South Devon National Landscape
Follaton House, Plymouth Road,
Totnes TQ9 5NE


Tel: 01803 229330


Beneath the waves

The landscape around Wembury has hidden depths!


Beneath the waves lies a secret and beautiful world that can be appreciated by divers and snorkellers. It is home to an amazing array of wildlife, from the giant plankton feeding basking shark to the colourful jewel anemone. The coast around Wembury and Plymouth Sound is very special and is a Marine Conservation Area and Special Area of Conservation.

Meet some of Wembury's residents!

The Wembury area is very special for its rocky reefs. The deeper rocks are completely covered in seaweeds and animals such as sponges, anemones, corals and shellfish. Fish and crabs hide in the nooks and crannies and conger eels sometimes hide out in deeper crevices.


These are just a few of the inhabitants of the marine world off the coast of Wembury.

Corkwing Wrasse

The male corkwing wrasse builds a nest of seaweed fragments. It is a real labour of love as he carefully collects different seaweeds for different parts of the nest. He will invite females in to lay their eggs with a courtship display. The female then disappears and leaves dad to it! Once he has fertilized the eggs, he tends and guards the eggs with great courage until they hatch.

Tompot Blenny

A Tompot blenny will live in the same rocky crevice over several years, defending its territory fiercely against other blennies and even crabs – particularly when guarding eggs. The head tentacles sense natural chemicals in the water and attract potential partners. Blennies are real characters and very inquisitive, look out for them in rockpools too!

Grey Seal

Around 80% of all the Grey seals in Europe are found in waters around the UK, making our seas a very important home for these wonderful creatures. Whilst they may look cumbersome and heavy on land, underwater they are graceful, fast and agile swimmers. Seals can catch larger faster fish but tend to eat more easily caught and common prey such as sand-eels.


Starfish are from the echinoderm group, meaning ‘spinyskinned’. Their arms have numerous hydraulically operated tube feet on their undersides, used for walking, gripping and pulling open prey. Starfish have amazing regenerative powers. A single detached arm can produce a whole new starfish, as long as part of the central body is also present.


Cuttlefish are called “chameleons of the sea” but put the reptiles to shame. They use staggeringly quick colour changes for camouflage, scaring off competitors, communicating and even for mesmerising their prey! Apart from sea mammals, cuttlefish (along with their octopus relatives) are the most intelligent creatures in the sea. When startled, the cuttlefish can eject a cloud of black ink, distracting its stalker and making its escape. Cuttlefish have 10 arms, two specially adapted to shoot out and grab their prey.

Velvet Swimming Crab

This crab is quite spectacular with its bright red eyes and electric blue lines on its legs, and sports an equally spectacular temper! Like many crab species, the female can only mate when she has just shed her shell-armour and is still soft (part of normal growth cycle). The male tastes the water to sense if a female is about to moult, tucks her under himself, and carries her around until she sheds her shell. He will help her out of her shell, mate with her, and then protect her while her new armour hardens – a true gentleman!

Velvet swimming crab berried in crevice

Conger eel

This long snake-like fish can reach lengths of up to two metres and is a formidable predator. During the day they hide out in holes and crevices of rocks or shipwrecks. At night, they venture out to feed. They hunt fish and large crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters, often battering them against the rocks before swallowing them. They do not breed in our waters, but travel long distances to spawn in the deep mid-Atlantic.

Sponges, Sea fans and Sea Cucumbers

This rock face shows the variety of life that can be found just offshore from Wembury in deeper water. You can see yellow staghorn sponges, Devonshire cup coral, dead man’s fingers, sea cucumbers, boring sponges, potato crisp bryozoans, and pink sea fans. These sea fans are ‘gorgonian corals’, colonies of tiny sea anemone-like creatures. They grow very slowly, about 1cm a year. The largest can easily be over 100 years old. They are quite fragile and easily damaged. In the UK, they are mainly found around the south west and are one of the few marine animals protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Crystal Clear?

The sea water around South Devon will often appear quite cloudy. This isn’t because it is dirty or polluted but because it is so full of tiny planktonic animals and ‘plants’. This super rich plankton soup feeds and supports the stunning variety and abundance of life here and all around our coast. The colour, diversity and beauty of the marine life here is every bit as rich as more tropical seas – you just need to catch a calm day.


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