Ready to discover a hidden world?

Take a glimpse into the mysterious world of marine creatures revealed by the receding tide. Rock pooling is an exciting, accessible and easy activity for all ages. Take a look at the video below, our recent collaboration with the Marine Conservation Society, and discover how, when and where you should go rock pooling. Read our guide below for hints and tips to help you find even the most elusive creatures!

Table of Contents

The Rock Pooler's Toolkit:

Illustrations by Laura Coles

What do you need to go rock pooling?

The answer is: very little!

All you really need is sensible clothing and footwear. You may also wish to take along a guidebook, and a camera so that you can record your finds and upload them to our database.

You don’t need a bucket, but a re-usable food container may prove useful for a closer look at your finds.

You could take a bag to pick up any litter you find washed up on the beach, and a flask of hot drink is also welcome on chilly days!

Before you head to the beach:
  • Check the tides- find a reliable tide times website and check what time low tide is. This is the best time to go rock pooling to find the most species.
    • Not all tides are the same –  “spring tides”, are particularly low and expose the most unusual wildlife.
    • You can find out when the best tides are online. Our favourite website for this is tides4fishing. Click on the nearest locaton to you and then click on “Tide Table”.
    • Tides lower than 1.2m are great!!

Know Before You Go:

Illustrations by Laura Coles

  • Know your location –
    • Here in the South West we are blessed with many great rock pooling sites. Click here to see some of our favourites, and get in touch to let us know yours!
    • Things to check:
      • Are there lifeguards?
      • Do you have mobile phone signal?
      • Are any areas difficult to access/ risk getting cut-off by the tide.
    • Avoid dangerous sites– There are plenty of lovely rock pooling sites that don’t require mountaineering skills to get to, so just go to them.
  • Weather- Check the local forecast just before you go.

Your Safety:

To stay safe while rock pooling: 
  • Take a buddy! Don’t rock pool alone- you should always take a friend so you can watch out for each other and get help if needed
  • Move carefully– don’t rush, not only might you slip on seaweed, you’ll scare off the creatures you’re trying to spot!
  • Wear sensible clothing and footwear.
    • Prepare for the Great British weather, i.e. anything can happen. It’s also a good idea to keep a change of clothes handy, in case you get even closer to the rock pool life than you intended.

Illustrations by Laura Coles

    • Coastal rocks can be sharp and slippery, so thick soles with good grips are recommended. Wellies are perfect. Old trainers are good too but rinse the salt off of them afterwards. Wetsuit boots also make a good option.
  • Be aware of the waves, and know if the tide is going in or out. Steer clear of the low shore when the sea is rough.
  • It is better not to handle the wildlife, but if you do, be careful! Rock pool species are well adapted to avoid being caught, with sharp claws, teeth, or stinging tentacles!
Snakelocks anemone - Anemonia viridis

Wildlife Safety:

Handle wildlife with care:

  • Wherever possible watch the wildlife where it is– this will be the most interesting way to see how they live!
  • If you do pick up any creatures, be gentle. Try to avoid using nets, which may damage the rock pool and its’ inhabitants.
  • If you want to take a closer look, use a clear plastic tub, but don’t keep creatures for long.

Illustrations by Laura Coles

  • Place all creatures back exactly where you found them.
  • If you lift up rocks, lower them gently back into place so that you don’t harm creatures underneath.
  • Avoid walking in rock pools if possible. In particular, avoid treading on fragile coral weed, an important habitat for many species.
  • It is not really necessary to collect your wildlife in a bucket. If you do, remember to replace water in the bucket regularly and provide some cover for the animals inside.
  • Take your litter home. Become a marine conservation superhero and pick up other litter that you find. Just three items every time you go rock pooling would be three things less harming our marine life.

What to do while you're there:

How to find creatures: 

The tide has a huge influence on coastal wildlife. Some species can be found high on the beach and are only covered at high tide, whereas many others you will only find near the water’s edge at low tide. When searching, check beneath rocks, under overhangs, in nooks and crannies. The closer you look, the more wildlife you’ll see.

Complete a survey:

The best way to make the most of your rock pooling trip is to contribute to real science by carrying out a survey. The Rock Pool Project has surveys suitable for all abilities, and your finds will be checked by our marine biologist experts. Why not try a Bioblitz and see how many different species you can find? Or, if you’re more confident, help us with our monthly crustacean survey and impress others with your knowledge of crabs and shrimp.

Find full details of our surveys, and instructions on uploading your finds here.

Don't forget to sign-up as a member of the Rock Pool Project!

Learn to Rock Pool like a pro!

Join us for expert advice:

Want to go rock pooling but not sure where to start?

Book a Bespoke Rock Pool Safari today and benefit from one to one advice from our marine biologist experts. You’ll be able to contribute to our scientific records, and receive a personalised report of all your finds.

For all available events and opportunities, click here.

Additional resources:

Guide Books:

A good field guide will greatly enhance your rock pooling experience. There are many UK guides available. Here are some good options:

  • Collins Complete Guide to British Coastal Wildlife
  • Seasearch Guide to Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland
  • RSPB Handbook of the Seashore

Cameras:

  • There are some great waterproof cameras out there but they can be expensive. You can use a normal camera or your phone but obviously you are risking disaster if you drop it in the rock pool. So don’t do that!
  • Salt in the air is also bad for cameras, so keep them in a bag when you are not taking pictures. There are many waterproof cases available for smartphones, which are relatively cheap. Search online shops for your model of phone.

What Might You Find?

Check out our blog series to see some of the extraordinary critters you might encounter.

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