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Free Diving & Basking Shark Tour
For more advanced snorkellers and those experienced with breath-hold, apnea and free-diving then our part of Scotland provides unique and stunning locations. Following on from the success our 2017 free-dive expedition we are going to run it again.
It's a bespoke free-diving tour based on the best dive locations using our experience over many years. The tour will be held at the end of August which is when the water is at it's warmest and we have a range of site options throughout the islands. There are still decent chances of encounters with basking sharks as this is still within our peak season. Our tours are all about great experiences, time with wildlife and amazing locations. It's not about big depths, it's about quality time in the ocean.
We would strongly recommend a 7mm two piece open cell suit for this tour as you won't be cold with this style of suit (it's what we use). 5mm 2 piece would be the next best thing and should be fine.
Cost is including 4 nights bunkhouse accommodation. Meeting point is on the Isle of Coll (you need to take the ferry from Oban, but we will take you back on Saturday on our boat).
Wed 29th Aug - Ferry to Coll, Check in & Briefing - Lagoon & Seals, Chance of Sharks
Thur 30th Aug - Coll - Fingal's Cave, Soft Coral Reefs & Seals, Night Dive, Chance of Sharks, Poss Night Dive
Fri 31st Aug - Coll - Bubble Cave Island, Chance of Sharks, Poss Night Dive
Sat 1st Sept- Head back to Oban via the RIB, manta boarding, & hopefully shipwreck & arches site on the way.
Sun 2nd Sept- Oban - Island Training/Yoga/Adventures/Fun Day & Depart
The tour is towards the end of the basking shark season. In some years the sharks have left the Hebrides by now, but in other years they are still around in large number. The offshore locations we plan to visit above are where the sharks can hang out so there's always a chance to see them. If we encounter some then we'll get you in to swim with the big fish!
Just remember this isn't a specific shark tour where we spend all day looking for them as this tour is about time in the water rather than searching for sharks. We do have our other boat running a shark tour at the same time so we'll get reports from them which will save us time. You'll be with the right team in the right area so you have a very good chance despite not being dedicated to the sharks.
Our first volcanic cave and an iconic location! The cave is visited by thousands of tourists each year, who all stumble along the rocky path to look at the cave and then leave. We take a different viewpoint as we visit with nobody else around so we can have an undisturbed experience and, more importantly, no tourist boats for our safety whilst diving!
The island is a remnant of volcanic activity and formed of thousands of basalt columns and stepping stones. It's what inspired Mendelsshon's 'Hebridean Overture' and was famously visited by Queen Victoria and Joseph Banks.
The cave itself is around 20m high and goes back around 50m into the island, with the water depth around 4-10m. Looking out to sea from the back with the huge cathedral above is mind-blowing! There are numerous smaller gullies and caves to explore in addition to the main cave here and the whole island is a free-diving playground.
These mammals are the most fun to free dive with. We have a few locations where there are grey seal colonies and we can usually find some 'players' to interact with. We usually find the females the most interactive however you still will need to work for your interactions. Following our guidance we'll show you how to earn their trust and have a great experience with them. The sites aren't deep but having the ability of around 10m depth and a 1-2 minute breath-hold would be ideal. Although that's not to say those that have less than this won't have a great time!
The image to the left is our Head Guide Luke in the bubble cave. Constructed by basalt columns, it's around a 25m swim in and 5m deep. We'll only visit in calm weather and there is a strange phenomena related to pressure here. As the swell moves into the bubble, the pressure increases and makes the water condense making rain inside the cave. Then when the swell recedes, the pressure drops and it disappears.
Under the bubble is a large archway with the seabed at around 15m, making it a great intermediate free-dive. There are numerous cuts and gullies on the surrounding reefs in which the seals love to hide.
Probably the most spectacular free-diving location in all of Scotland. It takes a full day to go here and back. Visiting here is worth the whole trip to Scotland - an amazing place!
We have lots of shipwrecks the area which are mainly below 20m, have a lot of current and are usually visited by scuba divers. However there are some that are located in sheltered areas, with great visibility and achievable depths for free-divers.
We plan to visit one specific wreck which has all the above qualities are is a favorite of ours. The wreck is broken up and the stern lies towards shore in around 10m. The large propeller is still intact and provides some swim-throughs and a vertical descent to the seabed. The hull is topped with kelp and then soft corals and anemones live on the structure.
As the location is remote, the fish life is great with lots of large pollack patrolling the wreck and wrasse cruising around. A really cruisey site for free-diving.
This area is so epic along the south coast of Mull with towering volcanic cliffs around 300m high. This epic geology includes incredible arches and coastal formations which makes perfect water based exploration! \
Very few people have swam here as the location is remote with very limited access but it's absolutely stunning.
