Sharks, Seals & Mud; The Best Snorkel Sites in the UK
If you’re lucky enough to have snorkeled in a warm climate, you are sure to have seen plenty of beautiful marine life and perhaps even some coral reef. But there are plenty of impressive critters in the British ocean that are well worth braving the cold for, and you don’t even need bulky scuba to see them, just some basic snorkel gear.
We have compiled a brief rundown of some of our favourite snorkel sites and what you can see there to inspire you to try snorkeling this summer.
Seahorses in Studland Bay, Dorset
It was only discovered in 2004 that Studland Bay was home to spiny and snout-nosed seahorses after a scuba diver stumbled upon a pregnant male and alerted her sighting to the Seahorse Trust. Since then, both the species and the area have received protection as well as a £42,000 lottery fund. In order to learn more about the seahorse population, the Seahorse Trust has embarked on a tagging project which follows individual seahorses for years, like the one in the above photograph. In the summer, seahorses live in the shallow seagrass meadows, which is perfect for snorkeling as it offers you the chance to see them up close in their natural habitat.
Grey Seals in the Isles of Scilly
Grey seals have found a safe haven in the archipelago Isles of Scilly, especially around St Martins. The islands are remote, and with only five out of 145 of the islands being inhabited by humans, the seals have thrived. The ocean floor is covered with vast beds of kelp; the perfect environment for seals that play, hunt, mate and sleep amongst the weed. The seals are extremely friendly and mischievous, and enjoy nothing more than nibbling snorkeler’s fins. Seeing these mammals swimming gracefully around you in their natural environment is an experience that will stay etched in your memory for a lifetime.
Basking Sharks in the Isle of Man
Their huge size (up to 12m and 7 tonnes) is sure to get to the ticker beating quicker, but despite this, basking sharks are completely harmless. The only known fatalities involving a basking shark occurred in the Firth of Clyde before World War II, when a breaching shark hit a small boat at the surface, causing it to capsize and the occupants to drown. As the sharks feast on tiny plankton by filtering large quantities of water, they make excellent snorkel buddies and can be seen during the summer months along South West of England up the Hebrides of Scotland. However, as their numbers are sadly falling, make sure to snorkel with these stunning creatures using an accredited operator who will have the best knowledge about the area and the sharks. Check Wise Scheme and this poster to find out more.
Spider Crabs in Stackpole Quay, Pembrokeshire
- He looks a bit crabby
Quieter than the more famous Barafundle Bay, head to Stackpole Quay for a secluded snorkel. At high tide, the water fills the bay around the small quay, and lots of wildlife comes out to feed, including these impressive spider crabs. While not as large as their Japanese cousins, the European variety can still grow to have an impressive body length of 20cm. The males have large, oversized claws which are comically out of proportion to their body, especially when compared with the puny female claws.
Lesser Spotted Dogfish in Porth Ysgaden, Llyn Peninsular, Wales
This great bay offers a diverse shore snorkel with lots of wildlife to see, even in the shallows. The rocky sub-tidal reef provides a great home to many different types of star fish, as well as the lesser spotted dogfish shown above. You may have seen their eggs cases before, famously known as ‘mermaid’s purses’, which are often found washed up onshore. It is an incredibly laid back, lazy animal, and spends up to 23 hours each day simply sitting, resting on the sea-bed. As an adult dogfish has few natural predators, it can doze on sand in the middle of a bay and not worry about being attacked, which makes them ideal animals to observe while on a snorkel.
Muddy Bog, Ireland
If you still want to snorkel but aren’t that fussed about great visibility, why not head to Ireland’s Bog Championship snorkeling event. This year’s event takes place on Saturday 8th September at Alice’s Loft & Cottages in Co. Monaghan. With added weekend camping, live music and an extra side attraction “The 40 foot Mud Slide” this will be a weekend to remember for snorkeling enthusiasts and thrill seekers alike.