Making waves with sea safaris on board a 12-metre RIB that gets up close and personal to the local wildlife, a traditional seaside town is being revived by local legend Paul Hutchings, reveals Alex Green.

Growing up in and around Ilfracombe harbour, it could be said Paul Hutchings has saltwater for blood. He runs Ilfracombe Sea Safari, taking visitors and locals on boat trips that offer dolphin and seal watching opportunities from Ilfracombe and Lynmouth, along with trips to Lundy Island. Paul provides an experience that gets people closer to the coast and its wildlife in a way that’s protective of the natural environment and with unrivalled local knowledge.

He explains: “I’ve lived here all my life in Hele Bay, a beautiful little bay just around the corner, so when we were kids this was like our back garden”. Born and raised by the sea, Paul spent most his time either on the water, by the water or in it, “I loved kayaking, fishing off the rocks and snorkelling as a kid and I joined the RNLI”.

He’s proud to share his experiences with others and his passion for the coastline, as well as his boats, shines as bright as a lighthouse beacon.

Paul adds: “The best thing about it is when people get off the boat and they’re absolutely buzzing, especially if we’ve had dolphins following the boat because you can almost touch them.”

“We do a lot of work with schools, disadvantaged people and children in general, so we also make sure it’s educational.”

Paul and his brother Mark, who runs SeaSwift charters, offering fishing trips in the Bristol channel with their Dad Dave, have both followed their parents into the family business.

Paul says; “I’ve been doing it for 15 years now. We started out with an old wooden boat taking people along the coastline and it just started to snowball from there. We invested money into new boats and now we’ve got three Humber RIBs and the SeaSwift catamaran, which was purpose built for us in 2019. She’s beautiful she’s a one off. She goes like the clappers but burns a lot less fuel because she runs on a hydrofoil system.”

While their parents, who are retiring, let the next generation take the helm of the Hutchings family fleet, it’s clear that it couldn’t be in safer hands.