Solitary dwelling on the remote Les Ecrehous Reef

Spotting Seals & Dolphins on a RIB Trip to Les Écréhous Reef

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Once the domain of smugglers, Les Ecrehous is wild, windswept, and hauntingly beautiful. Home to Britain’s largest breeding population of bottlenose dolphins, Les Ecrehous Reef is Jersey’s best-kept secret and it should be on your bucket list! 

Taking a RIB trip to Les Ecrehous islands is the highlights of my visits to Jersey. Visiting this tiny archipelago of islets just off the Jersey coast (and very close to France) is a magical experience.

In this post, I’ll share how to get to Les Ecrehous, what to do and see when you are there, and tell the story of “The King of the Ecrehous”. You’ll also find hints and tips to make your trip even more enjoyable 🙂

A RIB Trip To Les Ecrehous Islands

Les Ecrehous Reef is a small paradise of golden sand, crystal clear water, and rock, where fish and birds live in peace with the rhythm of some of the biggest tides in the world, largely undisturbed by man.

Where is Les Ecrehous Reef?

Les Ecrehous is situated just six nautical miles off the northeast coast of Jersey (in the British Channel Islands) and less than 10 miles from France’s Normandy coast.  

In 2005 these islets became a RAMSAR site, protecting the habitat of bottlenose and common dolphins, Atlantic grey seals, and basking sharks.

The three largest islets are called Maîtr’Île (Master Island), La Marmotchiéthe and Lé Bliantch’Île (White Island). The first two have a few stone huts and houses used as weekend or holiday hideaways – the others are uninhabited.

Low tide at Les Ecrehous
Low tide at Les Ecrehous

Maître Ile

The biggest islet, with two habitable huts. Visit to see the ruined fisherman’s cottages, plus the foundations of a 13th Century priory, with a small menhir (an ancient standing stone) inside it.

La Marmotchiéthe

This is where most RIB trips land. The islet has a tiny cluster of huts around a tiny courtyard dating back to 1800.

How to Get to Les Ecrehous from Jersey

The Les Ecrehous reef is only accessible by boat. While you can charter a boat for the day (or longer), be aware that Jersey has an enormous tidal range. 

Twice daily, 40 feet of water gushes in and out again, covering and uncovering all but the three largest islets of the Les Ecrehous Reef. Over the years, hundreds have drowned at the mercy of the vicious rocks around Jersey, and there have been many shipwrecks!!

So, unless you’re a competent sailor, you’ll need a local skipper to navigate the treacherous tides, currents, and sandbanks!

On my most recent trip, I saw a French yacht left high and dry on the beach. The skipper had moored up at high tide, unaware that the sea would go out as far as it did!

Yact over on its side as the goes out at Les Ecrehous

The best way to visit Les Ecrehous is on a RIB trip, and there are several good operators.

RIB Trip

We picked the 3-hour Dolphin, Seal, and Reef Exploration RIB trip to Les Ecrehous from Jersey Seafaris. They have a fun, knowledgeable crew who respect the wildlife and the reef’s environment.

Kayak

If you’re an experienced kayaker, you can paddle (weather permitting!) to Les Ecrehous in about 2 ½ hours with Jersey Kayak Adventures.

What to Expect on Your RIB Trip to Les Ecrehous

Kitted out for Dolphin, Seal and Reef Exploration RIB Trip to Les Ecrehous

Before boarding the RIB, trips begin with a safety briefing from the crew. You’ll also get kitted out with a warm, waterproof jacket and life jacket. Even on a hot day, it’s pretty chilly offshore!

Top Tip: Wear water shoes or sandals with a strap. Flip-flops are not fun on the slippery, pebbly beaches of Les Ecrehous!

Once the passengers have boarded, the skipper fires up the RIB’s engines and casts off from the slipway. After puttering past St Catherine’s breakwater, the power is cranked up to around 30knts (38mph), for an exhilarating 15-minute blast across the waves northeast to Les Ecrehous.

 If you want to take photographs on the RIB trip, forget your “best” camera! Use a GoPro waterproof camera, as it’s a very “bouncy” ride with a lot of sea spray.

You may see a pod of dolphins swimming and jumping from the sea alongside the RIB on the way. Shout out to the crew if you do, as the skipper will slow down to let you take photographs!

As the islands appear, you’ll approach the Les Ecrehous sandbank, which is only revealed twice a day, at low tide, for about 20 minutes. 

“We jumped off the RIB and walked along the sandbank, freshly revealed by the tide as we arrived. It was surreal to walk on the seabed, in the middle of the ocean! Minutes later, the sea reclaimed the sandbank, and it disappeared beneath the waves.”

