How to Rock Pool

A strawberry anemone at low tide.
A strawberry anemone at low tide.

Rock pooling in Cornwall can be an adventure that stays with you for a lifetime, a chance to come face to tentacle with creatures that are normally only seen by divers.

If you get it right you may find spiny urchins, starfish the size of your forearm, perfectly camouflaged fish and even the live egg cases of small sharks. However, people often say to me that they just don’t know what to look for.

So, here are my five top tips for successful rock pooling:

1.   Join an organised event. 

There are lots of events organised by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and other local organisations throughout the year, especially during the summer holidays. With experts to help and lots of eyes looking, you’re bound to find more.

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Can’t make it to an event? No problem – just use the tips below and the information on this site to help you have a fantastic experience.

2.   Check the weather and the tides.

You’ll find much more and be safer if you visit the beach at low tide. Aim to start an hour or two before low tide so that you can get out further and not risk being cut off. Choose a calm, dry day so that you can see into the water easily.

 3.   Dress the part

You don’t need much equipment to go rock pooling – a bucket, identification guide and magnifying glass are useful, but nets can harm the soft-bodied creatures so are best left at home. Beaches are exposed to the elements, so wrap up warm or slap on the sun cream as appropriate. Above all, choose footwear that you can get wet in and that will protect your feet from sharp rocks and pincers – wellies or beach shoes are ideal.

 4.   Head for the Lower Shore

Beaches slope downwards, so the further towards the sea you go, the deeper the underwater habitat you’ll be exploring. Start your rockpooling as far down the beach as you can to find some amazing creatures. You can work back up the beach as the tide comes in.

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 5.   Look under rocks and overhangs

 Sea creatures like to stay cool and damp, so you’re not going to find many by looking on exposed rocks. Look deep into pools, crevices and holes in the rock and gently lift stones and seaweed. Take time to look really carefully before replacing stones, the longer you look, the more you’ll see. Watch out for any movement, shapes or colours that stand out. Listen for crabs clicking and fish flicking the water with their tails.

 

A montagu's blenny.
A montagu’s blenny.

I’d love to hear what you find and to help you identify your rock pool creatures, so please do get in touch.

If you come across something interesting or unusual try to take a photo and don’t forget to record your find with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

 Have a great time rock pooling and remember to follow the seashore code.

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For everyone who loves Cornwall's rock pools. Information about great beaches, marine wildlife and conservation.

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