Lucky guests who have been out in the last few weeks have had the pleasure of seeing the two resident white tip sharks on Near Garden. We say ‘resident’ but they seem to grace us with their presence for a couple of weeks, being spotted every day, then they disappear off for a few months and so the cycle starts again.
So, are they soulless vicious hunters or timid shy creatures that spend their lives in the shadows? Let’s have a look:
The White Tip reef shark, or Triaenodon Obesus, is not an unusual sight here in the Red Sea and is probably the first shark species a diver here will come across.As juveniles they are often found in crevices and caves, resting on the bottom, sometimes in small groups. This behaviour carries on in adulthood, but instead of hiding away, they are most often seen on sand patches within coral reefs, where it is easy to miss them completely.
They grow to an average of just over 2m, although there are reports of a 2.5m specimen being discovered. Their long thin bodies mean that they are not considered a ‘meaty’ shark and this means even the larger ones rarely weigh more than 20kg.
Feeding at night, when their use of ‘echo-sounding’ to detect movement is at its most effective, the White Tip feeds on eels, octopus, lobster, crustaceans and crabs, all under the blanket of darkness.
So, should you be scared of them? To date, there are very few reports (and even less proven ones) of random attacks on people. Of the ones that are confirmed, in all cases it was fishermen who were bitten as a result of pulling in lines with bait attached, just as the shark takes the bait, so to speak.
On the Near Endangered list, these guys are still used for restaurant shark meat, but you can take a certain amount of heart in the fact that consumption of the internal organs, such as lungs, can lead to the sometimes fatal condition ‘ciguatera poisoning’.