Assuming good weather we'd hope to visit here on the Saturday, it's an exposed location so we'll need some calm seas (or specific wind directions to get here). We'd spend time exploring all the nooks & crannies around the coast here, then swim through the arches and land ashore to go through a massive cavern. The pictures don't do this location justice.
We visit this location regularly as part of our tour and it is probably our favourite site for free-diving. The area is a protected lagoon of small islands with a white shell sand base. It is remote from human influence so it's a pristine area washed by the productive, clear Atlantic Ocean, where the currents push around all the small islands so its stacked with marine life. Visibility is usually at least 10m and we regularly have 20m here. There is a mixed colony of harbour and grey seals and with a maximum depth of around 12m. It's great for extended free-diving to work on those interactions with the seals. There are anemone walls, tidal channels, sea grass beds, small caves and kelp reefs. Just an all round awesome spot and when it's calm and the sun's shining, there's nowhere better!
We'll take you to our training venue, which is a cool adventure. We'll likely visit from land rather than the boat (TBC) and take a short ferry out to an island. There is a flooded quarry here which has some awesome surroundings, a great place for lunch and clear warm water. Last year we had around 18 degree water temperature here and it makes for a great site for training.
20-30m is easily attainable here (but 5-10m is easy beside the shore) and we will bring a line for those who wish to practice some depth training. The trip is based on fun and adventure rather than achieving depth so we'll ask divers to work in pairs and stay within safe limits when we visit here.
As part of our visit to the training location we normally start off with a yoga session with a qualified instructor. This is relaxed and gentle,specifically designed to ease you into your day in the water and maybe smooth some of the aches of being exploring the wilds over the last few days.
We'll do some breathing as part of the session to warm you up for some breath-hold! However the main focus is a gentle warm up for the day and to help relax after a busy few days on the water. This is a lovely way to end the trip and was very popular on our tour last time round.
About an hour from our base by boat, this is a hidden lake filled with relics from the late 1800's. The water is warm and the history is rich. We swim ashore and walk up the sides of the island to discover this secret place!
We keep this location under our wetsuit so we won't say too much about it but it's a really really cool place to visit. Depths of around 15m are available here, with some of the interesting parts in a shallow 5-10m and others are a little deeper around 15-20m.
We may combine visiting here with the wreck which is in the same area but our itinerary is weather depend and we'll pick the best route to suit sea conditions.
Not something we do so often and we need people with some good confidence. Our manta board is towed behind the boat at a distance and slow speeds (for the boat).
You can dive, barrel roll and cruise along like underwater skiing! We try to pick areas with calm water and good visibility as this is a really epic activity! You don't need to be mega experienced but just an up for it attitude as it takes a couple of attempts to get your eye in before you're flying.
Around the islands we have a chance to encounter a lot of wildlife as this is still peak summer. As per our other tours there will be chances of cetaceans such as minke whales, common & bottlenose dolphins, porpoises and if you're very lucky an orca.
A variety of seabirds can be seen around the coast and we have resident white-tailed sea eagles. This abundant wildlife is such a great bonus to all of our free-diving activities. Of course there is the basking sharks & seals but we've mentioned our swim buddies above!
We have a few epic waterfalls that we have a play in. We would plan to visit them on the way back to Oban from the islands and the exact waterfall will be determined by the weather.
Some flow into the sea are a bit of fun, some are a few hundred meters high cascades and take a bit more of an adventure so we'll see how the tour goes and where we can get to.
One of the great assets of the reefs around the islands is that they are constantly washed by nutrient rich unpolluted Atlantic water. Under the kelp forest our reefs are covered in soft corals and anemones which only takes a breath hold of a few metres to reach and explore.
One of the epic experiences is a drift snorkel through a number of small islets, the current pushes us through and we pop out about 1/2 a mile on the other side of the island. As we cruise through we pass lots of areas where these corals & anemones are abundant.
- Four nights bunkhouse accomodation (3 on Coll & 1 in Oban)
- 5 days boat based free-diving & wildlife excursions (as above)
- Return trip to Oban via boat
- Knowledgeable free-diving guides
- Weights & fabric belts (no rubber)
- Hot drinks & home baking snack on board
- Amazing locations wildlife, scenery and culture
- Onboard binoculars, books and information guides
What's Not Included
- Ferryfrom Oban to meeting point on day 1 (Isle of Coll - £10 one way)
- In-water safety - we will guide you, have boat cover, first aid and oxygen but all free-divers will be resposible for their own dive safety in the water. We advise that you should dive in pairs and follow recommended safe dive practices during the tour.
- Equipment Hire - we do have 8mm suits which are great but not open cell suits. See here.
- Weather or wildlife guarantees!
- Food- the tour is self catering but we have hot drinks and some home baking on board
- Transport to Oban - see this link to travel to Oban or the ferry to/from Coll. For international clients or groups we can arrange buses from Edinburgh or Glasgow.