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Basking shark swims under kayak in ‘surreal’ experience off Irish coast

Two kayakers had a “surreal” encounter with a basking shark off the coast of west Cork in Ireland, with the sharks swimming right under their kayaks.

Louise Barker, 33, captured the encounter on video, which she shared to Twitter with the caption: “Had a little bump from a curious basking shark off the west Cork coast yesterday. What a stunning creature.”

In the footage, Barker is heard gasping as the shark swims towards her and its fin brushes right alongside her kayak.

Ms Barker, a publicist and music manager, told PA news agency: “It was a pretty surreal experience having this curious guy pop up next to us. Such a gentle giant.”

basking shark cork ireland
The shark’s fin, bottom left, brushes against Louise Barker’s kayak as it swims under it (Louise Barker/PA)

Ms Barker headed out on her first kayaking trip of the year with her friend, Becky Hatchett, 46, on Monday.

“We had perfect weather conditions, so we headed out in Becky’s double kayak, and it did not disappoint.

“We had heard about recent basking shark sightings along the coast and we were hoping to catch a glimpse of a fin.”

“I wasn’t expecting to come nose-to-nose with one.”

Ms Hatchett, an artist and member of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, told the PA news agency: “We’ve seen minke whales, basking sharks and dolphins from the same spot as it’s a very popular feeding ground for wildlife.”

The two friends met during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and became “swimming buddies”.

Ms Barker said: “We go kayaking and swimming along the west Cork coast all year round.”

Ms Hatchett added: “During Covid, there were so many more sightings, when the fishing boats weren’t around, but now with the trawlers out we don’t see as much activity.”