There are an almost endless amount of obvious reasons to book a trip to the United Kingdom. Even if you’re not interested in the country’s amazing history or fascinating architecture, there’s still an ample amount of delectable booze. Not interested in either of those? London is one of the world capitals of art and literature. Its museums are home to some of history’s most awe-inspiring art, it’s literary legacy seeps from every street, and its contribution to the performing arts is unparalleled. Even if that doesn’t do it for you, there’s still one more reason to head to the United Kingdom: the aquatic residents. Yeah, you read that right. The United Kingdom gets so much attention for its on-land activities that’s easy to forget that there is a world of wildlife teeming beyond its shores. The UK is home to an incredible array of sea life; more than enough to book a vacation around.
1. Blue Shark
When the waters of the Celtic Seas reach their warmest, blue sharks can be seen frolicking off the western coast. When things are sunny and calm, they’re especially visible. Generally, blue sharks will wait motionless until their prey — mostly small fish and squid — is close enough. At that point, the blue shark is capable of incredible speed.
2. Cuckoo Wrasse
It doesn’t need to be big and flesh-hungry to be fascinating, and the cuckoo wrasse is proof of that. This species is common along the coastal areas of the United Kingdom, and is famous for its species unique ability to switch sexes once it reaches sexual maturity at about five to seven years of age. In the absence of mating partners, a female can change her sex to a male in order to fill the role.
3. Orca Whales
There is something incredibly majestic about the orca whale, one of nature’s most efficient killers. In fact, orca whales are much more dangerous than the average shark. Brave travelers can see these beautiful beasts in the United Kingdom’s northern waters, near Orkney Island. Thanks to the fact that orcas are extremely social, where you can spot one there are often several.
Okay, before you cry “fowl” over the inclusion of the gannet, this massive bird is about as aquatic as a species can get without breathing under water. This bird — the second biggest bird in the world — can dive as deep as 70 feet under the water, and then use their powerful wings to propel themselves even deeper. During the winter months, these birds can be spotted hunting in great number. It’s definitely a sight to see.
Most commonly seen in the United Kingdom in the warmer summer months, the sunfish sticks to the nation’s open waters so it can catch some rays in the top layer of water. The species is actually looking at an endangered existence thanks to marine litter; see, the sunfish sometimes mistakes a plastic bag floating in the water for a jellyfish (its favorite food). When the sunfish tries to eat the plastic sack, bad things happen.
6. Fin Whale
Only the blue whale eclipses the fin whale for sheer mass in all the world. To give you an idea of what that means, a fin whale can get up to about eighty-five feet long and a weight of around eighty tons. What’s more, the fin whale can also move with exceptional speed; it still moves faster than the world’s fastest steamship. Pods of fin whales can be seen in the deepest waters off the coast of Wales.
7. Basking Shark
At various points throughout the year, you can spot the basking shark off the western coast of the UK. Though it’s the second largest living fish in the world (behind the whale shark), the basking shark has a reputation for gentle behavior. Visitors can often find the basking shark staying true to its namesake and basking in the sunny waters while scooping up plankton in its massive mouth.
8. The Shortfin Mako
During the summer months, the shortfin Mako is known to make an appearance in the waters off the coast of the United Kingdom. The mako is a true beast in the water. It uses its incredible speed — it’s capable of exceeding 40 miles an hour — to take down big, deepwater prey like giant tuna and swordfish.
9. Harbor Porpoise
You’ll need to be vigilant to catch this introverted member of the dolphin family. If you travel toward Wales or the west coast of Scotland, however, you might be able to spot these strange-looking creatures as they surface to breathe. The harbor porpoise can be spotted by the sound it takes as it breaches the surface of the water. It sounds distinctly like a sneeze.
10. The Reported Great White
Of all the animals that you may likely run across while combing the vast seas surrounding the United Kingdom, a Great White shark is not likely to be on the list. Early in 2017, reports surfaced that indicated that a fearsome Great White might be patrolling the waters, taking bites out of porpoises and seals. While some are willing to concede that it’s possible the apex predator has made its way to the United Kingdom, it’s very unlikely. Most likely is that these creatures have run afoul of an angry orca. What’s more certain is that the waters around the United Kingdom are, by and large, a very safe and interesting place to visit.