the appeal of the Black routes and may use a rope and harness. All the gear is included in a standard tour package, from wetsuits (ranging from XS to XXL), buoyancy aids, specialist hard-soled neoprene boots and protective headwear to waterproofs, so all you need to bring (apart from swimwear, towels and a change of trainers) is bags of energy and enthusiasm! These tougher trips are suitable for people who have coasteered before or those with good fitness and swimming ability. The most popular black routes include Telegraph Bay and Peastacks, La Moye to Petit Bot, Moulin Huet/Saints, Pleinmont, La Congerelle and Petit Port / Peastacks.
Coasteering tour operators
Tel: 07781 130403 | www.outdoorguernsey.co.uk
Tel: 01481 832356 | www.adventuresark.com
Tel: 07797 727503 | www.jerseyadventures.com