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Exploring little windows into the sea

Bristol Aquarium shares some top tips for a great day out rockpooling at your local beach

rockpool phot 2

From saltmarsh creeks and rocky cliffs to the wide expanses of sandy beaches and mud filled estuaries, the UK has over 11,000 miles of richly diverse and well populated coastline, supporting many thousands of species.

And one of our favourite places to explore our coastlines is rockpools – they are like a little window into the sea! They are also some of the toughest places for sea creatures to survive in – constantly changing water levels, temperature and salinity (salt levels) mean that rockpool residents have to be incredibly adaptable.

Follow these tips and you’ll have a great day out exploring:

1. Protect your feet (and therefore your bottom)
Wear strong shoes that have good grip as rocks can be slippy and wet with mosses and seaweeds. You may get wet knees from kneeling on damp sand so take a towel or a gardener’s kneeling pad (great for extra padding when kneeling on any knobbly rocks).

2. Photograph. Draw. Note.
Take a camera or notebook to describe or sketch what you see so you can look it up later and identify it. It’s a great way to note tiny details, lumps, bumps and features of a creature.

crab in mag glass

3. Likely inhabitants
Rockpools can be very biodiverse and you may see barnacles, starfish, hermit crabs, molluscs, shrimps, fish and anemones.

4. Eye Wear
Use a mask to look beneath the surface – you really will feel part of another world! Just pop your face in slowly so you don’t scare any creatures but also so you don’t bump your head on any rocks.

5. Dark shadows
This is one tip that is easily forgotten in the excitement of discovering a rock pool, but try to make sure that the sun doesn’t suddenly cast your shadow over the pool and scare any inhabitants – it may feel like a predator is about to pounce.

6. Be patient
Sitting quietly always proves more productive that jumping in and scaring creatures away or disturbing a sandy bed. You never know what head or claw might pop out of the sand or seaweed.

7. As you found it
If you move anything put it back as you found it – you are a guest in a creatures’ home.

Always tell someone where you are going and keep a close eye on the tide. A great time to head out is an hour or two before low tide. You can check all UK tide times here: https://www.tidetimes.org.uk/all


We’re at the Festival of Nature 13 & 14 June in the Marine and Oceans tent with our mobile rockpool (complete with shuffling shore crabs, sucker-tastic starfish and sensational shark egg cases) and experts to answer all your burning rockpool questions.

Bristol Aquarium is open daily from 10am and is located on Bristol Harbouside, BS1 5TT. www.bristolaquarium.co.uk