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Are There Sharks in Phuket? Are They Dangerous?

Are There Sharks in Phuket? Are They Dangerous?

Are There Sharks in Phuket? Are they dangerous?

Yes, there are sharks in Phuket, however, this should not stop you from scuba diving here.

Phuket is blessed with some of the most docile and placid sharks possible. From the teddy bear-like Leopard Shark to the gigantic and graceful Whale Shark there is no better place in the world to fall in love with sharks. It is normal to have a fear of sharks, but this shouldn’t stop you from learning to dive and getting your PADI Open Water Certification, or doing a simple PADI Discover Scuba Diving introduction dive whilst in Phuket.

Shark attacks on scuba divers are extremely rare throughout the world, less than 4% of all attacks according to a recent article by Forbes. Phuket, and Thailand for that matter, has never had a documented case of an attack on a scuba diver. Shark attacks in general around the world are actually not that common and you are more likely to be injured or killed by a falling coconut (10 deaths attributable to shark attacks compared with ~ 150 deaths worldwide caused by falling coconuts – AIMS Research)!!!!

(statistically, Lama’s are also responsible for more deaths….)

We love our sharks and you should too.

Commonly Found Sharks, Phuket

Leopard Shark

Leopard Shark at Hin Bida Phi Phi

Leopard Shark at Hin Bida Phi Phi

Also known as a Zebra Shark, depending on where in the world you are from. The Leopard shark along with the Black Tip Reef Shark are probably the two most common sharks you will find whilst scuba diving in the Phuket area.

They can grow to 3.0 metres in length and the largest ever was recorded at 3.5 metres.

Definitely the most photogenic of all of the sharks we have here in Phuket. Leopard sharks are bottom feeders and we often see them lounging around in the sand. If they are approached carefully they are more than happy to pose for a pic or two. If scuba diving here in Phuket Leopard sharks can be found at some dive sites on our 3-dive Racha Noi/Yai days trips, also at Shark point on the 3-dive Phi Phi/Shark Point day or 3-dive King Cruiser/Shark Point day trips.

With the ferocity of a field mouse there has only ever been one recorded unprovoked attack (2008 and not in Thailand). The diver was reportedly not injured.

The Leopard Shark can turn up at most dive sites around Phuket however they are more prevalent at the dive site named after them, Shark Point. They can also be found at Anemone Reef and around the Phi Phi Islands.

Black Tip Reef Shark

Blacktip Reef Shark at Koh Phi Phi Ley

Blacktip Reef Shark at Koh Phi Phi Ley

Phuket’s most common traditional shark looking shark would be the Black Tip reef shark. Which can be found in good numbers on a dive trip from Phuket to dive sites around Phi Phi, particularly Phi Phi Ley. They too can be found at a lot of dive sites and have even been unconfirmed sightings in the shallows at Kata Beach dive.

Their typical length is around 1.6 metres when they are fully grown.

They can be found swimming individual or in groups, sometimes as many as 30 – 40 together. Black Tip reef sharks are most commonly seen in Phuket on dives at Phi Phi Ley and also Koh Bida Nok on our Phi Phi/Shark Point 3-dive day trips.

Phuket has only ever had one report of an attack by a Black Tip Reef sharks and that was non fatal in 2015. Under most circumstances, the blacktip reef shark has a timid demeanor and is easily frightened away by swimmers. There has been no recorded attack on a scuba diver in Thailand.

Because of its timid nature, the Blacktip Reef Shark is very difficult to get close to and to photograph.

Bamboo Shark

Bamboo Shark at Koh Doc Mai Phuket

Bamboo Shark at Koh Doc Mai Phuket

The Bamboo shark is very difficult to find. Often hiding under rocks or in crevasses. Most scuba divers have never seen them out swimming around. Koh Doc Mai is probably the easiest place to find them.

They are small slender sharks and grow to no more than 1.2 metres in length.

They are considered harmless to humans and there has never been a recorded attack on a human. The best day trip to find the Bamboo sharks would have to the <a href=””>3-dive King Cruiser, Shark Point and Koh Doc Mai day trip</a>.

More Difficult to Find

Whale Shark

Aussie Divers Phuket Whale Shark Racha Yai

Aussie Divers Phuket Whale Shark Racha Yai

The daddy of all sharks and by far the most popular of all sharks on the scuba diving circuit, and most sought after in Phuket. They have the best bragging rights of all the sharks you will see in the Phuket area.

They are the largest fish in the sea and can grow to 18 metres in length. The largest ever recorded was 18.8 metres long.

They are not common in Phuket however they are not rare either, there is a chance (a very slim chance our instructor’s average would be around 1/1,000 dives, and took Darren 14 years to see his first). They have a habit of turning up at any of the dive sites however seem to be more prevalent on the liveaboard adventures and particularly at Richelieu Rock.

Generally considered harmless. However, there have been a few cases of whale sharks ramming sportfishing boats, possibly after being provoked. Usually, the sharks are more at risk of being struck accidentally by vessels whilst basking or feeding on the surface.

White Tip Reef Shark

Whitetip Reef Shark Similan Islands

Whitetip Reef Shark Similan Islands

Quite a rare find by scuba divers in Phuket although they are out there. Most common sighting are on the liveaboard adventures, particularly Koh Bon.

This shark rarely shows aggression. The shark has a naturally placid nature.

A lucky day if you were to see one here.

Guitar Shark

Rare Shark Ray Aussie Divers Phuket

Rare Shark Ray Aussie Divers Phuket

Not really a shark and is technically is a Sharkfin guitarfish. Mistakenly called a guitar shark and a ray. It looks to be a cross between a shark and a ray.

It looks like a shark and is very cool so we have placed them in here.

There are five different species and the largest, the Bowmouth gets up to 2.7 metres in length.

They usually rest in the sand and it is rare to see them swimming.

Quite a rare find in Phuket and they are quite timid when divers are around and are considered harmless to humans.

Myths or Real

Bull Shark

Rumors have been around for years that Bull Sharks are present in Phuket and the Andaman Sea.

However, the rule of scuba diving is, no photo no evidence” and to this day, personally I have no heard any realistic evidence of a scuba diver seeing them in the area. This is a good thing as they are considered the grumpiest of sharks.

Local fishermen claim that they are in the deep water off the south tip of Racha Noi however there has yet to be any firm proof in the scuba diving industry.

Hammerhead sharks

Another shark that has not been seen by divers in the area for many years.

However sadly, the evidence that they are still around keeps showing up at the local fish markets. Small hammerheads are often presented at the local markets and one would think that they are bycatch caught in fishing nets.

They are probably out there in deeper waters.

Interested in learning more about the Sharks of Phuket? Our instructors are passionate about wildlife and always willing to chat with you about the Sharks of Phuket on one of our Aussie Divers day trips or whilst doing your PADI Open water course here in Phuket.


By Darren Gaspari

Proud owner and active PADI Gold Course Director of Aussie Divers Phuket, a professional and awarded PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Scuba Diving Centre. Member of the PADI Advisory Board for the eLearning modules 2019 and 2020.

Posted in Marine Life on .

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