Basking Shark Map

Best two days in the Hebrides……..ever!

Jul 28 2014

sunfish in the hebrides

WOW! What an experience we’ve just had. Enjoy the visual feast of the video we put together of the trip, including amazing aerial footage by our crew member Luke Saddler

Our recent three-day trip this week coincided with an amazing 2 days of weather! Flat calm in the North Atlantic is fairly irregular. Less so when warm currents and hot weather arrive at the same time to bring ‘blue water’ to the Scottish Hebrides. The surface temperature was reading 18 degrees on our boat’s electronics, which we thought was a glitch! We even laughed off our guide Eszter’s claims that the water was ‘warm’. However, we also verified the temperature with the dive computers which also read 17-18 degrees! A temperature we haven’t (ever) seen before in our summer waters.

It was the next two days encounters with big marine animals which were to be the most incredible. Firstly we had some sublime snorkelling at one of our favourite spots. Some nice seal interactions for our experienced underwater photographer clients and some snorkelling lessons for those who hadn’t spent much time in the water. We also had an open-water swimmer, who made the most of our Hebridean heat wave braving some skin swims!

Following a superb morning we headed out to sea to look for big animals. As we were steaming aboard our smaller vessel RIB ‘Cearban’ the shout went up for shark as one was spotted a few meters under the surface. Stopping for a while the shark didn’t reappear but the Whales did! Several Minke Whale’s were feeding in the area and we headed over to see what the fuss was about. Little did we know once we had made the boat silent that our giant friend would take such an interest in the boat. We had one whale do two passes underneath us, then a second do a couple of passes, and the last one, turn on his belly showing the bright white underside before gliding off into the distance. We were all astonished by what had just happened, amazed at the sea conditions and the wonderful spectacle of nature. The whales had actively interacted with us, investigating the strange floating visitors to their oceanic world.


Numerous porpoises were sighted feeding along with hundreds of seabirds such as Shearwaters, Puffins, Fulmars, Bonxies, and the spectacular diving Gannet. It wasn’t too long before we then came across our cartilaginous friend the Basking Shark. Following our code of conduct we had some nice encounters with everyone getting views of the big fish. We had purely male sharks and none were feeding, they all seemed to be sniffing out the best areas for plankton as they were transiting. Once everyone had managed to get some decent pictures we headed back for Tobermory and a late dinner. On the way back we were treated to a nice sighting of the White Tailed Sea Eagle in the conifers and then incredibly an otter fishing along the coast. We were all reduced to muttering wrecks by this stage as we had hit so many wildlife boxes in one day! It was also the Tobermory highland games so we had some great open-air music by Trail West at MacGochans Bar/Restaurant near the pontoons in the late evening! A great way to finish up an amazing day!


The next morning we awoke to stunning conditions and everyone was amped to be getting in amongst it for a second day! After stocking up at the excellent bakery we headed out into the Atlantic again! Patrolling the area of blue water a distant fin was spotted, not a shark fin, but one that was waving and flapping at the surface. We knew this was a sunfish and slowly motored the boat before making quiet at a safe distance. The sunfish moved towards us and our crew member Luke, launched the drone to capture some incredible aerial footage along with everyone getting very good images from the boat. The sea was like a mirror with a deep blue colour. The Sunfish was very relaxed and again actively interacting with us. They are known to have a symbiotic relationship with seabirds who remove parasites so perhaps it was seeking something similar from us. Shane sensed that this individual could be one that we could work with and quietly swam out to it at a distance using USEA techniques. The sunfish was very relaxed and we were able to all have some very calm interactions with us both equally checking each other out. Sunfish are pretty rare in these waters, with a few sightings each summer. Better known in the tropics, Shane was sent on a photo trip to Bali to try and capture pictures of them and unfortunately, they didn’t show! All that way when he could have stayed here. They are the heaviest of all the bony fish, reaching up to 3m, and can swim huge distances. As one small group was swimming with the sunfish we also had a basking shark pop up off the stern of the boat and a whale surface not far away. Unfortunately, they were on 3 different sides of the boat (as we would have loved to get an image of all three in one shot!) but to have 3 different ocean giants around the boats was very very special – almost surreal given the flat calm conditions.


Returning to Arinagour we had a great meal at the hotel and reflected on how lucky we were over the last few days. Everyone had experienced a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife sighting and achieved some incredible interactions with marine wildlife. Not only just to view them but there was genuine interaction, which thanks to using USEA techniques, was possible in a non-disturbance ethos. We all feel blessed to have been given this opportunity by Neptune, perhaps helped by our offering of shark whisky before the trip…(note- doesn’t always work!). It was also really cool to have a couple of kids on the trip who we hope will have lifetime memories and inspire them with the marine world. Oh, and the adults were all equally as stoked!
Till next time….off to play with the fishes!

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