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The Traveller's Magazine
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If you’ve always wanted to swim with sharks (are you crazy?) then you may have just the chance this summer off the west coast of Great Britain. Basking sharks head to the warm, often plankton-rich waters every summer. Don’t worry, they’re completely harmless but incredible to watch.

Marine experts are warning bathers not to be alarmed if they happen upon a giant shark while swimming off the west coast this summer. Basking sharks are the second biggest fish in the ocean, measuring up to SEVEN METRES in length. That’s huge! The male dorsal fin can also measure up to 1.5m in height. Not exactly what you want to see cutting the water towards you on your UK holiday but experts say these mighty creatures are harmless and gentle.

Basking sharks are protected under European and UK law so it’s illegal to disturb or harass them but swimmers are encouraged to take their waterproof cameras out to take photographs of them. This is one ocean adventure you don’t want to miss out on.

Basking shark swimmers

Want to see some basking sharks for yourself?

Basking sharks are attracted to the waters off the UK when the weather turns warm and the waters heat up, the perfect place to find delicious plankton, the snack of choice of basking sharks. Hot spots for sighting these giants are particularly in the south-west of England, the Isle of Man, south-west of Ireland and the Firth of Clyde.

Shark-watching etiquette

Because the sharks are protected, and they’re still sharks afterall, here are a few tips on how to behave around them:

  • Keep at least 4m distance between you and the shark. If you’re swimming in a group, stay together. You don’t want to startle it, so don’t invite others to join you in the water.
  • If you’re boating, cut the engine and admire the spectacle.
  • If you have a camera, take photographs of the dorsal fin and photos of any distinguishing features (these could help marine experts to identify the sharks).
  • Move away from the shark slowly when doing so.
  • If you do spot a basking shark, report the sighting to the Shark Trust.

While the sharks are harmless, they’re still huge and can weight a tonne (literally). If a shark makes a sudden movement, it can cause some serious harm to those nearby. Keep your space and relish in the chance to see these magnificent sea creatures up close.

Have you ever seen a shark up close? Will you be looking for basking sharks this summer?

Imgs: masseea, candiche / Flickr cc.

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