Viral Wildlife-Spotting TikTok Shows Off One Of Ireland's Most Majestic Creatures

Shamrocks, folk dancing, and Irish whiskey are all well established emblems of Ireland's culture — and while they're not directly associated with the Irish, basking sharks may be making their way onto that list, according to TikTok. After internet personality and videographer Joshua Nueva posted a viral TikTok of an up-close encounter with a slow-moving basking shark in April 2024, the video amassed almost 3 million views. While enormous in size, with adult basking sharks averaging over 5 tons, they're docile in nature, with hardly any record of harmful incidents with humans. Yet, it might not be expected by the looks of the creature's gigantic mouth that's able to filter 2,000 tons of ocean water every hour. 


Ireland's marine life keeps impressing me 🤯 #ireland

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The world-famous TikTok posted by Nueva isn't the only video showcasing the beauty of these extravagant wildlife creatures across the social media landscape. An even more recent TikTok of a basking shark swimming directly under a visitor's kayak has garnered over 40 million views since the video was posted in May! Despite their intimidating appearance and elongated bodies that can reach lengths of 40 feet, they astoundingly make no attempt to hurt or bother people filming the sharks in action. Next time you find yourself in Ireland during the spring or summer, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the country's most enamoring visions of marine life.

How to spot a basking shark in Ireland

Marked by a large, floppy triangular dorsal fin and a smaller tail fin, basking sharks aren't hard to miss as they slowly drift through the water, given their enormous size. The sharks are most commonly spotted during the spring and summer months, ranging from April into late July or early August. The sharks are drawn to the North Atlantic waters surrounding the Irish coast because of the masses of plankton, which flourish in these waters during the peak of spring and summer seasons.

According to an informational TikTok posted by Nueva on the best places for spotting wildlife up close, hot spots like Achill Island, Blacksod, Mullaghmore, Sligo Bay, Tory Island, and Slea Head all promise a strong chance of getting up close and personal with Ireland's famous basking sharks. He also recommended an app by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) that keeps a record of the most up-to-date sightings of marine animals in the country. Users can filter specifically for basking sharks and gain instant access to reports of where these sharks are currently migrating to. However, users should note that the entries are voluntary and are not filtered by the IWDG, so it's possible that not all shark sightings are logged. While basking sharks tend to remain solitary creatures, there have been multiple sightings of the sharks circling each other in large groups in a ritualistic pattern, understood by scientists as an act of courtship.

Basking sharks are a globally-threatened species

Sadly, over the last couple hundred years, basking sharks were hunted nearly to the point of extinction for the oil produced in their livers, which take up a third of their bodies. The country's 1976 Wildlife Act protects natural animals and wildlife, but it had an exception for marine fish and invertebrates. While basking sharks were previously excluded from protection under this act, they were granted status on the list in late 2022. The world's second-largest shark currently faces the risk of extinction as a threatened species. As a protected wildlife species in U.K. waters, visitors who find themselves in this region should take extra caution to not scare or harm these gentle giants. Should TikTok users come across a basking shark on their trip to Ireland, the sharks' place on the Wildlife Act means it is illegal to irritate or harm both the sharks or their breeding grounds. 

Their innately passive nature means they pose little risk to humans. However, basking sharks do possess extremely rough, scaly skin, which could subject humans to cuts or scratches. While it's not illegal to swim with the sharks along the Irish coast, the Irish Basking Shark Group posted a list of tips when encountering the animals in wild waters. The organization advises swimmers and divers to keep a minimum distance of 4 meters (about 13 feet), refrain from touching the sharks, limit the number of people in the water, and avoid flash photography so as not to spook the animals.