We booked Shona Boat Trips to the Calf of Man as part of a staycation in May 2021. Neither of us had been to the Calf before and we went with some of our extended family who hadn’t been in years. It’s always been on our ‘to-do list’ and since we currently can’t easily travel anywhere else, a boat trip to another island without the threat of self-isolation on return is a definite plus point! That sentence will really age this review in a few years!
The Booking Process
We provisionally booked via Facebook but as it was May, the weather was still a little unpredictable (as is the case for most Manx months!) and so we had to contact them three days before our booking date to confirm if it was going ahead and if so, the time according to the tides etc.
In our case, the weather was awful on the day we originally booked but they quickly suggested a different day which fitted our schedule. Payment is taken on the boat.
Safety & The Journey
We didn’t really know what to expect as neither of us had ever been to the Calf of Man before plus we had a 4 year old and 11 month old in tow.
We caught the infamous “Shona” from Port Erin bay and the very friendly crew gave us all life jackets for the adults and smaller ones for the toddler and the baby, all of which fitted well. The boat has all of the safety equipment you’d expect a boat like this to have and are fully licensed by the relevant authorities. The crew chatted to Millie, our four year old, about the boat and told us how to put the life jackets on.
After boarding we spent around 30-40 minutes heading over to the south pier on The Calf and they even took us over to the ‘Drinking Dragon’ to get a few photos of the ‘scary’ rock formation before docking. The crew onboard offered us a map of the Calf, binoculars (if we wanted them) and even some juice for the little ones in case needed it.
The Calf of Man
The weather was perfect, a slight breeze with beautiful sunshine and so the crew suggested we had a little walk over to the lighthouses (there are four of them including Chicken Rock). With an 11 month old, it was tough to decide what to bring along with us, a sling or a pram? We opted for the pram as we have a bit more of an ‘off road’ pram that can cope with bumps and actually I’m glad we did. The paths we took were well established and although a standard stroller would probably be fine, some parts may be a little bumpy! The ‘Shona’ can easily accommodate a stroller or pram and the crew will help you take it on and off the boat.
The walk itself was fairly easy and we took it easy since we had three hours on the Calf until we would be picked up again from the same spot. We headed up to the lighthouses, found some flat ground and had a picnic/snack/drink whilst checking out the beautiful views. It’s worth bearing in mind that there are no toilets on the Calf of Man for public use and so some ‘wild weeing’ may be needed if nature calls.
One thing that got us about the Calf of Man was the sheer amount of rabbits! Honestly there are hundreds, maybe thousands of the things, hopping about all over the fields. It’s a bit like being on an episode of the Teletubbies and I was half expecting Tinkywinky to pop out.
We then headed over to the observatory station and back down to the pier. If you don’t have a pram or a slow 4 year old, you would probably be able to walk the entire island but we didn’t want to chance it and miss the boat back! The loop we took would only have take 40 minutes maximum if we were constantly walking but we were stopping to take photos and have food and drink so it filled a lot of the time.
The Crew & Journey Back
After our three hours were up (you get up to five depending on the tide), we boarded the boat and set off for Port Erin. On the way back the crew told us more about the Calf and it’s history as well as a little about the Sound and the ship wrecks.
After we were through the Sound, they offered Millie the chance to take the helm which she absolutely loved! Definitely the highlight of the trip for her and she hasn’t stopped talking about it since.
As we came into Port Erin bay, we headed over the the old mines at Bradda Head where two people on the cliffs started pointing at the water. We quickly turned around to see a young basking shark feeding around the rocks. An amazing end to an amazing little trip.
The crew on “Shona” were so good and really made the trip that little bit more special. Professional yet very fun and informative, and they even brought along their dog, Kaiser to entertain us. It really is the little things that make trips like this and they were only too keen to help.
We paid £25 per adult and £15 per child (they have to charge for any age due to boat capacity). They do lots of different types of trips which have different prices and some of these are listed on their website. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming one-off trips.
It was such a fun afternoon, we had a great time and we’d thoroughly recommend it for a family trip out with a difference.