Top 5 Epic Marine Life Encounters in the UK
Check out this list of accessible interactions with some of the oceans greats. It is a common misconception that you need to scuba dive or snorkel abroad in order to see anything worthwhile. Many people are completely oblivious to the opportunities the UK waters have to offer. Choosing to fly halfway around the world in search of amazing opportunities. Stop, take a look at what your own coastline has to offer.
So we thought it was worth taking you on a whistle-stop tour of the UK waters to show you there is more to the British marine life than you think. Introducing incredible visibility, stunning wrecks and some of the oceans amazing marine life. Here is the Top 5 UK Big Marine Life Encounters you should be adding to your scuba diving bucket list!
Basking Sharks are the second largest shark in the world after the Whale Shark. This enormous filter feeder lives on krill, one of the smallest crustaceans in the ocean. The Basking Shark is migratory and gets its name from its habit of seeming to bask in the warm surface waters of the sea. Swimming along with its mouth wide open while feeding. This allows its highly developed gill rakers to catch plankton as the water filters through the mouth and over the gills.
Reaching lengths of up to 12m, Basking Sharks are the largest fish found in British waters. Despite their size and seemingly threatening appearance, they are not aggressive in any way and are completely harmless to humans. Once heavily targeted for their liver oil, meat, and fins, Basking Shark finally received protection in 1998 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. This means that Basking Sharks can no longer be targeted, retained or disturbed in British Waters. They have now become a true wildlife ambassador.
These gentle giants appear in our British waters each spring and summer. From mid-May to August they can be found in high numbers around the Isle of Man. If you wish to see them out of these months, you can snorkel with them at numerous locations along the west coast of the UK, starting in Cornwall in the spring/summer and finishing in Scotland around September time.
Despite their large size, Basking Sharks can be particularly elusive. The weather needs to be calm in order to see them clearly at the surface. When the sea is calm, and the weather settles, plankton concentrates on the surface of the sea and the basking sharks feed. If you are lucky, you may even see shark courtship activity!
The Grey Seal can be found on both shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. This type of seal is sometimes referred to as an Atlantic seal, true seal or earless seal. This is the largest species of seals, with bulls in UK waters reaching 2.5m/3.3m and weighing up to 300kg. You can tell a Grey Seal from other species by its distinct lack of ear flaps and a long snout. The bulls tend to have larger noses and a less curved profile than common bull seals. The males are generally darker than females, with lighter patches and often scarring around the neck (they like a good scrap). Females are more silvery grey to brown with dark patches, so it’s relatively easy to differentiate when scuba diving with them.
The Grey Seal is the largest of the seal family to be found in the UK. With roughly half of the worldwide population of Greys found in Britain. The water conditions here are perfect for these marine animals. So much so that population numbers have doubled since 1960.
During the Autumn months, females gather at traditional pupping sights known as rookeries. Newly born pups weigh around 14kg. Pups grow quickly and develop their much-needed blubber insulation thanks to the fat-rich milk produced by the mother. Keeping warm is essential when your diving to depths of up to 70m to catch your next meal!
There are a number of grey seal colonies around the United Kingdom and Ireland. Some of the larger colonies include Donna Nook in Lincolnshire and the Farne Islands in Northumberland. It is estimated that the Farnes has a resident population of around 6,000 animals.
The Orca has earned itself the name ‘Killer Whale’ due to its predatory nature. The killer whale is instantly recognisable, thanks to their dramatic black and white colouration. They have been known to attack and eat all sorts of marine wildlife including fish, sharks, rays, squid, octopuses, sea turtles and even sea birds. However, there are only a handful of documented cases of wild Orcas attacking humans in the wild. The only fatal attacks against humans have been by Orcas held in captivity.
Orcas are found throughout the world’s oceans and seas including our UK waters. With scientists showing that there are Two Killer Whale Types Found In UK Waters. For a long time scientists have known that different forms of Orca inhabit certain regions of the Pacific and Antarctic, but only a few years ago was this documented in the North Atlantic. In the UK, Orcas are seen most regularly around the Shetland and Orkney Islands. With pods of around 8-10 regularly being sighted in July/August 2018 around Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands.
There is something so exciting about spotting and watching a pod of dolphins in the wild around our coastal waters. There are more than twenty species of cetaceans found around the UK with the Bottlenose dolphin being one of the most spotted. They can be seen close to the shore on both the west and east coasts as well as the northern coast of Scotland although sightings off the north are less common. The North Sea’s only known resident population of Bottlenose Dolphins can be found in the Moray Firth in Scotland. Just under 200 dolphins, span their way as far South as the Firth of Forth at North Berwick.
The North East Coast of England has year-round sightings of Harbour Porpoises, whereas the Isle Of Man and the West Coast has regular sightings of Bottlenose and Risso Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises with Minke Whales through autumn months. Check out the Sea Watch Foundation for recent sightings.
Humpback Whales are one of the most sought after encounters for almost all marine mammal lovers. Growing up to 20 metres long, weighing an incredible 40 tons, the Humpback Whale is a truly HUGE beast! Having being hunted to near extinction by humans, Humpback numbers have risen significantly. The Humpback survives predominately on krill and small pelagic crustaceans. They do also consume a lot of fish, especially smaller, shoaling fish species.
Humpback Whales can be found worldwide. Due to their long migratory routes, they are found in all of our major oceans and seas. Long migrations mean these whales are not found in the enclosed waters such as the Mediterranean Sea. Although Humpback encounters are not common around our UK coasts, the migratory patterns allow for sightings off the west coast of Ireland as well as the west and north coasts of Scotland.
We hope you agree with our Top 5 Epic Marine Life Encounters in the UK. It is amazing how many people travel lots abroad before exploring the wonders on their very own doorstep. Britain’s coastline is littered with quirky, quaint towns and villages with plenty of places to stay. There are charter dive boats and shores to dive all over the country. It is time to get yourself out there and explore what our British coasts have to offer!
Want to join us on one of our amazing UK dive trips to see some of these, check out: