Unique Nature Reserves to Explore on the Islands of Guernsey
There are, in fact, four designated Ramsar sites across our Islands.
A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, dedicated to protecting wetland habitats and the rare species that they support. On the Islands of Guernsey, Ramsar sites actually cover each one of our five islands: Guernsey, Herm, Sark, Alderney & Lihou.
Below is a quick overview of each.
L’Eree Headland & Lihou
The Ramsar site at L’Eree Shingle Bank is Guernsey’s first Ramsar site. The shingle bank is an important breeding ground during the spring and summer months for birds such as the famously bright-beaked Oyster Catcher.
Wandering along the shingle bank, you will also see the Colin Best Nature Reserve and the Claire Mare area, both owned by La Société Guernesiaise, with the latter being considered one of the best birding sites on the Island, thanks to a cleverly positioned bird hide. All in all, over 150 different species of birds have been identified here, making it a paradise for ornithologists. Bring your binoculars and add your discoveries to the bird book that can be found in the hide.
The site also stretches out over Lihou Island, a small island accessible from Guernsey by a causeway, visible only at low tide, with many wild flowers and rare species of seaweed. Nearby is also Le Creux ès Faies Passage Tomb (neolithic tomb) and Fort Saumarez watch tower (not open to the public).
If you do go to Lihou Island, please be sure to cross within safe time of the rising tide! The easiest way to make sure you don’t get cut off by the tide, is check out the causeway opening times.
Alderney West Coast & the Burhou Islands
This protected zone is made up of the western coast of Alderney and the adjacent shallow waters and islets. The area comprises diverse and inter-related ecosystems such as sandy beaches with shingle banks, rock pools, sandbars, and rocky marine and pebble beach shores. The rocky islets are a very important bird breeding place. A large population of northern gannets nests on the Garden Rocks and Ortac. It is also home to a wonderful seal colony to the north of Burhou Island, as well as lobsters, bass and plaice. The site hosts about 100 varieties of seaweeds which play an important role in preserving these species.
Popular things to do in the area include bird watching and rock pooling in the summer. It boasts a beautiful sunset view on the west side of the Island. Enjoy walking along the coast, taking in the beautiful views before heading back into St Anne's town for a great meal, or enjoy time on Braye Beach on the other side of the Island.
Herm, Jethou and The Humps
Herm is a wonderful place to visit, just 20mins by ferry from St Peter Port harbour. Not only is it a popular spot for sun worshipers, but also a very biodiverse environment. The Ramsar site comprises of Herm Island, nearby Jethou and The Humps to form a shallow marine ecosystem. This small archipelago has an exceptionally large tidal range of up to 10 metres and is home to several species, from Atlantic Grey Seal and Basking Shark to Sea Bass and Black Sea Bream and nine species of bird including the famous Puffin.
If you want to head over to Herm and enjoy the landscape and the wildlife there, visit herm.com to plan your trip. Try out a wildlife and puffin spotting trip with Island Rib Voyages, or Outdoor Guernsey.
The Gouliot Headland, Sark
The Gouliot Headland on the west coast of Sark, as well as La Moie de Gouliot, a large sea stack connected to the headland at low water, form our final designated Ramsar site. The site also includes the Gouliot Caves. Accessible by foot at low tide or by diving, the caves are home to a wealth of species that form the food chain of the sea, such as plankton, sponges, hydroids, sea-anemones and sea squirts. It is a mosaic of many colours. The area has played an important role in being somewhere these sub-marine species could be studied in situ, before more effective dive gear was invented.
Sark is a great day out and an even better short stay. Hire a bike and get out and explore the Islands. To see the caves, keep an eye on the tide or, better still, hire an expert to help. Island Rib Voyages can get you up close to the caves.
Other Places to Explore Nature in Guernsey
There are many places to explore outside of our Ramsar sites in the Islands. La Société Guernesiaise is an organisation whose goal is to preserve Guernsey’s biodiversity. They run many nature reserves across the Island, creating havens for wildlife that provide the perfect opportunity for nature enthusiasts to admire the different species whilst respecting their natural habitats. Take a look at their website for more natural places to explore in the Islands of Guernsey.
You can also visit: https://www.gov.gg/nature to find out what our local government is focused on doing to conserve our environment and where else to visit during your future visits to the Islands.