Always be aware of what the tide is doing – don’t get caught out on an incoming tide, if needed call 999 and ask for the Coastguard
The Dorset coast is indisputably a great place to discover marine life, and this can be done easily by exploring the many rock pools that become accessible when the tide goes out. Looking in rock pools can be really fun as they are natural aquariums where you can discover anemones, crabs, limpets, winkles and an array of seaweeds.
Take notice of warning signs along the coast. Stay well away from cliffs and mudflows at all times and beware of quicksand.
You don’t really need anything but rock pooling can be more enjoyable if you have:
Rock pooling can be done all year round on the Dorset coast but you should always check the weather and tide times before you go out.
The closer the rock pool is to the shore, the less time it gets covered by the sea when the tide comes in. Conversely, the rock pools closer to the sea spend more time underwater. Rock pools are subject to exposure conditions such as: weather, light, temperature and salinity.
Each rock pool varies in depth, structure and the different types of creatures and seaweeds. Some of the creatures you are likely to discover are shrimp, crabs, starfish, molluscs and anemones.
Shallow rock pools close to the shore aren’t likely to contain a wide variety of sea life. They are the most exposed and home to some creatures that can spend a long period of time out of water. You are likely to see green algae, sea slugs, periwinkles and dog whelks.
Middle shore rock pools are located midway from the sea to the shore. They are more protected and can support a wider range of species. They are home to lots of different types of seaweed, anemones, goose barnacles, sand goby fish shore and hermit crabs.
Low tide rock pools are located further down the shore and spend much more time being covered by the sea. You are likely to find marine life that can’t be spotted along the rest of the shore, and in greater quantity and size. Look out for lobsters, crabs, sponges, sea slugs and eels.
When to go
Planning to go rock pooling is best but not always essential. However some places in Dorset depend on going at low tide when the rock pools become exposed. Start with the low tide rock pools and then work your way up if the tide is on the way back in, alternatively explore the pools closer to the shore when the tide is in and work your way outward.