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BASKING SHARK ADVENTURE 2016 TRIP REPORT

Diving with basking sharks

 

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’.
 

Tobermory - home of basking sharks

 

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.

 Harbour seal. Isle of Coll

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 giants.

Dolphins on the bow while diving with basking sharks

 

Diving with basking sharks in Scotland

All aboard

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 islands.

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.

Basking shark boat

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 unexpected heatwave.

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.

Basking shark mouth agape

 

basking shark diving - a quick turn

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.

basking shark fin while diving

 

Camping while diving with basking sharks

Iconic Puffins

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.

Puffins on Lunga

 

Puffin with nest building material on our basking shark adventure

 

flying puffin
 

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.

Happy basking shark divers

 

A PORTION OF THE PROCEEDS FROM BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS FUNDS

THE PREDATORS IN PERIL PROJECT

predatorsinperil.org

 

 

 

Snorkel with Japanese Giant Salamanders

American crocodile diving

 

 

READ THE LATEST:

Mexican Crocodile Trip Report 2017

 

Andy Murch Trip Leader

Andy Murch

EXPEDITION LEADER

Andy Murch is a fanatical big animal diver.

He has photographed and dived with more sharks than most people on this planet and he's very good at it.

Andy's images and shark stories have appeared in hundreds of books and magazines around the world from titles as varied as Canadian Geographic, Scuba Diving, FHM, Digital Photography,  and the Journal of Zoology.

Andy is the Creator of the ever expanding Shark and Ray Field Guide on Elasmodiver.com

 

When not running big animal expeditions or on photographic assignments, Andy lives and dives on Vancouver Island, Canada

 

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Predators in Peril

Andy is also the driving force behind the PREDATORS IN PERIL PROJECT which shines a spotlight on many endangered species of sharks and rays that are largely overlooked by mainstream conservation groups. Predators In Peril is entirely funded by Big Fish Expeditions.

 

Find out more here:

PredatorsInPeril.org

 

Predators in Peril Project