Blog | Basking Shark Scotland (2023)

The best places to dive in Argyll

We have been running diving and swimming trips off the coast of Oban and the Argyll Islands for 10 years. Here are our top picks for places to dive in Argyll.
Our more than 3,000 kilometers of coastline are made up of many islands, bays, inlets, lakes and bays. This gives a total coast greater than that of France! The view of the Atlantic bathes us in clear, nutrient-rich waters, making it a hotspot for marine life. The Atlantic can also be a wild place, with strong currents, waves and winds that have earned it the nickname 'The Wild West'. With such a vast melting pot of conditions, we've found there's no substitute for strong, capable boats, guides, local knowledge and some flexibility in terms of weather and sea conditions.
It's a tricky paradox when it comes to finding suitable locations. Typically, the best dive spots have clear water and lots of marine life. Marine life thrives in areas with strong currents as they bring food and energy. The high currents mean you need to have proper plans in place to dive safely in these areas; We always recommend making sure you have the right experience, visiting with a local guide who knows the water and diving from a boat for added safety.


Known as the gateway to the islands, Oban is also our home base here in Argyll! Our favorite places are reached by boat: there's always more marine life, better visibility and fewer water users. Wedo also have some sites accessible from the coast that we use for training or maybe when the weather is bad.

shore snorkel trail

As a beachfront location, Ganavan Sands is easily accessible from the city of Oban. You can take the bus or an easy journey of less than 10 minutes with a large municipal parking lot. Restrooms are available, along with a wide selection of drinks and snacks from the Dougie Dan Burger Truck. Cannae nailed a bun with sausage after a dip! The wide bay is sand and pebbles with rocks to the west and east, where kelp forests and seagrass beds can be found. There may be multiple water users and boat traffic so make sure you have a reasonable view of them using an SMB (surface marker buoy).

boat snorkel tour

Our choice near Oban would be to take our boat to a nearby secluded cove with much clearer views and greater abundance of marine life. We usually anchor first in a sheltered part so that you have access to different reefs and then we go back to the boat or follow the current and the boat comes to pick you up. We have several options within a distance of 5 to 30 minutes to visit depending on the weather conditions and your spirit of adventure! We always customize our dive trips to the groups needs based on their experience and what they want to see.

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The beautiful Isla de Coll is where we move our summer operations to match the best wildlife, water temperature and sea conditions. The island lies to the west of Mull and has many beaches, bays, headlands, straits and islands. We spent many years exploring the coastline and found many gems hidden beneath the waves. There are many currents and deep water around the island, which means the marine life is fantastic. Our tours are based around the boat providing shelter along with our in-water snorkel guides accompanying our divers to ensure everyone stays safe.

(Video) Snorkelling with Basking Sharks in Scotland

shore snorkel trail

There are some places where you can swim from shore, but you should seek local advice beforehand. Our top pick would be Cliad beach, which as long as you stay close to the shore is out of the mainstream and out of the hassle. The rocky reefs are beautiful gneisses covered with kelp forests. You can park near the recycling center and then it's a short walk up the path between the dunes, taking care of machair and brittle dune grass. The bay is exposed to both wind and westerly swell.

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boat snorkel tour

We use many different locations in Coll for diving and swimming and we know very well which locations work best in terms of tide, wind, swell and the experience level and desires of our passengers. In addition to the main island of Coll, there are hundreds of smaller islands off the coast that offer beautiful places to explore. These islands create passages through which the current is pushed and in turn increase the abundance of marine life. We have really exciting routes through rocky reefs like "Kelped Mountain" but our favorite is the lagoon which has so many different areas to explore. You can join us on a day trip to Alagoon from Oban or Mull or spend much more time exploring all these places during our multi-day tours.


Tiree is the neighboring island of Coll where we spend our summers and frequently visit this beautiful island in search of wildlife. Visit Scaranish Harbor or swim and snorkel off shore. It is known for its sunshine, but also for its wind, waves and strong currents. There are beaches on each side of the island so it's perfect to find a protected area, but you should always seek local advice before exploring from the coast.

shore snorkel trail


The beach next to Scaranish Harbor is a good place for safe snorkeling and has good access to the car park, hotel and also toilets. It's relatively gated so it offers protection from most directions and is easily accessible from the beach. You can follow the rocks on either side or strong divers can head east around the islet and climb over the rocks and back. Do not stray too far from shore, as currents can be strong and pull away from the harbor channel and west entrance, which is used by commercial and recreational vessels.

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boat snorkel tour

We spend a lot of time on the Tiree coast as it is so close to our base on Coll Island in the summer. The islands are only separated by a small channel called Gunna Sound, as we explore it by boat it really is like a giant island playground. Just like our Coll boat snorkeling route, Tiree has many coves, passages, nooks and crannies, all with different qualities and offering shelter from wind and waves. Tiree is west of Coll and has increasing wind and swell speeds as we go west, so we generally stay east of the island. There are some fantastic protected sites, accessible only by boat, with excellent water clarity and lush kelp forests.


The famous Fingal's Cave on the island of Staffa is a popular tourist destination after Queen Victoria, Felix Mendelssohn and Joseph Banks. It wasn't as well known as a spa until we started guided tours there. However, not only do you have to be careful with the giant Fingal, it is also a place very exposed to Atlantic conditions with intense maritime traffic. We only recommend the tour of the cave by boat, with a safety cover and experienced guides. Entering from the coast can be very dangerous in unpredictable sea conditions and ships that don't know you're there.

