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Published on : 16th August 2017

Swim With Basking Sharks in the UK

Introduction

To swim with Basking Sharks is something that can be done fairly easily thanks to their diet restricting them to the top few meters of water. Whilst this close to the surface their dorsal fin breaks the surf allowing them to be able easily seen from a distance. This also happens to make them a great animal to see from the shore.

Keep reading to find out when and where the best places are to go out and find these fantastic sharks.

Basking Shark 1

The Basking Shark

The second-largest fish in the sea, the Basking Shark belongs to the same order as the Great White Shark but it does however possess a starkly different reputation. Unlike the White Shark, made notorious as a “man-eater” with thanks to films like Jaws, the Basking Shark is more of a vegetarian with a diet exclusively made up of plankton: consisting of animal larvae, invertebrates and photosynthetic organisms. If that doesn’t calm your nerves but you are still wanting to swim with Basking Sharks, bear in mind: their throat is to small to even swallow a water melon, never mind a person.

With nerves calmed, let’s proceed to learn when, why and where they’re in the UK.

 

 When?

  • April-October
  • Peak season: June-September
  • Early season: the Basking Shark begins to arrive: April-June
  • Late season, the Basking Shark begins leaving: September & October

 

Why?

Basking Sharks only eat plankton. There are two main types of plankton: zooplankton and phytoplankton. Zooplankton, which consists of things like baby fish, crabs and jellyfish are the primary food source for Basking Sharks. This zooplankton feeds on the smaller phytoplankton: stuff like algae and seaweed.

In a process called upwelling, this mix of plankton is brought to the sea’s surface. At the surface, the phytoplankton is able to photosynthesise, stimulating growth for itself and the zooplankton eating it. The process is caused by warm water from offshore meeting the cooler inshore waters along the UK.

See the diagram below to illustrate what we mean.

The process of upwelling. Warm waters mixes with cooler water to carry organic matter upwards.

Where?

During the right seasons, the Basking Shark can be found around the coasts of: Cornwall, Dorset, Cardigan Bay (Wales), Isle of Man as well as the Scottish Hebrides. For a comprehensive look at a list of catalogued locations known for Basking Shark hotspots visit our info page.

There’s a handful of tour operators located in the UK that can provide users with up-close and personal snorkelling experiences.

Here is a mix of different operators that offer both snorkelling and viewing experiences.

Scotland

Basking Shark Scotland

Hebridean Whale Cruises

Cornwall

Padstow Sea Life Safaris

Marine Discovery

Charles Hood Photography

Isle of Man

Isle of Man Diving Charters/Holidays

Manx Basking Shark Watch

 

We hope you enjoyed this article and that it’s been able to provide you with some invaluable information. If it did, let us know on Twitter @Finding_Nature and tell us what topic we should cover next.

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