As a PADI Course Director, I have heard many a students teeth chatter at the mention of sharks. Often questions will arise such as: What about Sharks? Aren’t you afraid? Or, If I see a shark I am outta there, I won’t dive with sharks, etc... I have literally heard nearly every excuse in the book as to why sharks are dangerous and how being in the water with them is taking your life into your hands. The reality is that these misnomers are far from true.
I certainly do not want to give the impression that you can gingerly swim up to a shark and stick your hand in their face without expecting to pull back a nub, however, the reality of sharks is that they are not interested in humans as a meal, in fact, it has been proven that sharks do not like the taste of human flesh, but unlike the bite of a smaller animal, the damage inflicted by a shark bite is often fatal.
Sharks are lazy hunters and prefer to hunt by ambush which is why the majority of shark attacks happen in shallow murky, or stirred up, water, and more often than not, a bite is followed by a release. Surfers and body boarders are attacked because they look like seals or turtles from below, the natural prey of the larger sharks. Shark attacks on divers are extremely rare and generally if there is an attack, there is a reason behind it, such as freshly speared fish or harvesting shellfish, including lobsters.
I always express to people who ask me about being afraid of sharks that most of the time, if you see a shark, they are either swimming away from you or are simply curious. The important thing is that sharks are invaluable to the environment and should be respected. A healthy respect of sharks is a good thing; however, if you are lucky enough to see one, get neutral in the water and enjoy the experience. These magnificent creatures are not out to make us lunch. Aggressor Fleet dives many locations where sharks are a part of the experience. Knowledge is power and the more you understand of sharks, the more powerful your experience will be with them. - - PADI Instructor, Roy D. Barker, Jr
|Blacktip Reef Sharks - Up to 5.2 ft (1.6m)
The blacktip reef shark is easily identified by the prominent black tips on its fins. Among the most abundant sharks inhabiting the tropical coral reefs of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, this species prefers shallow, inshore waters. Most blacktip reef sharks are found over reef ledges and sandy flats.
Locations: Komodo & Maldives
|Bull Shark - Up to 11 ft (3.5 m)
The name "bull shark" comes from the shark's stocky shape, broad, flat snout, and aggressive behavior. Commonly found worldwide in warm, shallow waters along coasts, they can thrive in both saltwater and freshwater and have even been known to travel as far up the Mississippi River as Illinois.
|Caribbean Reef Shark - Up to 10 ft (3 m)
The Caribbean Reef Shark is the most commonly encountered reef shark in the Caribbean Sea. It has a robust, streamlined body, dusky-colored fins with no prominent markings, and a short free rear tip on the second dorsal fin. It prefers shallow waters on or around coral reefs, and is commonly found near the drop-offs at the reefs' outer edges.
Locations: Bahamas, Belize, Cayman, Turks & Caicos
|Coral Catshark - Up to 28 in (70 cm)
The bottom-dwelling Coral Catshark is common on shallow coral reefs from Pakistan to South East Asia. It has an extremely slender body, a short head and tail, and two dorsal fins that are angled backwards. It can be identified by the numerous black and white spots on its back, sides, and fins, which often merge to form horizontal bars.
|Galapagos Shark - Up to 9.8 ft (3.0 m)
Galapagos sharks are active predators that favor clear reef environments around oceanic islands where they are often the most abundant shark species. They are a large species of reef shark with a tall first dorsal fin which has a slightly rounded tip and originates over the rear tips of the pectoral fins.
Locations: Cocos Island, Galapagos Islands
|Grey Reef Shark - Up to 6.2 ft (1.9 m)
The Grey Reef Shark is most often seen in shallow water near the drop-offs of coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Their aggressive demeanor enables them to dominate many other shark species on the reef, despite their moderate size. They have a plain or white-tipped first dorsal fin, dark tips on the other fins, a broad, black rear margin on the tail fin.
Locations: Fiji, Palau, Red Sea, Thailand
|Scalloped Hammerhead - Up to 14 ft (4.3 m)
The Scalloped Hammerhead lives in tropical coastal waters around the globe. Its most distinguishing characteristic is the 'hammer' on its head. It is the most common of all hammerheads. They are often seen in large schools, sometimes numbering hundreds, because it is easier for them to obtain food in as a group than alone.
Locations: Cocos Island, Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, Red Sea
|Lemon Shark - Up to 10 ft (3.0 m)
Lemon sharks select habitats in water that is warm and shallow with a rocky or sandy bottom They often occupy the subtropical shallow waters of coral reefs and mangroves in the western Atlantic. The shark's yellow coloring serves as a perfect camouflage when swimming over the sandy seafloor in its coastal habitat.
Locations: Bahamas, Turks & Caicos
|Leopard Shark - Up to 5.9 ft (1.8 m)
The Leopard Shark is found over continental and insular shelves in warm temperate to tropical areas of the Indian Ocean and west Pacific Ocean. It has distinctive markings of dark brown leopard-like spots set against a yellow-brown skin tone. Believed to be a nocturnal hunter, they spend most of the day lazily swimming and resting on the ocean floor.
Locations: Maldives, Red Sea, Thailand
|Nurse Shark - Up to 9.8 ft (3.0 m)
The Nurse Shark is an inshore bottom-dweller, found in reefs, channels between mangrove islands and sand flats of tropical and subtropical waters of the Caribbean. They range in color from yellowish tan to dark brown, brown being the most common color. They are equipped with barbels, or whiskers that can sense nearby food which they suck in like a vacuum.
Locations: Bahamas, Belize, Cayman Islands, Turks & Caicos
|Silky Shark - Up to 8.2 (2.5 m)
Silky Sharks are highly mobile and migratory and are one of the most abundant sharks found in open tropical waters around the world. The silky shark has a slender, streamlined body and is named for the smooth texture of its skin. It has a relatively small first dorsal fin, a tiny second dorsal fin and a long, sickle-shaped pectoral fins.
Locations: Cocos Island, Galapagos Islands
|Silvertip Shark - Up to 10 ft (3 m)
The silvertip shark is widely but not continuously distributed in the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans and are often encountered around offshore islands and coral reefs. A robust, streamlined species with a moderately long, broad snout and large, round eyes. It can be easily identified by the prominent white margins on all its fins.
Locations: Fiji Islands, Palau
|Tiger Shark - Up to 16 ft (5 m)
Tiger Sharks are found in many tropical and temperate waters throughout the world, and are especially common around central Pacific islands. Its name derives from the dark stripes down its body that resemble a tiger's pattern, which fades as the shark matures. Although a relatively rare phenomenon, the tiger shark is responsible for a large percentage of fatal attacks.
Locations: Tiger Beach, Bahamas
|Whitetip Reef Shark - Up to 5.2 ft (1.6)
One of the most common sharks found in coral reefs of the central & western pacific. They live on or near the bottom in clear water, resting during the day and hunting at night. It has a slim body, a short, broad head and flat, blunt snout. The tips of the first dorsal fin and upper caudal fin lobe are bright white.
Locations: Alor, Cocos, Fiji Islands, Galapagos, Hawaii, Komodo, Maldives, Red Sea
|Whale Sharks - Up to 46 ft (14 m)
The whale shark is found in tropical and warm oceans and lives in the open sea, with a lifespan of about 70 years. Whale sharks have very large mouths for filter feeding. The head is wide and flat with two small eyes at the front. Whale sharks are grey with a white belly. Their skin is marked with pale yellow spots and stripes which are unique to each individual.
Locations: Cocos, Galapagos, Komodo, Maldives, Thailand