The cave is about 70 m long and has side walls made of basalt columns. You will be dropped off at the entrance and follow our guide who will take you to the cave. The view from the cave with the islands and the ship in the distance is a sight to behold, along with the ceiling 20m above you and the kelp forest below with the rocky bottom of the sea. A true 360° experience! Our guide will take you to the island's other main caves, Boat Cave and MacKinnon's Cave, while the boat keeps watch nearby. We do it as a labelRotafrom Oban & Mull, however, it takes a bit of luck to pick a single day with good weather. We schedule a cave dive for all of our longer multi-day tours and visit the best weather window that offers the best chance of a successful dive.

Here is a great video of the Wild Swimming Brothers who joined our tour a few years ago and were blown away by cave swimming.

(Video) Solstice - Scotland's Basking Sharks

Or for a quick look at one of the nearby caves, check out this amazing video from one of our tours. Shane had good drone skills and the perfect conditions to capture this.


The Isle of Mull is the fourth largest in the Hebrides with over 300 miles of coastline! Most of our tours visit Mull and we even circumnavigate on our longer trips which take around 4-5 hours non-stop! With 300 miles of coastline, there are plenty of places to swim and snorkel.

shore snorkel trail

Calgary Bay is a popular bay with white sand and turquoise waters in the northwest of the island. It is easily accessible by bus or car from the main village of Tobermory and has excellent parking facilities and nearby toilets. Calgary Art in Nature is also nearby - a great cafe, art tour and craft shop. In terms of diving, the bay is wide and sandy, with rocks on both sides that turn into a kelp forest accessible further on. It is generally away from major streams and has good visibility and little boat traffic. It's a fairly innocuous place, but beware of the weather as it faces W/SW.

boat snorkel tour

With 300 miles of coastline on Mull, we have unlimited places to visit. It is very difficult to choose only the best, but we decided to visit the unique Arches of Carsaig. We usually do this after visiting the waterfall, but it's worth seeing for yourself. Dubbed the "Closer Fingal Cave", it has a pointed finger of basalt column, a keyhole arch and a huge cavern as additional features. The formations sit at the foot of 300 m high cliffs that have exposed volcanic rock; it looks a lot like Jurassic Park and many people notice a resemblance to Icelandic landscapes. This comparison is very relevant, as Iceland is geologically similar to Mull, but much younger.

You can walk to the arches but it takes many hours with tricky rock sections (there is a very good local hiking guide in Carsaig who can help if you prefer two feet or two fins). The boat drops you off and we swim over many large rocks and kelp forests to reach the keyhole. Once there, we have an amazing view through the rocks and then explore on foot to the next huge cave. Here we disembark and walk along a rocky cove, then return to the boat. Another amazing and unique snorkel!

Check out a video from one of our previous trips there. We visited this on our fifth day.primaveraand 4 daysherbsTours along with offer likewild swimmingDay trip from Oban.

(Video) Basking Shark Scotland Introduction


No Argyll snorkeling guide would be complete without mentioning our friends the basking sharks, as we have the world's greatest access point for them here! The world's second largest fish migrates from the subtropics to the Argyll Islands each summer to feed on the abundant zooplankton and also for possible courtship and mating. We pioneered low-impact swimming with them and offer them the opportunity to do so on many of our trips! An overwhelming and world-class experience!


Another amazing wildlife encounter in Argyll is seal diving. We have two resident species, fur seals and gray seals, in Scotland we have a very high number of European and global populations of these species. Both are protected species, as are the places where they live. Therefore, when interacting with them, you must be sensitive to avoid interruptions.excursions. i.e. splashing, making a lot of noise, and swimming up to a seal in the water will not make for a good date. However, if you do it right, you can increase your chances of getting good prospects, and if you're lucky, you might find a "player", nickname for an animal that is very curious and seeks a close encounter. like you. . We do a day tour where you can snorkel and swim with seals, but ourmulti-day toursthey are much better suited to developing techniques and have more chances for good encounters.

Known as the gateway to the islands, Oban is also our home base here in Argyll! Our favorite places are reached by boat: there's always more marine life, better visibility and fewer water users.

But there are also some great places accessible from the shore to explore that are also great places for our snorkel training.

shore snorkel trail

(Video) Basking sharks off Colonsay, Inner Hebrides, Scotland

As a beachfront location, Ganavan Sands is easily accessible from the city of Oban. You can take the bus or an easy journey of less than 10 minutes with a large municipal parking lot. Restrooms are available, along with a wide selection of drinks and snacks from the Dougie Dan Burger Truck. Cannae nailed a bun with sausage after a dip! The wide bay is made up of sand and pebbles with rocks to the west and east where there are some kelp forests and seagrass beds. There may be many other water users and boat traffic here, so make sure you have adequate visibility using an SMB (surface marker buoy).

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1. 2016 Basking Shark Scotland Highlights
(Basking Shark Scotland)
2. SCARY SHARK Scotland, Mull
3. Exploring Coll with Basking Shark Scotland. July 2020
(Andrew Leng)
4. Basking Shark Scotland | Highlands and Islands Enterprise
(Highlands and Islands Enterprise)
5. Living Seas Webinar Series #1 Basking Sharks
(Scottish Wildlife Trust)
6. Scotland's shark infested waters
(Eric Jarvie)


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