A safari in Cambridge? You won't be on the look-out for elephants or lions, but for bats.
This is a punting tour in the evening, guided by a scientist who explains the different bats living in Cambridge. It was one of the highlights of my stay there this time.
The boats left around 8 pm, when it was still light, and first we learned about the bats. Everyone got a bat detector, a little device which made the bat sounds hearable for human ears.It didn't take long and we saw the first bat. As soon as it got darker, we saw lots of them, even a tiny baby bat which seemed to be just a little bit bigger than my thumbnail.
On our way back we even say an owl flying out of a tree.
The tour lasts about 90 minutes and costs £ 17.50, half of which go to the Wildlife Trust.
Signing up was more difficult than for the bike tour, my credit card wasn't accepted so I couldn't sign up in advance ( the tours only run twice weekly), the tourist information centre does not take any sign-ups for them, the staff in the booths at the punting station didn't t take any sign-up as their telephone was out of order, so I didn't know until shortly before the tour if I could go or not.Finally I found a staff member who was able to phone the headquarter and accepted me.
I would have hated to miss this.
As I made my way along Magdalene Street, I came across a River with lot's of empty Punt's, and lots of Student's trying to take me Punting for a fee.
Sorry.... I wasn't interested, and was on my way, only to find another lot, further on.
It looks ok, and the few people I saw being punted looked to be enjoying themselve's.
I don't know how much the student's charge, I didn't get that far!
Daily 10am to 3pm (November to March - Weather Permitting)
Daily 10am to 6pm (April to October)
Duration of Tour....45 minutes (return trip) leaving at regular intervals
Departure Point: Mill Lane, Cambridge
Even if you think that this is way too touristy, punting is THE not-to-be-missed thing in Cambridge. Punts are for rent at several places on the river Cam (such as Scudamore's on Mill Lane or Cambridge Chauffeur Punts on Silver Street), and I suppose that prices will be pretty much the same everywhere as competition is fierce. We were lucky enough not to spend any money as our host could hire punts from her college for free.
Punting looks easy, but it can be quite tricky to actually manoeuvre the punt in a straight line. Instead of doing what would be the most logical thing (meaning: going straight forward), it tends to zigzag across the river, bumping into other punts, the walls or - particularly unpleasant - the branches of weeping willows... In any case, this is a lot of fun, unless you actually want to move as fast as possible from A to B. But who would actually want to do that?
The punts float slowly past the Backs, the majestic meadows and gardens of Cambridge's most impressive colleges. This is very beautiful, especially when the sun is about to set and the sandstone facades of the colleges reflect its light. Now and then ducks and geese swim next to your punt, quacking demandingly in case you have some breadcrumbs. Academics and tourists stroll over the low bridges spanning over the river and on the well-kept college lawns students play frisbee or study for their exams.
For those of you who prefer to see all that without the hassle of actually punting themselves, punts with chauffeurs are available. Unlike in Oxford, these are well-informed guides and tell you a lot about the colleges and their traditions. Altogether an unforgettable experience - even as it is very touristy!
It was a warm day and we thought it would be cooler on the water. Wrong thinking! All the buildings left and right kept the heat in and the wind out. Also we were sitting in the sun without shade.
It is a nice trip though. The guide will tell you all there is to know about the colleges left and right. And I must say they do look different from the water.
If you are prepared to wrap up warm then even in December it is possible to hire the services of a punt and boatman from Scudamores on the Cam near Queens College - see the photo.
The boats have blankets and most people we saw were taking advantage of the extra layer of insulation they provided on this cold day. However we saw several separate boats and all of the occupants seemed to be really enjoying their tour along the River Cam that takes them along the back of the colleges.
The boats were all propelled by the paid puntsmen who would use their long poles to push the flat bottomed punt along. I'm told that in the summer it is possible for visitors to hire a punt for the day and to take it down to the meadows at Grantchester for a picnic. The visitors would have to do the poling themselves and I daresay a few get into difficulties but it would make a great story to tell the folks back home!
