When you look up the word ‘puffin’ in a dictionary you come across several different descriptions. When you combine them you find that a puffin is a sea bird that can swim and fly well. It is black and white. It’s got a short neck, a big head and a brightly colored beak that is triangular. A puffin nests in holes. I have always found puffins extremely interesting birds. This fascination grew when I actually came eye to eye with these little creatures.
At the moment our daughter’s favorite TV series is ‘Puffin Rock’. This Irish children’s program, which first aired in 2015, takes place off the coast of Ireland. These days it can be seen worldwide. We watch it via Netflix.
On an island a young Puffin, called Oona, and her younger brother Baba, have many adventures. They have many friends: Silky (a seal), Mossy (a shrew), May (a rabbit), Otto (an owl) and several others. The program is entertaining, but also educational. Our daughter asks a lot of questions and doesn’t forget to inform us as well. She makes sure everyone around us now knows a lot about puffins.
Peter the puffin.
Because our daughter is so keen about ‘Puffin Rock’ I decided to search the library for a book about puffins. I did not have to seek for long. Petr Horáček has written an adorable book about two puffins. Luckily it was translated into Dutch so we were able to read it. It’s called ‘Puffin Peter’. Our daughter loves it.
The writer, who is originally from Prague (Czech Republic), studied arts. His illustrations are beautiful. When he met his (English) wife he moved to England. After starting a family he started writing children’s books. And illustrating them. We are so glad he did. His books are a real asset in every children’s room.
As I mentioned before, the TV series and the book were not the first time I encountered these ‘puffins’. Years ago I went on holiday with one of my friends. We went to the Republic of Ireland. It was a holiday with a lot of variety: cities, nature, history, arts, cycling, hiking, bus tours, train ride. We only had a couple of weeks, but it was a lasting memory.
One of my personal favorite days was the day we visited Skellig Michael. This island is located in the south-west of Ireland, under the Ring of Kerry. It’s a UNESCO Heritage site, because the island had interesting ancient archeological important remains of a monastery. It is also an island populated by puffins and other sea birds. To a nature photographer it is a true Valhallah.
How to get there?
From our accommodation to the boat, we had to walk for about an hour. On our way we passed a small store and an Irish pub. At the tiny docks we arranged our trip with a small boat. When my friend and I went we were one of the few people visiting the island. The amount of boats allowed to land at Skellig Michel was very limited. The licenses were for life and no more licenses were given out.
Apparently the number of visitors has grown drastically after the 2015 Star Wars movie ‘The Force Awakens’. I believe there are more licenses now, but there still is a limit. There is also a limit to the amount of visitors each day: 180. I believe that’s an enormous amount considering the size of the island.
Watch the stones!
There are stairways on the island. 600 Medieval stone steps leading up to the top. The visit can be hazardous and when the weather is bad it’s not possible to get there. When we visited it was a beautiful day. There were so many puffins, it was amazing.
On the way back I discovered that the stones had completely destroyed the soles of both my hiking boots. I have to admit, they were old. Still, both soles were in such bad shape I had to take off my shoes and walk that hour back to our accommodation barefoot. A monk’s walk!
Little monks in disguise.
Almost two weeks after our visit to Skellig Michael we were back in Dublin. We only had one day left in Ireland. At the beginning of our holiday we had taken a tour with a fantastic tour guide. Whenever he spoke, we had to listen. This guide was one of the best story tellers I ever encountered.
The tour company he worked for also organized another tour with him as tour guide. We specifically asked for him to be our guide again. So the next morning when he arrived we ran up to him and said: we want to be on your bus! He gave us a special place in the front of his bus.
During our tour he had us mesmerized again. We told him our stories. He wanted to know everything about our travels through Ireland. When we came to the part where we told him about Skellig Michael he had to laugh. We asked him why he was laughing and his reply was as funny as his stories: “Those are not puffins on that island! Those are little monks in disguise.” He then chuckled again. From then onwards every time I see a puffin, I have to think of him and of his remark. I will never look at a puffin the same way again.
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If you like to read more adventures that take place on an Island, why don’t you read our stories about Australia?