2016 TRIP REPORT
The quaint Scottish town of Tobermory on the
small island of Mull is the destination for our 2016 basking
shark adventure. Built in the late 18th century as a fishing
port, Tobermory is a living, breathing picture-postcard. The
brightly painted buildings and busy fishing harbour delivers
a wonderful energy and once captured the imagination of the
writers of the BBC; choosing Tobermory as the setting for
the popular British TV series for preschool children ‘Balamory’.
Considered one of the prime locations in the
UK for watching wildlife, Tobermory attracts thousands of
nature spotters from all around the world each year. Some
visit to catch a glimpse of the rare and unusual golden and
white-tailed eagles, corn crakes and abundance of other
birds; others stop for the opportunity see the Mull otter
and common seals.
For ocean lovers, the seas off the West coast of Mull are
magical. Each year from May to September, the plankton rich
waters attract whales, dolphins and basking sharks. In fact,
a 4 year satellite tagging study has suggested that an area
of the Sea of the Hebrides is highly important and may well
be a breeding ground and nursery to these gentle ocean
Most adventurers looking for basking sharks spend long days
cramped on bouncy wet zodiacs or ribs. Our trip did have a
zodiac, but we only used it for manoeuvring our small group
to a better location for entering the water alongside the
basking sharks, or for excursions onto the many uninhabited
From dawn to dusk, we travelled in style aboard the über
comfortable 'Bold Ranger,' a Nelson 42ft motor cruiser
affectionately known as ‘Boldie’. Breakfast, lunch and
occasionally supper was all prepared and cooked aboard our
floating home. It’s fair to say, that sunbathing on the bow
or aft deck whilst looking for basking sharks does
significantly enhance the experience.
Looking for basking sharks can be challenging
The wind is our enemy and even a light to moderate wind can
make spotting a feeding basking shark difficult.
Optimistically, we hoped for flat calm seas and blue skies
and we were not to be disappointed. With the exception of
one day, our time steaming around the Atlantic Ocean was
gifted with fabulous weather. We even enjoyed a couple of
days that touched 30˚C (86˚F) as the UK celebrated an
Sightings of basking sharks were frequent and met with
obvious excitement. We spotted breaching sharks, feeding
sharks, young sharks and schooling sharks. At best, we
shared the ocean with more than thirty basking sharks
throughout a single day. The more we saw, the fussier we
became; constantly pushing for that classic gape encounter
as the feeding shark approaches.
Under the stars
After a fabulous afternoon’s snorkelling with basking sharks
in the shallow, clear waters of Gunna Sound, we decided to
camp on the beach of this stunning private island, toast
marshmallows and relax under the stars.
Our night on the island was unforgettable, but basking
sharks at breakfast once again stole the show.
No trip to Mull is complete without a visit to Lunga, the
largest island in the Treshnish Isles. It’s a two hour steam
from Tobermory but can easily be a dogleg detour from the
Isle of Coll after a busy day on our return to the harbour.
Home to more than 6000 birds during the breeding season, we
visited this special island late one evening to enjoy the
comical Atlantic puffins. However, guillemots, razorbills,
kittiwakes, fulmars, shags and skuas all reside here too. We
timed our arrival to coincide when all the other visitors
had finished their tours and departed. Having the island all
to ourselves made the time that little bit more memorable.
Puffins are bizarrely tame and absolutely fearless. Living
in burrows on the island cliffs, these 12 inch high pelagic
seabirds are captivating and were one of the many highlights
of our week.
Bucket list adventure
Our week searching for Scotland’s basking sharks was a huge
success. With endless in-water encounters, it was a
remarkable adventure that will be reflected on by all for
many years to come. If you have the passion to join an
experience that is truly epic, sign-up for:
Big Fish Expeditions 2017 Basking Shark Adventure.