Fishing Lines: Fancy a lark? Go and bask with a shark

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The Independent Online

Squabbling time in the Elliott household. Traditionally this is a time to plan family holidays. And it should be easy, not having to worry about somewhere that our daughters will enjoy too. I suggested they might like to join us. They looked at me as if I'd said I was standing as a BNP councillor.

A simple task, you would think, for a couple married for more than 20 years to find something amenable to both. Unfortunately, Riva thinks this is the chance to spend two weeks wandering around the Uffizi, Il Bargello, the Museum of San Marco and maybe four or five days taking in various operas. Me? I was thinking of a fortnight fishing for alligator gar in the Louisiana swamps. We are, both geographically and figuratively, some way apart.

Her idea of a compromise is to book Venice instead of Florence. Mine is to spend only half the time after alligator gar (a monstrous, prehistoric-looking creature that grows up to 300lb) and stay in a hotel rather than the guide's shack for the second week. But we are still not making much progress.

Riva doesn't mind fishing. She'd probably prefer to paint, tour galleries or shop for shoes, but she'll generally fish for two or three hours without complaining. For an angler, that's pretty close to the perfect wife. On the other hand, she does rather insist on luxuries like a bed, warm water and food that you don't eat out of a tin.

You may think I'm being unreasonable. But I'm perfectly happy to take a break that doesn't involve standing up to my neck in a river from dawn to dusk. Why, I heard this week of an ideal holiday in the UK. It's being run by The Wildlife Trusts, and it means spending a week on a 35ft yacht.

These eco holidays, which run from the end of April until mid-September, give you the chance to observe basking sharks from a few feet away, as well as helping to monitor the effects of climate change on marine species. The boat sails from Falmouth, Cornwall, or from Arisaig, on the west coast of Scotland, both good areas to see basking sharks, which can weigh up to seven tons and grow to around 40ft.

It's not a matter of whether you'll see basking sharks, but how many. Last year, the boat recorded more than 300 sightings and spotted a host of other marine wildlife, including dolphins, whales and turtles.

The data gathered during the trip will help The Wildlife Trusts in their campaign to set up protected marine reserves. Although about half of the UK's wildlife is found around our coasts, less than 0.001 per cent of our seas are protected. I've only ever seen one basking shark (swimming around St Ives harbour, of all places). The week-long trip costs £595, including all your food.

Sounds fascinating, doesn't it? The bad news: Riva gets seasick. I'd better come up with something suitable quickly, or it looks like the Italian job.

For more details of basking shark holidays, contact Lissa Goodwin (01636 677 711; lissa.goodwin or visit