Hour Dolphin, Seal and Reef Exploration RIB Trip to Les Ecrehous

Before stopping at the main island, the skipper will pilot the RIB around the reef, giving you fantastic photo opportunities. You’ll probably also see grey seals basking in the sun on the rocks. 

Drop-off points vary depending on the height of the tide – the sea goes out a long way, and the reef triples in size at low tide.

The skipper will tell you where and when to meet for your return trip; then, you can explore the island independently. 

Dolphin, Seal and Reef Exploration RIB Trip to Les Ecrehous

Things To Do On Les Ecrehous

While the largest islet (Maîtr’ Île) is only 300 metres long by 150 metres wide, there is plenty to see and do on short boat trips to Les Ecrehous! 

See Bottlenose Dolphins and Grey Seals

You may have been lucky and seen some dolphins and seals as you approach the Ecrehous, from the RIB; however, you’ll have more chances to see seals from the rocky shoreline.

On your RIB ride back to Jersey, you’ll have another chance to see more dolphins – they often swim alongside the RIBs!

Watch sea birds amid stunning scenery

 Les Ecrehous is a protected site for seabirds, with

Explore unique sand, land and sea habitats  

Les Ecrehous is the perfect place to take kids who love exploring nature! There are umpteen rockpools to investigate, oysters growing wild on the rocks, and plenty of different types of shells to examine.

Enjoy golden sandy beaches

What could be better than a whole beach to yourself? It’s often the case on boat trips to Les Ecrehous, as visitor numbers are very limited.

Swim or paddle in shallow, crystal-clear waters

On a hot summer’s day, there’s nothing better than a swim in the clean, clear waters of the Ecrehous. As a bonus, if you’re travelling with kids, the water is shallow for a long way!

Potter around the weather-beaten stone huts and houses

There’s something quite magical about climbing high up on the rocks to where the few Ecrehous houses are perched, and pottering around the tiny courtyard.

You can imagine what it’s like on bleak, wintry days – or think about the time when these islands were a den of smugglers!

Try out paddle boarding or kayaking

While you’ll need to pre-book any watersports activities, the shallow, calm waters of the Ecrehous are the perfect place to enjoy time on the water 🌊🤿🛶

Where To Eat and Drink in Les Ecrehous

There are no food outlets on Les Ecrehous, nor anywhere to refill a water bottle. Most visitors take a picnic to enjoy. No picnic? Before you go, you can buy tasty sandwiches, snacks and drinks from the little café at the trip departure point in St Catherine’s.

While you can use a BBQ on the islands, strict conditions exist. You MUST avoid areas where birds are nesting and ensure that any hot spots are doused with seawater when you leave.

Realistically, with a maximum of 2 hours ashore, you’ll barely have time on your RIB trip for a BBQ to get hot, cook your food, and cool down enough to carry back home!

Whatever you do, you must carry every scrap of rubbish away! 

Houses on Les Ecrehous

A Brief History of Les Ecrehous Jersey

In the 17th century, smugglers used the islands to smuggle lead and gunpowder to nearby St Malo in France. The customs house built to quash this activity is still standing today.

Today the islands form part of the Island of Jersey, but sovereignty was hotly disputed for centuries, so France took the United Kingdom to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1950 to decide to which country the Ecrehous belonged. On 17 November 1953, the ICJ awarded the islands to Jersey. 

Low tide at the Ecrehous

The King of The Ecrehous

In 1961, Alphonse le Gastelois started a 14-year self-exile on the islet of La Marmotchiéthe after false accusations that he was guilty of the horrific child sex crimes of the “Beast of Jersey”. A decade later, in 1971, Edward Paisnel was imprisoned for the crimes; however, Le Gastelois remained on the islands, proclaiming himself “The King of The Ecrehous”.

This is my home now! Jersey crucified me.

 Le Gastelois to Time magazine in 1971

Where To Eat and Drink in Les Ecrehous

There are no food outlets on the islands, and nowhere to refill a water bottle, so most visitors take a picnic to enjoy. No picnic? Buy refreshments at the little café at St Catherine’s before you go.

While you can use a BBQ on the islands, there are strict conditions. You MUST avoid areas where birds are nesting, and ensure that any hot spots are doused with seawater when you leave.

Realistically, with a maximum of 2 hours ashore, you’ll barely have time on your RIB trip for a BBQ to get hot, cook your food, and cool down enough to carry back home!

Whatever you do, you must carry every single scrap of rubbish away with you! 

Huts on Les Ecrehous
Some of the weathered old huts on Les Ecrehous

Need To Know Information

Toilets

👀 There are toilets at St Catherine’s, but none on the boat or Les Ecrehous. Check out the Les Ecrehous code of conduct for what to do if nature calls. 

