Basking Shark Map

Ocean giants and weird critters. Some encounters from the last 10 years.

Apr 07 2024

humpback whale feeding off Isle of Coll
The weird and the wonderful! Spending our summers in offshore areas for the last 10+ years means we’ve had our fair share of amazing big animal encounters along with a number of oddities too. 
  • Humpback Whale

Oddly we have had encounters near Oban & Kerrera but the most spectacular have been round Coll & Tiree where the animals were lunge & bubble net feeding. Their presence was not accidental, they were taking advantage of the abundant sand eels in the last couple of summers. Two of the large animals have been identified. Barney has also been sighted on the east coast as well as off Skye. The other one McCready, is a regular visitor to the Irish coast and was recently spotted off Cape Verde.

humpback whale feeding off Isle of Coll
  • Mauve Stinger Jellyfish

We’ve not seen them for a few years now but they were present in numbers 2013-2016. More commonly seen in sub-tropical waters. They do give a reasonable sting but fine if you’re covered in thick neoprene. A stunning animal to observe & photograph. Not so much as a skins swimmer!

snorkeling beside a Mave Stinger near the Isle of Coll
  • Ocean Sunfish

Well known to be the heaviest bony fish in the world. A very odd looking creature and they are a sought after animal to dive with in the tropics. Interestingly they come to cleaner stations on the reef there where fish eat off the parasites. Where as they have the same association with seabirds here, they lie on their side near the surface so the birds can peck away. We had one do this with us a number of years ago, hanging around for a long time enabling everyone to observe it. Fantastic.
snorkeling with an ocean sunfish (mola mola) near Isle of Coll
  • Boarfish

These strange & tropical looking fish do turn up on their own occasionally but in 2021 we had a huge shoal just outside Arinagour in deep water. They were only there for a short period with a small shoal ended up at the pier. They are a southerly species so their presence was likely to do with the strange weather patterns linked to El Nina that year.
shoal of boarfish in Coll harbour
  • Langoustine

If you’ve ever eaten prawns then now you know what a tiny baby one looks like. At this stage of their life they are drifting with the plankton rather than living in a muddy hole on the seabed. We spotted it during a night dive using our floodlights over deep water. A stunning looking creature all lit up, not sure the adult form is quite as bonny.
Juvenile langoustine in the plankton Near Oban
  • Bluefin Tuna 

We’ve has quite a number of sightings the last few years including the ones we think were using a basking shark as a scratching post. The reasons for their return is linked to a lot of ocean processes & weather. Hopefully we’ll continue to see them return in numbers.
bluefin tuna near Isle of Coll
  • Fin Whale

A privilege to see the second biggest animal in the planet hunting off Coll last summer (2023). Along with a close encounter on the boat we also observed them for a number of days from land. Again like the humpbacks they were feeding on the abundant sand eels.
fin whale feeding near Isle of Coll
  • Orca

The last two members of the west coast community pod, John Coe & Aquarius. A sad tale but we see them usually once or twice a summer. It’s amazing to see them but we always wonder whether that sighting will be the last as they ain’t spring chickens.
orca John Coe & Aquarius of the west coast community near Isle of Coll
  • Violet Sea Snail

Another oddity of the last couple years perhaps linked to the strong La Niña. Last summer we eventually found one with the bubble raft which we’ve been searching for. An utterly bizarre creature that hangs at the surface using the bubbles as a float, feeding on the by the wind sailors (pictured next to it). Read more about them on our blog.
violet sea snail and by-the-wind sailor on Isle of Coll
  • Mermaid

Not something you see that often. We’re not sure if it was Fingal’s girlfriend, but we were nearly lured to our peril inside the cave. Caution future cave swimmers!!!!!
Mermaid at Fingal's Cave, Isle of Staffa

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