The waters around the Isles of Coll and Tiree of the Scottish inner Hebrides are a hotspot for the UKs largest fish - the basking shark. Not much is known about basking sharks generally and so no one is really sure why basking sharks gather in this particular spot in such great numbers but they return year on year throughout July and August. The ‘Shark Squad’ based on Coll have been taking limited numbers of guests out to see the sharks, creating greater awareness with the aim of establishing a marine protected area. The numbers of sharks spotted on a regular basis are pretty astounding….stories of 30 or 50 sightings in a day are common and we even heard of a drone survey around Coll that counted over 900! That is not a typo, they said nine hundred!
Which makes it even more gutting to admit that in a week of solid searching we saw just one. During the final hour of our final day, as the boat was relunctantly heading for home, came the cry, ‘Shark!’
It was a fleeting view but no less thrilling for that. The fin rising proud from the surface, preceeded by the lump of the fish’s nose and followed by the slender spike of its curved tail. It fed just under the surface for a minute or two, circling, before dissappearing - reemerging a few minutes later and then gone for good.
There was no chance to get in the water despite the best efforst of the shark squad - and no time to search further - our time was up. Still, the sight of the ~7m shark is ingrained and definitely worth the wait.