Accessibility

This trip isn’t suitable if you have accessibility needs, a back problem, or for expectant women. Here’s why:

  • There’s quite a step down to the RIB from the slipway at St Catherine’s. The crew will help you, but you’ll be stepping down onto the side of an inflatable boat!
  • Depending on the tide, you may need to jump into shallow water, climb up a short ladder, or step aboard from an uneven stone jetty (where there are no railings).
  • The islands are remote and beautiful, but there’s nowhere to sit (except on your own backside/picnic blanket), and there are no paths. You’ll be walking across shingle, sand and rocks.
  • The RIB trip is fast and exciting – it’s also very bouncy!

How to Get To The Departure Point for Boat Trips to Les Ecrehous

The starting point for the RIB trip is the slipway at St. Catherine’s Breakwater on Jersey’s northeast coast.  Here’s how to get there:

By Bus

Take the N2 or N2A from Liberation Station in St Helier

By Car or Taxi

Location: St Catherine’s Breakwater/Slip, La Route De St. Catherine, Saint Martin, JE3 6DD. Parking is free and plentiful.  

What to Take on Your Trip to the Ecrehous Reef

  • A camera to capture your trip highlights
  • Water in a reusable bottle
  • Sunblock/protection 
  • Swimwear and snorkelling kit
  • Binoculars for bird watching

Where To Stay For Your Trip To Les Ecrehous

The few Ecrehous houses are privately owned, so you won’t be able to stay on the islands. The best idea is to stay in Jersey for a few days to make the most of your trip.

Longueville Manor Hotel

JJersey’s only five-star hotel and a member of the exclusive Relais & Châteaux worldwide collection of luxury hotels and restaurants. The hospitality and service at Longueville Manor are exceptional and you’ll feel like you’ve escaped from the world for a while after a relaxing stay here.

How to Get to Jersey

By Air: Flights operate from major UK airports.

By Sea: Car ferries operate from Portsmouth and Poole, also from St Malo in France.

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FAQs: A RIB Trip To Les Ecrehous

Is a RIB Trip to Les Ecrehous Dog Friendly?

No. Dogs are not allowed on the Ecrehous to protect the indigenous wildlife.

How Much Does A RIB Trip to Les Ecrehous Cost?

2-hour trips cost from £40.00 per adult, and 3-hour trips from £50 per adult. Concession fares are available.

How Long Will I Get to Spend Ashore on Les Ecrehous?

On a 2-hour trip, time ashore is about 30 to 45 minutes. You’ll get up to 2 hours ashore on a 3-hour trip. We found that was plenty of time for swimming and exploring 🙂

What to wear on a RIB boat ride?

Your tour company will provide you with a lifevest and a warm waterproof jacket. In addition to this, you’ll want waterproof (or quick drying) shorts/pants and water shoes or sandals with straps. Flip flops are not recommended!

Is there anywhere to stay in Les Ecrehous?

No. The very limited Les Ecrehous accommodation is all privately owned. Unless you plan to sail to the islands and sleep overnight onboard, you will need to return to Jersey after your visit. You will not be able to stay in the Ecrehous houses.

Are there other offshore islands around Jersey to visit?

Yes. Les Minquiers is another popular destination for RIB trips Jersey.

Can I use a drone on Les Ecrehous?

Yes, but strict conditions apply. Drone usage is banned during the nesting season (April to August).

Can I have a BBQ on Les Ecrehous?

Yes. You can use a portable BBQ on Les Ecrehous, but you must take all equipment away with you, and must douse any hot areas on the ground with seawater before leaving the island.

Will I get soaked on boat trips to the Ecrehous?

You’re not likely to get soaked, although you’re more likely to catch some spray if you sit towards to back of the boat!

Further reading for the best places to visit in Jersey

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Other helpful tips for visiting the Channel Islands

🏠 Need a place to stay? Browse Booking or VRBO
💃 How about fun experiences? Get Your Guide and Viator have it all
🚗 Considering renting a car in the UK? Use Rentalcars
🔒 Don’t forget about travel insurance from Travel Insurance Master

Final Thoughts on a RIB Trip To Les Ecrehous

So this is our complete guide to enjoying a RIB Trip to Les Ecrehous – an unforgettable experience that offers breathtaking views of the stunning natural beauty off Jersey’s coastline.

With its crystal clear waters, secluded beaches and unique wildlife, Les Ecrehous is a true gem of the Channel Islands. Whether you are looking for an adrenaline-fueled adventure or a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, this hidden paradise is definitely worth exploring by RIB.

So why not take the plunge and embark on this once-in-a-lifetime journey to discover one of Jersey’s best-kept secrets? You won’t regret it!

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