Les Ecrehous Jersey

One of the most memorable things about my most recent trip to Jersey was a RIB trip to Les Ecrehous, a tiny archipelago of islets just off the Jersey coast (and very close to France). 

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

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The Ultimate Guide to Les Ecrehous Reef, Jersey, UK

Where is Les Ecrehous Reef?

Les Ecrehous is situated just 6 nautical miles off the North-East coast of Jersey (in the British Channel Islands) and less than 10 miles from France’s Normandy coast.  

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 other islets are uninhabited.

Low tide at Les Ecrehous
Low tide at Les Ecrehous

Maître Ile is the biggest of the three; however, it has only 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, where most RIB trips land, has a tiny cluster of huts dating to the 1880w, all clustered around a tiny courtyard.

A Brief History of Les Ecrehous

In the 17th century, smugglers used the islands to smuggle lead and gunpowder to nearby St Malo in France. The customs house which was 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 Justice (ICJ) in 1950 to decide to which country the Ecrehous belonged. On the 17 November 1953, the ICJ awarded the islands to Jersey. 

Visit the islet of La Marmotchiéthe on a RIB trip to Les 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

A Marine Area of International Importance

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

Birds, including terns, oystercatchers, cormorants, shags and herring gulls, are plentiful too. There’s a recommended code of conduct for visitors, which allows the birds’ breeding season to go on without disruption. If you love to fish, line-catching sea bass from one of the islands’ shores is a highlight!

Wind turbines on the French coast, visible from Les Ecrehous
Wind turbines on the French coast, visible from Les Ecrehous

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 every day, 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.

You’ll need a local skipper to navigate the treacherous tides, currents and sandbanks!

On our trip, we 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. Choose from Jersey Seafaris , Island RIB Voyages and Nautibuoys RIBs

We picked the 3-hour Dolphin, Seal and Reef Exploration RIB trip to Les Ecrehous from Jersey Seafaris, a fun, knowledgeable crew, who are very respectful of the wildlife, and the environment of the reef.

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

What To Do On Les Ecrehous

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

Highlights of a RIB Trip to Les Ecrehous

  • See Bottlenose Dolphins and Grey Seals  
  • Bird watching amid stunning scenery  
  • Explore unique sand, land and sea habitats  
  • Enjoy golden sandy beaches and swim in crystal-clear waters
  • Potter around the weather-beaten stone huts and houses
  • Try out paddle boarding or kayaking (you’ll need to pre-book this)

What to Expect on a 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 lifejacket. Even on a hot day, it’s pretty chilly offshore!

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, as it’s a very “bouncy” ride with a lot of sea spray.

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

As the islands start to 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 get to 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 up for your return trip, then you’re free to explore the whole island independently. 

Dolphin, Seal and Reef Exploration RIB Trip to Les Ecrehous
The stone jetty at Les Ecrehous

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

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!

Is a RIB Trip to Les Ecrehous Dog Friendly?

No. Dogs are not allowed on the islands, 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 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.

How to Get To The Departure Point

The starting point for the RIB trip is the slipway at St. Catherine’s Breakwater, on Jersey’s north-east coast.  

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 

  • 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 properties on Les Ecrehous 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 is Jersey’s only five star hotel and a member of the exclusive Relais & Châteaux worldwide collection of luxury hotels and restaurants. The hospitality and service here 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.

So this is our complete guide to enjoying a RIB Trip to Les Ecrehous. For such a tiny place, it has plenty to offer visitors, making it a perfect addition to your itinerary while you’re visiting Jersey. Have you been to Les Ecrehous? What was your favourite thing to do? Did you get to see dolphins?

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About Author

Coralie is a Brit living in North Yorkshire. When she's not writing, she's either out exploring, planning a new trip, tasting street food or relaxing with a cold G&T. With 40+ years of adventurous travel to almost 40 countries (so far), she knows there's still much to see and remains an adventure-seeker at heart. Follow her on social media and keep up with her adventures and awesome travel tips.

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22 Comments

  1. Such an interesting read. I have been to Jersey but hadn’t heard of this location and didn’t see it advertised anywhere! I would have definitely booked myself on this trip

  2. How fabulous! The first holiday I took without my parents was to Jersey when I was 17, I fell in love with that area of the country, but I didn’t know about Les Ecrehous. It’s great that you get to explore on your own – so you don’t have to rush to keep up with your fellow passengers.

    1. Hi Jay, how interesting to hear that you cut your travel wings with a trip to Jersey 🙂 What a shame though that you didn’t get to visit Les Ecrehous! They really are the most blissful little islands.

  3. How fun to visit a spot that was once the domain of smugglers. I can see how this island might be disputed between England and France! We would definitely want to head the Les Escrehous with an experienced captain. Those tides don’t sound like they are for novices! A RIB sounds just like the kind of trip we would book.

  4. Wow, this sounds so much fun. I used to visit Jersey, mainly for business but I had no idea about Les Ecrehous, and I love anything to do with wildlife. Gutted to find out about this now. No immediate plans to visit that part of the world for a while. Maybe one day 🙂

  5. Sounds like a great day trip! I like that there is still plenty to see and do – I would probably go on the same tour you featured here! Sounds fun to me. And, that sandbar!!

  6. What a lovely archipelago to explore! I have not been to Jersey yet, but your blog has inspired me to make a trip here. Great tip about not to bring the best camera but use a GoPro, as it’s a bouncy ride! Kayaking and bird watching sounds like fun to me. 🙂

  7. Wow! I’ve not even thought about visiting Jersey & certainly had never heard of these islands. The first & last time I was there was on a family holiday… too many years ago to mention with my parents. Any wildlife trip is good for me & I love the idea of visiting the sandbank. Thanks for all the info!

    1. Jersey is wonderful Sue – but I may be biased, as it’s where I grew up! For such a small place, there’s masses to see and do – especially if you love history, outdoor experiences and good food 🙂

  8. Somehow these islands around Europe are definitely underrated – mostly the Channel Islands. I always wanted to visit just out of curiosity. After having read your post, I finally know why! It sounds just amazing – mainly for the wildlife. Thank you so much for this travel inspiration 😉

  9. Looks like an incredible place. I’ve never been to the Channel Islands, but have always been interested to see what they are like. Having been to Cornwall before I love the history and stories of the smugglers. Very cool

  10. This looks like an amazing trip! Great suggestions and travel tips… I hope the Frenchman managed to get his yacht sorted with the change of tide 😋

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