When to swim and snorkel Basking sharks?
The best time generally is from mid May through June to early July but the over-riding factor is the weather. The sharks are here at this time of year without question, it is 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 then you can spot the dorsal fin. 2012 was hit by an odd weather pattern but we had our longest season to date finally ending on September 9th! We managed to get out 31 times and only didn't see sharks on 5 days, however, on these days we had great encounters with seals, bait-balling sardines with 100's if not 1000's of common dolphins, diving gannets, Cornish penguins (don't ask), bottlenose dolphins, a fin whale, a leatherback turtle and loads and loads of sunfish. Mid September we went out had simply a stunning day with blue sharks. In 2011 the gulfstream was reported to be 500 miles further west than usual, which caused the sea temperature to remain much lower than normal and as a result we saw sharks on around 10 days as they were feeding too deep to be spotted. In 2010 we had 28 out of 33 successful days, with the highest number in any one day being around 50 sharks. In 2009 we had similar numbers of days with them with two days of up to 100 sharks. In 2007 and 2008 we had the best encounters at the end of August - well over 200 individuals on one day, some reports estimated 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 and Scotland. 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 seven metre (23 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 camera equipment then 4 is recommended. We carry a full itinerary of safety equipment including oxygen.
Where and when?
As 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 TR18 2LL), look for the Sailing Club building and we usually depart at 09.30 and return around 17.00 depending upon tides and sightings. All day parking is available in the harbour car park and you will need about £5.50 in change. We can also launch at Porthleven for the Lizard Peninsular and at Hayle for the north coast.
Rates ex VAT (whole boat - up to 7 passengers)
To charter RIB Logan the first hour is £250 and then £50 (£75 weekends) per hour thereafter up to a maximum of 8 hours. Extra hours £100 per hour. There is a fuel surcharge for trips over 15NM £50 extra, 30NM £100 extra. Individual places £150 per day when available.
How to Book?
Please go to my 'Contact' page and send me email or telephone if short notice. Please note that all bookings are subject to my terms and conditions and by booking all passengers are deemed to have accepted them.
What do I need to bring?
Preferably you will need a drysuit or a very thick wetsuit such as a 6mm two-piece as the water is quite cold – 14 to 15 degrees centigrade, hood, gloves and windproof jacket. Also basic snorkelling equipment i.e. mask, fins, snorkel and weight belt. We can arrange for weights for overseas travellers. For dry passengers, waterproof trousers and jacket, hat, gloves, sunscreen, sunglasses and flat soled non-slip boots. If we are out all day 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.
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.
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. 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. 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 very difficult to predict 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 200!
Basking sharks are a protected species, it is an offence to cause harm to them. All activities are carried out under the guidelines of the Marine Conservation Society. 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?
We have a double en suite room and offer casual B&B for up to 2 people.
Trevelyan Arms pub Goldsitney, TR20 9JU, 01736 710453, www.trevelyanarms.co.uk.
A typical local Inn with two modern double rooms 10 mins drive from Penzance, it’s not like a town/city centre pub although Saturday night can get pretty busy. Monday - Thursday it's fairly quiet. It also has internet access
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.
Penzance Hotel, Penzance, TR18 3AE, 01736 363117, www.hotelpenzance.com
Luxury Edwardian hotel with gourmet restaurant 10 mins walk from the quay.
Downs Barn Farm, St. Buryan, TR19 6DG, Tel: 01736 810295, www.downsbarnfarm.co.uk.
5 star B&B, 15 mins drive from Penzance for up to 4 people.
Rockridge House, Porthcurno, TR19 6HL, Tel: 01736 810410 www.rockridgehouseporthcurno.co.uk
Good value B&B, 20 mins drive from Penzance, suitable for groups of up to 12.
Trevair camping and touring park, St. Hilary, www.trevairtouringpark.co.uk, 01736 740647
Diver friendly campsite 10 mins drive from penzance with air and nitrox on site.