Fancy swimming with sharks in the Hebrides?

The basking shark, as seen in the Hebrides, mainly eats Plankton. Picture: Alan James / Nature Picture Library

The basking shark, as seen in the Hebrides, mainly eats Plankton. Picture: Alan James / Nature Picture Library

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Tourists are being invited to swim with sharks in one of Scotland’s most unusual day trips.

Marine expert Shane Wasik has joined forces with boat operator Coastal Connection to take thrill-seekers to swim in the waters around the Hebrides.

Trips from Oban start on Friday and aim to offer people the chance to get up close and personal with basking sharks – the sea’s gentle giants, which feed on plankton and migrate this month to spend summer around the islands of Mull, Coll and Tiree.

They can grow up to 36ft long and weigh up to seven tonnes –about the same size as a double-decker bus. They are the second largest fish in the world after the whale shark, making them an impressive and hauntingly beautiful sight at sea.

Mr Wasik, 31, from South Queensferry, who runs Basking Shark Scotland, said: “Our area of operation is a known basking shark hotspot. Our trips are starting at £130 for a whole day away on the boat, with guides to help you get into the water.

“Basking sharks really tend to ignore you completely – they are not worried by human presence at all. We are on average only 1.5 metres long and they are on average six to eight metres long, although they can grow to ten metres long and one metre wide.”

He added: “They are at the surface because they feed on plankton, so from our point of view that makes them easier to spot.

“There are lots of wildlife assets around the islands. Obviously, we can’t guarantee everything every single day but, because the area is so full of wildlife, we shouldn’t really have any problem. The best count ever recorded was 94 basking sharks in one day.”

Mr Wasik will be running longer trips, too, and has taken a week-long booking from a group of Russians.

He said: “In addition to the regular shark sightings, our trip includes whales, dolphins, seals, golden eagles, puffins and many other seabirds. Combine this with the stunning scenery of Argyll, volcanic wonders of Fingal’s Cave, historical landscape of castles, abbeys and ruins, and there is a huge amount to take in.”

Mr Wasik started snorkelling when he was six and was scuba diving by the age of 15.

He studied marine biology at Heriot-Watt University, was a shark diver at Deepsea World and has worked as a commercial diver, underwater photographer and in fishery and environmental protection work.

He recently returned from a three-year stint working in New Zealand and said: “I used the experience from overseas to start my business here. We have the same natural assets but we don’t really take advantage of them.”

Although basking sharks are gentle, he advised said it was best not to go swim among them without an experienced guide.

He said: “If people go too close they can have tail strike, or the sharks can put on courtship behaviour, so you should really go out in a supervised party.”

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