Sail with the dolphins, lighthouses and birds
Explore the treasures of the Iroise Sea with Didier
At Saint-Guénolé, Didier, a sea guide and professional pilot, is ready to take you on an excursion in the great outdoors, with a stop-off at the Île de Sein. Cast off for an encounter with dolphins and birds. Discover the wildlife and heritage of the area on an exciting voyage below the lighthouses of Ar Men and La Vieille!
Set a course for the Iroise Sea
With the Eckmülh lighthouse on the port side and the rocks of Saint-Guénolé to starboard, the boat quietly leaves the harbour. Didier, the pilot, has the air of a 21st century buccaneer. He warns you that the sea is changeable: “In the Iroise Sea, the effect of currents is very strong; we are going to make use of the tides to stay safe and see some wonderful things in great conditions.” His open, smiling expression reassures the passengers, who are wisely sitting on the seats of the RIB.
Birds in sight!
After La Torche, we reach our cruising speed of 20-22 knots. Sharp-eyed Didier and Camille spot some guillemots. With a frenzied beating of wings these small, penguin-like birds skim close to the waves. Then it’s the turn of the gannets to enter the scene. John gets out his binoculars - a good idea to help follow the flight of these large birds. At 100 km/h, they send up great plumes of spray as they dive vertically into the sea. Alongside them some storm petrels flutter over the surface. After this great procession of birds, we continue on our way.
Excitement near La Vieille lighthouse
At the foot of the Pointe du Raz cliffs, we approach La Vieille lighthouse and the legendary Sein channel. This is the place “where you’ll find the largest number of lighthouses and buoys”. These are essential when you see the speed of the sea on the horizon. While he’s explaining the story of La Vieille, Didier flirts with the waves. There’s a moment of excitement when the stern of the boat is pushed along by a wave. The skill of the pilot and his knowledge of the currents mean we can enjoy this new experience in complete safety.
As close as you can get to the dolphins
Leaving the turbulent waters of the Sein passage to starboard, we reach the island of the same name. A bit of slaloming between the rocks reveals a nice surprise. Two, then three, four, five dolphins come and play in front of the bow. To see them better, we kneel against the sides of the RIB. Every face is full of smiles. “It’s wonderful”, says Fabienne. “Really cool!” say the younger sailors, with their cameras in their hands. We never get tired of this aquatic ballet. But there are other amazing moments on the programme…
Stop-off on the Île de Sein
We gently come into land. There are brightly painted houses, huddled close together, to welcome us on the quays. In the sunshine, it’s quiet and peaceful on this fragment of earth and moorland set down in the ocean. In small groups we descend on a crêperie or the terrace of a bar, or we picnic on some small dock. Our after-lunch walk takes us over the cordon of pebble beaches to the lighthouse, where we have a unique view. The weather has turned hot by the time we put on our life jackets and go back on board. “But it will be chillier when we’re out at sea,” warns Didier.
Dolphins, Act II
A few cable lengths from the island, the boat is tossing on the waves. We’re lucky enough to find some large dolphins surfing in the waves. Even Didier agrees that “It’s pretty incredible”. Thanks to his skilled piloting, everyone is comfortable watching the dolphins move at really high speeds. Everyone claps as they leap out of the water. “This is something really special,” says Dominique. We could have stayed to watch them a lot longer, but we’re heading to the Ar Men next.
At the foot of the legendary Ar Men
As we stand below the 37 metres of this marine monument, Henri declares himself to be “moved”. Didier, his hand on the tiller, tells us its secrets. It was an unbelievable place to work, with armoured doors. Its long history makes this lighthouse very impressive. Built in the middle of the Chaussée de Sein, 20 km from the coast, it was known as “the Hell of Hells” by its keepers. On the way back, the Tévenec lighthouse and its dwelling, clinging to the rock, seem almost bucolic by comparison, despite its reputation as a lighthouse with a curse. For this last dash across Audierne Bay, the light softens. With our hair blowing in the wind, we’re all lost in daydreams, full of incredible images. On the dock, everyone warmly thanks Didier for this amazing day. So when are we going again?
Text: Annick André
Meet at 09:45 for embarkation at 10:00 – Departing from Saint-Guénolé harbour
Return expected around 18:00/18:30
Trips scheduled and confirmed depending on weather conditions
The number of places is limited, so it is best to book in advance
Three-hour stop on the Île de Sein, to explore on your own
Bring a sweater, fleece, windproof jacket, sun cream and sunglasses.
Adult price: €85
Child (up to age 12): €60