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Spotting Basking Sharks in Cornwall

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Spotting Basking Sharks in Cornwall

When Is the Best Time 

The season for basking sharks usually starts in May and last until October. Actually, the best time is mid-May until mid-July. Anyhow, there is no guarantee to spot them. In 2017 the best time was April until the beginning of May. In 2018 the first sighting of two sharks was at the end of April. In the recent years, fewer basking sharks were spotted. 

Very important are good weather conditions, a sunny day and calm wind to spot them on the surface of the sea and for snorkeling. 

What Else to Spot
  • common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins
  • minke whales (very shy)
  • pilot whales
  • leatherback turtles
  • sometimes sunfish
  • blue sharks; season starts end of June, more reliable to spot them but not predictable
  • seals from mid-May until October
Ocean Life
United Kingdom, Penzance, Cornwall, UK
Review and Tips 

Cornwall is a hotspot for basking sharks and they first turn up here. The migration follows the coastline and passes Land's End in spring. They are attracted by the high plankton concentration. With a high concentration of plankton, the sear appears green. Several operators organize snorkeling trips with Basking Sharks. The visibility in the sea is between 7-20 meters and much better in Cornwall than in Scotland. Anyhow, with a swell, it's difficult to spot them and the visibility is quite bad.

basking sharks tour on a rough day - lighthouse

Quick Facts About the Basking Sharks

  • They are feeding half a ton of plankton
  • The liver has the size of a car
  • They were hunted almost to extinction for their liver to get the valuable oil and the fins
  • It is the second largest fish in the world after the whale shark
  • Growing up to 12 meters 
  • There is still a lot to discover about them. No one has ever seen one of this sharks mating or giving birth.

Booking sea safaris and snorkeling in Newquay.

Booking Atlantic Diving and Basking Sharks snorkel trips located in Newquay.

(updated by When to be Where)

Basking sharks by Charles Hood


Dec 01, 2015
Stefan did you snorkel with the basking sharks in a dry suit? We already booked this trip with Charles Hood for end of May. I think the water temperature is around 13 degrees. How long did you stay inside of the water? I think it'll be a thrilling experience ;) Thanks for this magnificent idea!
Dec 01, 2015

hi Micha, great idea. Snorkeling with a dry suit is almost impossible so a good wet suit will do. Above 10 degrees there should be no problem. Surface conditions can be unpredictable so take a hat and some kind of rain coat along on the boat. Not for the rain but wind can be chilly so a jacket to act like a windstopper is perfect.

Jun 08, 2017
We did this trip along the coast twice. It last almost 8 hours and was strenuous due to the swell and we are not used spending such a long time on a RIB. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any shark on both days. It can happen that the plankton subsides one or two meters and the sharks are deeper down not on the surface. The first day we tried to snorkel with seals close to the Longships lighthouse at Land’s End together with three experienced free divers. A current pulled me out into the open sea with waves more than 3 meters high. Even the free divers perceived the challenging conditions. The next day the swell was even stronger and we refused to snorkel with seals again. To be honest, in our opinion it was irresponsible to let us snorkel with such bad conditions. The pictures are by Charles Hood a professional diver with whom we did these two trips.
Jun 08, 2017

Hi Micha, quite an adventure you had there in the wild Atlantic Ocean ! It's a pity you didn't see any basking sharks. There is a website of the Shark Trust where you can consult all the sightings and most were in April and the beginning of May. Hope you'll see them next time.