Not many people know that basking sharks are the second largest fish in the world today. These gentle creatures can grow up to lengths of over 30 feet and are known to pose no threat to human beings. Avid shark lovers and divers will jump at the chance of meeting basking sharks and will be glad to know that there are particular locations where you have up to a 99% chance of meeting one.
But before we go into that, here are a few quick facts about the basking shark.
Quick Facts About Basking Sharks
– Basking sharks are the second largest fish in the ocean after the whale shark.
– Despite their size and daunting appearance, they are not aggressive to humans.
– The most awesome feature is its mouth which can open up to 3 feet wide.
– This shark species are filter feeders and typically filter up to 2,000 tons of water every hour.
– They reproduce once every two or four years.
– They are social fish and are often spotted moving in schools of over 100 individuals.
– The basking shark is listed as a vulnerable species and is fully protected in many countries.
This shark is a global fish and can be sighted in oceans around the world.
It moves around at different times of the year in search of food. In summer months, it moves to coastal areas to feed on abundant groups of copepods. You could spot it in parts of the western North Atlantic, and as winter approaches, it will migrate over thousands of kilometers to cold water areas. Along the coast, people frequently sight its massive body following large concentrations of plankton.
Generally, it appears to prefer subpolar waters and the temperate waters along the continental shelves. Basking sharks have also been seen far south of the equator around Brazil and at other times around the USA, United Kingdom, western and southern Australia. It’s not strange to see them in parts of the Mediterranean Sea and Africa too.
So How Do You Go About Meeting Basking Sharks?
Obviously, it would be impractical to go chasing basking sharks all over the world for a chance to meet one of these creatures. So, we’ve nailed down some of the places you’re most likely to have a firsthand viewing of this shark species.
Increase your chances of meeting basking sharks by going out on sunny days with calm winds. The sun brings the plankton to the surface of the water, and the sharks will follow.
Here’s our pick of the top 5 diving spots for meeting basking sharks.
Top 5 Diving Spots For Meeting Basking Sharks.
1. Isle of Man: The United Kingdom
The British Isles and especially the Isle of Man remain at the top of places to see basking sharks. They are so frequent here that you may not even have to get into the water to spot one. Places like Peel Castle and Point Erin Bay etc. have viewing spots from land.
When to go: May to August
How to get there: Hire a boat to take you out into the deep sea if you prefer to observe them in their natural habitat. There are many boats for hire with experienced skippers that will take you out for an unforgettable diving experience.
2. From Penzance to Scotland: The United Kingdom
Basking sharks often startle swimmers on beaches along Britain’s west coast. Sightings stretch from Penzance all the way to Scotland. You’ll also see orcas, dolphins, pilot whales and so on.
When to go: May to August
How to get there: Penzance is a town in Cornwall. From Penzance, you can take the popular 2-hour organized boat tour or arrange for a private boat.
3. Wales: The United Kingdom
Cardigan Bay is another strong spot for basking sharks sightings. There are also puffins, dolphins, and the odd leatherback turtles.
When to go: May to August
How to get there: There are organized boat tours to take visitors out to sea but divers would have to make private arrangements with local boat owners.
4. Near Sennen Beach, Cornwall: The United Kingdom
Sightings of schools of up to 100 basking sharks are frequent from the Land’s End Hotel in Cornwall. This is a favorite spot for surfers and fish lovers especially those that don’t want to get wet. Right from the windows of local pubs you can see groups of basking sharks, seals, and black back gulls.
When to go: May to July
How to get there: You can participate in organized boat tours or arrange for transportation with local boat owners.
5. Stellwagen Banks: 30 miles offshore from Boston.
You can see large numbers of basking sharks swimming alongside whales at this spot.
When to go: Late June
How to get there: Take a boat from downtown Boston. There are commercial boats and organized cruises available to take you out to sea for about three hours. If you wish to stay longer, you can make arrangements for private transportation.
Final thoughts and some words of caution.
Except for very experienced divers, it can be hard to tell great whites from basking sharks (when their mouths are closed) so always exercise caution.
Though the general belief is that basking sharks are harmless, they are still wildlife. Always follow the instructions of local officials and in fact, you are not be allowed to touch the sharks or use flash photography. Confirm from locals before entering the waters and make sure someone knows where you are.
Avoid diving alone.