STUNNING footage shows the largest school of basking sharks spotted in Scotland this year.
Tour operator’s Basking Shark Scotland spotted 50 sharks on the tidelines between Coll and Tiree in the inner Hebrides yesterday.
Breathtaking drone footage was shared online showing the gigantic creatures, known to be the second largest fish in the world, gliding along together while feeding off plankton.
During the 30 second clip, the tourer’s tiny boat can be spotted just metres from the sharks.
Extra camera footage, filmed from the team onboard, show clear blue skies shining as dozens of shark fins pierce through the Scottish waters.
Shortly after the clip, several tourists got even closer to the fish, who can weigh up to 7 tonnes, after hopping in the water to swim alongside them.
The clips were filmed yesterday – the same day figures were released by Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust claiming basking shark sightings had fallen.
The Mull-based organisation recorded 11 reports involving 15 sharks while far larger numbers of sightings have been made in previous years.
Basking Shark Scotland owner, Shane Wasile said: “We’ve had shark sightings for a few weeks now, probably from about April, but this was the first big aggregation of the year.
“It was the first time we tried Facebook live and luckily we had no wind and great conditions to spot them yesterday. There were about 30 near the boat when I was filming and then 50 by the end.
“Some visitors usually get to see one or two, sometimes even up to fifteen but when you come across large groups like this it’s just great to see.
“For some guys it was their first trip and I had to tell them ‘this doesn’t happen every day’. They were completely blown away.
“They came right up to the boat so were only a couple of metres away then we took a few people out to swim with them. They swim towards you and come really close, they’re no danger as they feed from plankton.
“These are areas where the plankton is most concentrated so the sharks zero in on these zones to make the most of the abundance of food.
“We’ve not heard of any large sightings of them so far in Scotland and we are one of the main operators for tours in the area so I’m fairly confident we managed to spot the first largest aggregation this season.”
The 35-year-old live streamed some of the breathtaking experience on Facebook giveing thousands of viewers at home the opportunity to be involved.
Sorcha Cantwell said: “I’d give anything to be there right now.”
Gwen Sands wrote: “Such a thrilling sight when you round the top of Coll.”
And Camilla Hughes said: “Wow. Would simply love to see this.”
One unlucky visitor Steven Garven, who went out on the tour earlier in the week, wrote: “I was out on Monday and not one.”
Basking sharks are known to be highly migratory and appear seasonally in different areas of the world.
They distribute in temperate coastal waters and can weigh up to 7 tonnes and grow up up to 12 metres long – the same size as a bus.
They are one of the three plankton eating sharks along with the whale shark and megamouth shark and have a lifespan of up to 50 years.
Basking sharks are currently on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and listed as ‘vulnerable’ meaning they face a “high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future”.
Basking Shark Scotland, based in Oban, are the only dedicated basking shark tour operators in Scotland.
They offer single, two and three day, four day and week long basking shark swimming and wildlife excursions to the Inner Hebrides.
Their basking shark tours are organised from April to October to coincide with the shark’s migration to the area where they feed on the abundant plankton but warn there’s no guarantee that tourists will spot the fish on every trip.