Close encounters - Cornwall's wildlife

Things to do | Cornwall | Wildlife

For all your careful planning, it's often something as simple and unexpected as a brush with nature that really brings a holiday to life...

Part of the beauty of nature is its unpredictability – that's why a close encounter is such a thrill. But you can improve your chances by heading to a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area (VMCA), where the local community works together to protect the marine environment and help visitors to make the most of it. You really don't know what you'll find at one of Cornwall's five specially protected Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas (VMCA).

The mouth of one of Britain's most beautiful rivers, the Helford Estuary is like no place on Earth. 47km (29 miles) of shoreline features everything from rocky shores to the famous Frenchman's Creek.
You can see: pristine native woodland, oyster farming and razor shells
If you're lucky: pipefish (relatives of the seahorses)

St Agnes

At high water, Trevaunance Cove could be mistaken for a secluded Greek island bay. But low tide reveals the beach and a world of opportunities to explore rock pools and caves at the foot of its dramatic cliffs.
You can see: limpets, sea anemones and prawns
If you're lucky: puffins

Nestled at the bottom of a spectacular, steep-sided valley, the Fowey Estuary is an ancient river course, flooded after the last Ice Age. Covering almost 1,000 acres, this unique place features some extremely rare habitats – with species to match.
You can see: bladder wrack, cockles and shore crabs
If you're lucky: kingfishers

This popular North Cornwall seaside village and surf resort has a hidden secret: when the tide goes out, it leaves all manner of rare species and an opportunity to see the sheer variety of Cornwall's sea life, up close.
You can see: barnacles, sea slaters, shark and ray eggs.
If you're lucky: Celtic sea slug.

Miles of rock pools and other habitats make Looe a mecca for nature lovers – from curious children to seal spotters and hardened birdwatchers. What's more, a short boat trip takes you to Looe Island: a nature reserve in its own right.
You can see: starfish, sea squirts and herons
If you're lucky: dolphins

If you fancy something a little larger, coastwatching can yield spectacular results. Seals, dolphins, whales – even mighty basking sharks – can all be seen from the Cornish coast.

Details of all the Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas in Cornwall may be found on the Cornwall Wildlife Trust website.