Rock Pooling Guide
Rock pooling is a very cheap summer activity. You don’t need a lot of special equipment and you may well already have everything you need.
Coastal rocks can be sharp or they can be 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.
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.
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
Check out our books reviews here.
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.
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 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.
Before you go:
The best time to go rock pooling is at low tide. That is when you will find the most species. Not all tides are the same though and you should target “spring tides”, which 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!!
Here in the South West we are blessed with many great rock pooling sites. Click here to see some of our favourites, but there are many more. Let us know which ones we are missing.
Check the local forecast just before you go.
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. Check guide books and information on this website.
When searching, check beneath rocks, under overhangs, in nooks and crannies. You’ll find wildlife everywhere.
Looking after wildlife
Gently replace any overturned rocks in the same position that you found them.
Avoid walking in rock pools if possible. In particular, avoid treading on fragile coral weed, an important habitat for many species.
Be gentle with rock pool life. Many species are delicate. For this reason many people prefer not to use nets.
Take all litter home. In fact you could be 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.
Looking after yourself and others
It’s easy to slip when rock pooling, so take it slow and don’t run.
Take a buddy
Rock pooling with friends is safer and more fun (depending on the friends).
Be aware of the sea
Waves and the tide can easily catch you out. Be aware of when the tide is coming in and make sure you don’t get cut off. Keep one eye on the sea if you are close to the water’s edge.
No phone signal on the beach? Check how to get help if you need it. Perhaps lifeguards are on duty, if not then where is the nearest available phone?
Avoid dangerous sites
There are plenty of lovely rock pooling sites that don’t require mountaineering skills to get to or risking life and limb from rocks falling off cliffs. So just go to them.