What to look out for
When watching for basking sharks you need to know when and where to look for the best chances of success. The short answer is:
The southern and southwestern coast of the Isle of Man is probably the best place in the world to watch basking sharks close inshore but you do need a few little hints. There are people who live on the Isle of Man who have never seen a shark! The Isle of Man is a basking shark hotspot AND the sharks tend to be close to shore. Of all our sightings reports 2005-2008 a whopping 64% were within 1km of shore!
- Look mid-May to mid-August
- Look when there are settled calm seas
- Choose a sunny day
- Look for diving gannets, they often dive where there are basking sharks.
- Look for shiny oily slicks called tidal fronts. These are full of the plankton that the baskers eat.
- Watch for the flash of a wet basking dorsal fin. They flash like mirrors.
- Look from the shore with binoculars off the South/ Southwest coast of the Isle of Man.
- Off a WiSE registered tourist boat from Port St Mary, Port Erin or Peel
- Choose a year when plenty of sharks visit the Island! Some years we get hardly any.
How to find out about recent sightings …
Recent sightings are a good clue to where sharks will be. There are two ways to get the latest information about basking shark sightings:
Ring THE MANX BASKING SHARK WATCH INFORMATION LINE on 01624-801345
to hear about the latest sightings and/or to report a sighting. Your information will be put on the website and reported to the MCS Basking Shark Watch.
What you might see
If you are lucky you may see a shark basking or feeding with its enormous mouth agape. The first sign of a shark is its large dorsal fin showing above the surface of the water. If the water is clear and it is a calm day, you might see the white mouth as it feeds just under the surface of the water. This is particulary likely if you are seeing the animal from above, from a boat or a cliff-top.
If you are really lucky you may see a group of shark engaged in courtship behaviour such as following one another closely, circling or breaching. See the section on reproduction and courtship for some pictures of these behaviours.