Comparatively little is known about reproductive behaviour in wild sharks as it has proved extremely difficult to study, especially in large pelagic sharks. Here we describe annual courtship–like behaviour in the second–largest fish species, the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus), from 25 separate episodes observed and tracked during a five–year study period (1995–999) off south–west England. Social behaviours observed between paired, or three or four, sharks were consistent with courtship behaviours seen in other shark species, namely nose–to–tail following, close following, close flank approach, parallel and echelon swimming. Mature individuals between 5 and 8 m total body length ( L;T;) exhibited these behaviours whereas smaller sharks (3–4 m L;T;) did not. Lead individuals were identified as female on a number of occasions and interactions were prolonged; the longest continuous observation of socializing was 1.8 h, although intermittent track data indicates bouts may last for up to 5–6 h. Locations of courtship–like behaviour events were not distributed randomly and were significantly associated with thermal fronts. Our results indicate that putative courtship behaviour occurs between May and July along oceanographic fronts, probably as a consequence of individuals aggregating to forage in rich prey patches before initiating courtship. Thus, locating the richest prey patches along fronts may be important for basking sharks to find mates as well as food in the pelagic ecosystem. As courtship–like behaviours occur annually off south–west England we speculate that this region may represent an annual breeding area for this protected species, but mating itself probably takes place at depth as it was not seen at the surface.