Takes just over an hour to get there in a small R.I.B. but should only ever be attempted when conditions are perfect (no wind, calm waters, neap tides!) Slack water at the Smalls is rumoured to be 1 hour before H.W. Milford Haven and 5 hours after H.W. Milford Haven. But being 18 miles offshore, the smalls do tend to have a mind of their own. Give yourself plenty of time.
The area is famous for its marine life, including its Seals. Here the seals are curious enough to come right up to you and pull your fins off. The first ten minutes is a novelty, but they do become a pain in the ass after 30mins. The visibility is generally very good with at least 9m on every occasion we have been out there. The area is not very often dived, and a lot of it is still virgin country. There are many wrecks scattered around the cluster of islands, some yet to be discovered.
The area around the reef consists of large gullies, walls, immense drop-offs and is one of the few places where orange dead man’s Fingers can be found. There are lobsters the size of cars (okay-slight exaggeration!), crabs and crayfish, an abundance of fish life.
This year (2005), we had a basking shark come up alongside the boat. The ensuing melee resulted in the boat listing heavily to the port, and mask and fins going everywhere as divers were climbing over one another to get in the water with it! Orcas, common dolphins, porpoise, and Minke Whales have all been sighted in the area, and this year a pod of 2000 dolphins and 6 fin whales have been reported (2005). So keep a watchful eye out during your surface interval.
The Cambro wreck lays 150m due east of the Smalls lighthouse at a depth of 12m-22m and is one of the many wrecks in this area. There is a restricted area at 51 43¬18″N 05 40`29″W, where an old Viking Sword was found, dating to about AD1100 discovered by a sports diver in 1991. The restriction is 100m around the site.
TIPS: The Smalls can be reached from various different launch sites but in essence head out West beyond Skomer towards Grassholm. Go past Grassholm heading west and you’ll start to see the lighthouse, which is actually on the smalls itself. Be careful though, as at LW the Hats and Barrels are a danger to boats. Take plenty of fuel for if the seas state changes it’ll be a banging trip back and you’ll use more. We make our divers use SMBs, as they will drift quite a way if caught in a current, and RIBs don’t have the advantage of a high viewing platform.