Ms Barker, a publicist and music manager, captured the meeting on video.

Speaking to the Mirror, she said: “It was a pretty surreal experience having this curious guy pop up next to us. Such a gentle giant.”

Ms Barker said the conditions on the water were “perfect” when the incident happened on Monday.

She said: “We had perfect weather conditions, so we headed out in Becky’s double kayak, and it did not disappoint.”

Ms Barker added: “We had heard about recent basking shark sightings along the coast and we were hoping to catch a glimpse of a fin. I wasn’t expecting to come nose-to-nose with one.”

She later posted the video on Twitter with the caption: “Had a little bump from a curious basking shark of the west Cork coast yesterday. What a stunning creature.”

Ms Hatchett, an artist and member of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, said: “We’ve seen minke whales, basking sharks and dolphins from the same sport as it’s been a very popular feeding ground for wildlife.”

The two friends said they originally met during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and bonded over swimming.

Ms Hatchett said: “During Covid, there were so many more sightings, when the fishing boats weren’t around, but now with the trawlers out we don’t see as much activity.”

Ms Barker added: “We go kayaking and swimming along the west Cork coast all year round.”

Basking sharks like the one Ms Barker and Ms Hatchett encountered normally come to the UK during the warmer months of the year.

The RSPB said: “Basking sharks can be found all over the world, including off the coast of Cornwall, the Hebrides and the Isle of Man. They’re seasonal visitors, arriving in large numbers between May and October each year.”

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