Ever wanted to swim with sharks? It’s usually an experience that requires travelling to a tropical country. Charles Hood offers the chance to swim with blue sharks off the coast of Cornwall.
Blue sharks grow to around 2 metres and have a lifespan of 20 years. They prefer cooler water which explains how the end up in Cornish waters. We might prefer swimming in warmer seas but temperatures between 7–16 °C is perfect for them.
There are no barriers and no cages. Just you, a camera and a shark. Despite the bad press that sharks have, it’s rare for blue sharks to attack humans. Charles makes his own ‘chum’ to attract them and they’re more interested in the bait than a diver. There are just four recordings of fatal bites worldwide and they’ve been responsible for roughly 13 recorded human bites.
Don’t be fooled into thinking they’re vegetarian, these are sharks. It’s mandatory that you wear dark clothing. You’re putting yourself at serious risk without following these instructions. Not drawing attention to yourself not only keeps you safe, you’ll also get to interact with the sharks in the most natural of ways.
It can be a rough trip, Cornish waters are choppy and it can be a few hours before you make your first dive. When the sharks appear, you’ll be in the water for a few hours so you have to be up to it. This isn’t cage diving, there’s no bobbing about for a bit and then coming back up. To get the most out of the experience with Charles, you need to be completely confident in your diving skills.
You don’t need sailing skills to charter the boat. If you don’t want to go snorkelling, you can still experience the sharks around the boat.
Charles Hood is very much the pioneer of swimming with blue sharks in the UK. He also offers the opportunity to swim with basking sharks in the area. As with all wildlife experiences, sightings can never be guaranteed but heading out with an expert increases your chances.
Off the west coast of Cornwall, departing from Penzance for access to the south coast
The best time generally is from late June through to mid-October with August being the peak season but the over-riding factor is the weather. The sharks are here at this time of year without question, you just need the right conditions to find them. Ideally it should be sunny with calm winds.
What you need to know:
If you’re an inexperienced snorkeler, this isn’t the trip for you. Bear in mind that Charles’ insurance only covers you while you’re in the boat so ensure that your travel insurance covers diving activities. There is also a good chance of seeing dolphin, sunfish (Mola mola), whale, porpoise and many species of sea bird as well.