Wildlife ranger captures amazing footage of endangered basking shark – as it swam along next to him

Craig Nisbet, 42, spotted a shark fin in the water and watched the animal swimming around before grabbing his snorkelling gear and camera in the hope of photographing it

The 2m shark swam right next to Craig, but he said he wasn’t scared as he snapped pictures of the young creature at Village Bay on the island of Hirta, Outer Hebrides.

Basking sharks migrate from waters off west Africa to Scotland’s west coast where they gather to breed.

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Craig, a seabird and marine ranger with the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) said the shark’s fins and snout were visible from the beach at Village Bay.

What are basking sharks?

Basking sharks are the world’s second largest fish, after whale sharks, growing up 10m long.

But despite their size the harmless sharks only feed on plankton which they filter out of the water, swimming slowly back and forth with their mouths wide open.

‘Exhilarating’

Craig, who captured the footage on August 3, said: “There were a few yachts in the bay and we saw visitors watching something in the water and then we saw the shark fin.

“I decided to get in the water because I knew I could position myself so that I would disturb it or cause it any distress.

“It was exhilarating rather than scary to be in the water so close to it.

“I have never been the water with one before, so it was a really exciting experience for me.

“It displayed some really cool behaviour that you can’t see when you watch them from above the water.

“The water was really murky with plankton so when it’s mouth is open it’s filtering the zooplankton out of the water and then when it’s closed its swallowing it.

“It was amazing to see, I have never seen the feeding process before.

“It had an upturned snout which is how you can tell it’s a young shark, less than a year old.

“I returned to land, scarcely able to believe what I’d just seen.

“I washed my camera and downloaded my images and video and was delighted with the images and footage I’d captured.

“It’s very rare to see a young shark, but it’s the second one we have seen here this year, which shows how dependant the sharks are on this area for breeding.

“This was the seventh basking shark recorded from St Kilda this season.

“The Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code tells divers in the water with sharks to stay still, don’t peruse the shark and be aware of their tails.

“This was a small shark but with a full-sized shark their huge tail could inadvertently hurt someone.”

The islands of St Kilda are a Unesco-designated World Heritage Site managed and protected by NTS.

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