BASKING sharks are the biggest creatures found in Scottish waters at typically 26ft long and filter about 450 tonnes of water as they devour plankton from the sea.

Now an Argyll company wants a “snorkel guide” to accompany clients seeking close encounters with the creatures by taking tourists out to swim with the sharks.

Basking Shark Scotland in Oban is offering the £18,138-a-year job on a fixed term one-year contract and the closing date for applications is Sunday.

Basking Shark Scotland is a well-established wildlife adventure business in Argyll with a peak of activity during the summer months.

The advert says: “We are a well-respected operation with an ethos of environmental best practice, an active science research programme, high quality equipment and staff with a friendly and motivated outlook.

“We strive for excellence in our products and highly value a quality client experience.

“Our tours range from week-long basking shark snorkelling tours and island adventures, to day tours to bird and seal colonies, scuba diving trips and private charters.

“We require a professional but easy- going, well-organised and cool-headed individual who is able to work under pressure for our operations manager and wildlife/snorkel position based in Oban.

“With most of our tours being multi-day adventures there is a lot of organisation that goes into the booking process and schedules, management of logistics, transport and client communication.

“This is our main role during the off-season, where we are mainly office-based. Office, computer, organisational and PR skills are to required for this part of the role along with experience of social media marketing.

“Our tours are wildlife focused, where our guides search for and interpret the natural history and environment of the Inner Hebrides.

“Experience of crewing boats is essential, along with a background in marine science or conservation to convey a passionate interpretation of our special environment and wildlife.

“Most of our tours are based on snorkelling, whether this be with basking sharks, seals, exploring Fingal’s Cave, kelp forests, seagrass beds or rocky reefs.

“Experience in guiding clients in the water on a professional basis is essential, along with a high standard of personal fitness. An ML5 medical is required.

“The role can involve very long days, hard work and manual tasks, along with managing complex itineraries and client expectations during our busy season.

“The candidate must have a friendly personality and be able to easily integrate into a high pressure team environment.

“Full training will be given in the specifics of our operations, but it would be expected the successful candidate would have a high level of professional skills and environmental education already.

“In addition to this full-time role, we also have opportunities for summer snorkel/wildlife guides who work for the peak three month season only.”

Despite their size, surprisingly little is known about the life history of basking sharks, the world’s second biggest fish, partly because of the difficulty of conducting field research on an animal that spends most of its life out of sight, deep underwater.

However they can be seen from May until late October along the west coast of the UK.

Scientists from Scottish Natural Heritage and Exeter University have previously attached satellite tracking tags to dozens of basking sharks in the Inner Hebrides, as part of a £47,000 project.

The tagging project, which began in 2012, was set up to find out more about the life cycle of the large numbers of sharks that gather around the islands of Coll, Tiree and Canna every summer – an area considered a “hot spot” for loved-up basking sharks seeking a mate. One was tracked from Scotland to the Canaries.

Basking sharks can grow up to 36ft in length – the length of a double decker bus – and seven tonnes in weight but they feed entirely on plankton, tiny animals that drift through the water. The plankton pass through their enormous gaping mouth and are filtered out by the shark’s comb-like gills.

The sharks are long-lived, with some surviving for up to 50 years.

Because they are slow-moving, slow to mature and long-lived, they are very vulnerable to human disturbance and impacts.

Basking sharks were once hunted by Ring Of Bright Water writer Gavin Maxwell around Skye for their oil and meat. Maxwell set-up a basking shark fishery off the west coast and wrote his first book. Harpoon At A Venture, about how he disastrously hunted the great fish.