New investment helps shark tours bask in tourism limelight

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Shane wasik

An Oban boat tour company that specialises in interacting with basking sharks has invested in a new vessel that will allow them to explore the west coast of Scotland even further.

Marine biologist Shane Wasik set up Basking Shark Scotland in 2012 after living in New Zealand for a few years. With diving and underwater photography experience, Shane decided to turn a transformational childhood experience of swimming with basking sharks into a business.

Since then the company has grown steadily and with recent support from Business Gateway Argyll and Bute, Shane is confident that this season will be the most successful yet.

With the commissioning of a brand new 12m bespoke boat designed and built specially for what Shane and his team does, Basking Shark Scotland are now able to offer customers more offshore destinations and expeditions.

Shane said: “We’re very excited about our new vessel which was a significant investment but one we felt ready to make. It’s completely bespoke for what we do so we’re delighted with it and what we can offer our clients. Although our business is seasonal, we have gone from strength to strength over the last six years. Scotland is the number one basking shark hotspot and our success shows just how interested people are in these creatures.

“We have visitors from all over the world booking with us as they want the thrill of swimming with the sharks or watching them from the boat, whilst taking in the huge variety of sea life, wildlife and geological wonders this area has to offer.

“Business Gateway has assisted us with social media and business training which was great. Our adviser also suggested potential funding opportunities which led to us getting some small grants for equipment and attending trade shows to help us market the business. This was a big help as it allowed us to get out and about more to show people what we offer.”

Initially running the business on his own, Shane now has a team of six in the summer, consisting of two full time employees, two seasonal and two summer guides, all of whom are experts in their field. The tours range from one day to a week long and customers can also take part in a number of activities including wild swimming, free diving, snorkelling, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding.

The company were recently awarded £50,000 in Scottish EDGE money which is going towards the refit of an existing boat which will be used for diving and possible overseas expeditions.

Shane added: “My childhood experience of swimming with basking sharks made me interested and passionate about marine biology and diving which have been in my life since. I knew that if we did things right, I could share this passion with others and help them experience something amazing. By combining sea life, education, photography and activities, our tours allow to people to experience free wildlife in their own environment which is a fantastic experience.”

Angela Vernel, Business Adviser with Business Gateway said: “Shane and his team are offering unique tours in the area and are attracting visitors from all over the world. We have been helping him with his social media which will allow him to promote Basking Shark Scotland further and he has been awarded grant support from the Business Gateway Local Growth Accelerator Programme to help his business grow.”

Find out how Business Gateway Argyll and Bute can help your business by visiting their local page or calling 01546 808 363.

Outwith this area? Find your local Business Gateway office or call 0300 013 4753.

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If you need advice on any aspect of starting, running or developing your business, just contact your local Business Gateway office.

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