Swim, snorkel & dive with Basking sharks in Cornwall
Who am I?
Probably one of the most experienced guides in the UK to get you in front of basking sharks. I have been in the water with these majestic creatures since the mid 1980s, photographing many hundreds of individuals and now make it my passion to take out people to witness Cornwall's secret leviathans.
The best time generally is from mid May through June to mid July but the over-riding factor is the weather. The sharks are probably here at this time of year it's just you need the right conditions to find them. Ideally it should be sunny with calm winds. The sun brings the plankton to the surface which attracts the sharks and allows you to spot the dorsal fin. In the past two years we experienced an odd weather pattern and the sharks were a bit elusive, although we did have some amazing experiences. In 2013 we had our longest season to date finally ending in mid September! We now can combine trips with wonderful encounters with playful grey seals that we have a 95% chance of swimming with. Also we have seen, bait-balling sardines with pods of common dolphins, diving gannets, Cornish penguins (don't ask), bottlenose dolphins, fin whale, pilot whale, leatherback turtle and sunfish in the past few years. We also have had a huge success with our new blue sharks encounter program. On average we see sharks on 35 days with the highest number in any one day being around 50 sharks. In 2007 and 2008 we had the best encounters at the end of August - well over 200 individuals on one day with some reports estimating 400, although this is unusual.
Cornwall is by far the best place to see basking sharks as the water clarity is much better (typically 7-20 metres) than the say the Isle of Man. Cornwall is also the first place each year that the sharks turn up. Other areas boast of maybe having 5, 10 or even 20 shark sightings in a week, over the past few years we have seen over 400!
RIB Logan is a 7.2 metres (24 feet) rigid hull inflateable boat, which is the preferred option to use for snorkelling as it is easy to get in and out of. She is licensed to carry 7 passengers plus skipper up to 20 miles from a safe haven, which is more than far enough. Although we can take out 7 passengers, if everyone wants to get in the water with large camera equipment then 4 is recommended. You don't require strobes or lights to photograph or film them as they are at the surface. We carry a full itinerary of safety equipment including oxygen.
Click on the image below to see the BBC film made from RIB Logan
Where and when?
As RIB Logan is on a trailer we are not tied to one port. However, we generally use Penzance for access to the south coast (Penzance slip can be found at Google maps), look for the Sailing Club building and we usually depart at 09.00 and return around 16.30 depending upon tides and sightings. All day parking is available in the harbour car park and you will need about £6 in change. We can also launch at Porthleven for the Lizard Peninsular and at Hayle for the north coast. Note: the nearby public toilets now require a 20p coin.
Dates & Rates (whole boat - up to 7 passengers)
£770 per day - up to a maximum of 8 hours or £490 half day (4 hours). Please visit Availabilty, green days are available, orange days are bookable by individuals and red days are full.
Dates & Rates (individuals/part boat)
£150 per person per day - up to a maximum of 8 hours. Please visit Availabilty, orange days are bookable by individuals. Please keep checking as new days become available on a regular basis. If you are 3 or more I will reserve a green day for you.
How to Book?
Please go to my Contact page and send me an email (FB is OK for chit-chat but please email for bookings) or if short notice telephone (sorry no caller ID no answer!). Please note that all bookings are subject to my terms and conditions and by booking all passengers are deemed to have accepted them.
Qualifications & Age?
None required but previous snorkelling experience is essential and you must be able to swim at least 50 metres out of your depth. There is also no minimum or maximum age limit but we suggest 10 is probably the lower limit and anyone under 18 should be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The main issue for young swimmers is the cold so a good fitting thick wetsuit is a must along with warm clothing to change into.
If I cancel the trip due to adverse weather then a refund will be made or you can book on to another day.
Are available at £150 per person per day or whole boat rates as above so you can then choose a day nearer the time that suits everyone - orange days individuals, green days whole boat see the calender.
What do I need to bring?
You will need a drysuit or a thick wetsuit such as a 5-7mm as the water is quite cold – 14 to 16 degrees centigrade, boots, hood, gloves and a warm windproof jacket. Also basic snorkelling equipment i.e. mask, fins and snorkel. The popular choice is to wear ones wet/dry suit from the start along with a windproof jacket. For dry passengers, waterproof trousers and jacket, hat, gloves, sunscreen, sunglasses and flat soled non-slip boots. We are usually out all day so you need a packed lunch and drink, we have a large cool box if required. A pair of binoculars also helps to locate the sharks and the more spotters we have the better! Please bring only essential gear with you as space is limited and any electronic or camera equipment needs to be in a waterproof box or bag. Please do not bring iPads and laptops etc. No strobes are required for underwater photography so please leave then on shore.
Wetsuit & Equipment hire?
We do have a range of popular sized quality wetsuits for hire as well as masks, fins and snorkels; £20 per person per day. Any hire equipment must be pre-booked at least 48 hours prior to departure. We do not have any gear hire facility at the launch site.
Generally we are at sea all day, however, there are a couple of coves that we can pull in for a comfort break and snacks. Depending on the tides you may have to wade/swim ashore.
The sea is vast with an endless flushing mechanism! For the girls it is also relatively easy to pee over the side, from the ladder or please advise if you prefer I can bring a portable loo.
Is seeing them guaranteed?
As with all marine wildlife basking sharks can be sometimes tricky to find and a few hours can be spent searching before we find them so sorry but sightings are not guaranteed. However, each year we have had several weeks where we encounter them over and over again in the same place with many hours spent in the water with them. We also have our own network of fishermen, coastguard look-outs, helicopter pilots and even satellite technology to help us locate them. We also usually combine the trip with snorkelling with seals that are nearly always around. There is also a good chance of seeing dolphin, sunfish (Mola mola), whale, porpoise, grey seal and many species of sea bird as well.
What time of year is best?
It is difficult to predict exactly when the sharks will be around and conditions will be good! But generally they appear mid to late May. Mid June can be the high point with the first week of July seeing them move on. But this is not guaranteed! They can also turn up briefly in large numbers in early September. If you have made a booking and in our honest opinion there is little chance of seeing them we give you the option to cancel at no cost. I have taken my best images in May (best visibility), have seen the largest sharks in mid July (9.5m) and counted the most in any one day in September - over 400!
Basking sharks are a protected species and it is an offence to cause harm to them. All activities are carried out under the guidelines of the Shark Trust. Let them come to us is our motto. Anyone found not respecting this rule will not be allowed to enter the water.
Where can I store my equipment?
All your gear can be left with us - there is heaps of room in the boat shed to store all your wet stuff and hang out your suit. We also have dryer for drying undersuits overnight. All camera equipment, washing crates, battery chargers we can sort out here so when you go to your accommodation you just have the bare essentials or whatever you want to take with you - laptop and card reader etc. We have also got a wireless network, which visitors may use anytime and we can always download any images onto our Apple Mac computer if you don’t have a laptop with you.
Where to stay?
Mount Haven Hotel, Marazion, TR17 0DQ, 01736 710249 www.mounthaven.co.uk. Luxury hotel with stunning views over Mount's Bay and excellent restaurant, 10 mins drive from Penzance.
The Longboat Hotel, Penzance, TR18 2HZ, 01736 364137, www.thelongboathotel.net. Good value, lively hotel just a few minutes walk from the quay - can be a bit noisy on Friday and Saturday nights.
Emma's Surf House, Ludgvan, www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/16807446. Short stay self catering house for small groups up to 8 people 5 minutes drive from Penzance.
Where to Eat?