All over the world, people pay top dollar for amazing marine wildlife experiences. Be it swimming with great white sharks in South Africa or snorkelling with jellyfish in the Lakes of Palau, the goal is the largely the same: to marvel at all the weird and wonderful creatures our seas have to offer. However, you would be wrong to think you can only achieve these special encounters in distant, exotic countries that have an endless supply of sunshine. Our productive seas in this little part of the North East Atlantic are home to a beautiful array of marine flora and fauna.
My first marine wildlife experience centres on Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland. It’s a large tidal lough (the Irish form of loch), connected to the Irish sea by a narrow entrance stretching less than a kilometre wide. No need for a boat to get up close and personal with the marine life experience here, just take yourself down to the shoreline and turn over a rock (responsibly). You will be rewarded by a vast array of worms, crabs, anemones, fish and shells. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that hundreds of marine biologists up and down the country owe their careers to exciting rock pooling sessions as youngsters. I still remember the first time I spotted a blue-rayed limpet among the kelp; its brilliant blue metallic lines made me think I had stumbled across a piece of jewellery.