During summertime, it is not unusual to see dozens of these boats on river Cam carrying mostly tourists. Punting has become one of the most popular tourist activities in Cambridge. Usually, students earn some money by serving as a “punt skipper” and tourist guide, but there are also facilities where you can rent a punt for yourself. Punts are flat-bottomed boad which are moved by the help of a wooden 3 meter stick only. They were first used by local fishermen, but were also used as a mean of transport for centuries.
The weather was ideal to go punting, or rather to be taken punting. It's much easier to sit down comfortably and have someone else do the work. We passed a few visitors who were really having trouble, one poor lady didn't even get her boat to start. She kept going in circles, so I think it's a lot more difficult than it looks like.
We learned one interesting fact, in a country where you drive on the left side, you punt on
the right side. We were told this by a professional punter after we had gone under a bridge on the left side and almost bumped into him. It looks like these punting guides have a lot
of experience with stupid tourists going in the wrong direction. They managed to prevent most crashes and were still telling their customers stories about college life at the same time.
We passed the gardens of the colleges, absolutely beautiful in summer! From time to time a hopeful duck would swim by, but in vain, as we didn't have any bread at all.
One hour self-punting costs 8 GBP and you have to leave your ID as a deposit.
The hour passed by very quickly, in fact we were a few minutes late returning the boat, but
didn't have to pay extra.
Summer in Cambridge simply wouldn't be complete without punting. You can hire a boat for groups, you can hire a boat just for yourself and do all the hard work too, trying to get to the other end of the river while holding on to that long pole (can be very romantic if you know what you are doing, if not you might even get divorced), or you can have it the fun way and get a boat just for yourself and with it a person that has done the trip many times before and knows how to control the boat and at the same time that person will be your guide and tell you interesting stories about the place itself. Of course, you pay accordingly.
Although one might try punting on their own, Jo suggested that unless we wanted to go for an accidental swim or spend an hour spinning in circles that we should leave it to the professionals and let someone else do the work. As we were approaching the area near the river, the man who would later be known as "the ghost" solicited our business and Jo, our able tour leader, deftly negoiated a rate of L8 per person. After a spot of lunch, we returned to the river, hopped in our punt and off we went down the Cam.
Punts are flat-bottomed boats which are steered with a long pole, in our case by a 19 year old student whom got more than he bargained for when he piled our raucous group into his punt. The 5 of us sat in one section, should it have been busier they could have fit another group into the punt.
The ride took about an hour along the stretch of the River Cam known as the college backs, taking us past the mathematical bridge, Queen's College, King's College and the Bridge of Sighs.
We used the Traditional Punting Company, Jo tells me that we were near the Magdalene Bridge and the contact is "the ghost", Jan Jarus
Selction is 9/10's of the law ........... Oh no thats Possession. Well us girls decided to be cheeky & ask if we could select our punter so let the competition begin.
These next photo's are definetly one for the ladies!! Remember to go with the Traditional Punting company so as to get a fit punter :-)
A punt is similar to a venetian gondola but without the curved edges, it is a narrow flat bottomed boat propelled by a long pole.
You can do the sensible thing & hire a guide who expertly navigates you round the punt novices or hire one yourself & try not get wet.
A punt holds 12 people & costs £14 each with a guide although large groups could negotiate a discount of £10 depending on the season & how busy they are. We went with the Traditional punting company who left from the Magadelene Bridge. As you are walking down to the river there are many touts selling tickets, Jan Jarus (aka The Ghost) appeared out of nowhere, stared us in the eyes and before we knew it the 5 of us were seated in a punt.
The trip takes around 45min taking in all the sites as well as additional expert knowledge from your guide who are
Punting is a traditional activity. There are a couple of ways to go. The way we chose was to hire a punter whilst enjoying the views along the river, enjoying each others company and giving our 19 year old punter a few lessons about life.
One may also choose to be an amateur punter and rent only the boat and not the guide/punter to make it a very relaxing ride.
If you are going to be your own punter, be aware that there can be a bit of congestion on the river. Beware VT'ers bearing pigs....)
There are several companies offering punts for hire but we went with the Traditional Punting Company.
Typical rates are 10-14 pounds per person depending on group/individual rates as well as the season.