Sharks of Thailand

CONTENTS

10 Sharks You May Encounter While Diving In Thailand

Thailand is home to numerous aquatic creatures that you can see while scuba diving, snorkelling, or even just swimming in the crystal clear waters. Some of the species you may encounter while participating in aquatic activities include various species of tropical fish, stingrays, turtles, and sharks.

It may seem intimidating or scary to think about seeing a shark in the ocean. Still, it is not an unrealistic possibility as Thailand has over 64 different sharks of Thailand in their waters.

Today we will be discussing 10 of the most common sharks of Thailand that people see while diving in Thailand and the eight orders of sharks. Additionally, we will teach you what to do if you encounter a shark on your underwater excursion. 

What Are The Biological Orders Of Sharks?

There are up to 1000 known species of rays and sharks, with more being discovered every year. Sharks have existed for a long time! More than 450 million years, to be exact, even before the dinosaurs!

Each kind of shark belongs to an order based on its specific characteristics, and an order is a taxonomic rank used to categorise biological organisms. There are eight orders that sharks fall into which are:

  • Carcharhiniformes
  • Heterodontiformes
  • Hexanchiformes
  • Lamniformes
  • Orectolobiformes
  • Pristiophoriformes
  • Squaliformes
  • Squatiniformes

Thailand has a few different orders of sharks, but you will commonly see Carcharhiniformes and Orectolobiformes. Carcharhiniformes are the most significant order of sharks, containing almost 300 species that live worldwide. These sharks have a membrane on their eyes, five gills, one anal fin, and two dorsal fins.

Orectolobiformes are some of the most giant sharks in the world. These sharks of Thailand have distinct mouths that are featured right at the front of their head, barbels or whiskers near their mouths, and an extraordinarily long caudal fin. More often than not, they also have a beautiful pattern that can be recognized from afar.

What Types Of Sharks Could You Encounter While Diving In Thailand?

Now that you know a bit about sharks’ biological orders let’s talk about some of the sharks you may see while diving.

Whitetip Reef Sharks

First on the list is the whitetip reef shark. These sharks belong to the Carcharhiniformes family and can be identified from their slender bodies and white-tipped dorsal fin, hence where they get their name from.

These sharks are nocturnal, so they spend most of their days relaxing in cool caves or lying on the sandy bed of the ocean for hours at a time. However, they hunt for small prey to eat at nighttime, such as octopuses, eels, crustaceans, and various types of fish.

The whitetip reef sharks of Thailand has a life expectancy of 25 years old. They can weigh up to 40 pounds and grow as large as 7ft, although they are typically about 5ft long.

Another interesting fact is that they reach their sexual maturity at age 8, which is much older than other species of sharks, and they usually only have 1-5 pups per litter.

These sharks of Thailand are smaller, so they are preyed upon by other sea creatures, such as tiger sharks and groupers. But marine animals aren’t the only threat to the whitetip reef shark. Unfortunately, they are targeted by commercial fisheries with a high demand for their unique fins.

They are classified in the near-threatened category because of this reason. Other contributing factors to their conservation status include their small litter size, destruction of coral reefs, and their late sexual maturity. There is a great chance of encountering the white tip shark at Phi Phi Islands and the Similan Islands.

Blacktip Reef Sharks

Next up is the blacktip reef shark. Although these sharks have a similar name and appearance to the whitetip reef shark, and they are in the same order, they are a part of different families.

They have a similar build to other reef sharks, slim and more petite to squeeze into caves and in between tight spaces. As you might have thought by the name, they have a black-tipped dorsal fin and pectoral fins, and they are also grey with a lighter coloured belly.

The blacktip reef shark will get up to 6ft long but only weigh around 30 pounds. As far as their diet, these sharks of Thailand usually opt for smaller fish, including herring, sardines, and anchovies. Still, they will also eat numerous slightly larger fishes, such as catfish, triggerfish, porgies, or occasionally flatfish and smaller sharks. They also will only go up to 75 metres deep in water, but they prefer to be in shallower water.

These sharks of Thailand are unique because they are relatively social and often spotted in groups. The blacktip reef sharks are probably one of the most common sharks that divers see in the water, and they are rather friendly and very unbothered by humans and swim close by to divers they encounter. They can also even be spotted by snorkellers as they love to swim around in shallow water.

Grey Reef Shark

Now it’s time to talk about the grey reef shark. It is another reef shark a part of the Carcharhiniformes order and in the same family as the blacktip reef shark. The grey reef shark’s upper body is light grey and almost white underneath.

Even though they don’t have blacktips on their fins, they are commonly mistaken for the blacktip reef shark due to their similar colouration, socialness towards divers, and being a part of schools during the daytime.

The grey reef shark is relatively larger than the other two reef sharks we’ve talked about. They can reach up to 8ft but are typically about 5-6ft, and they can weigh up to 75 pounds. Like the blacktip reef shark, the grey reef shark usually resides in shallow waters and is commonly spotted by scuba divers and snorkellers. They are also rather friendly and will happily come near divers without posing a threat.

Although they like to be with other sharks of Thailand in the day, they prefer to be alone and hunt for food to eat in the nighttime. Grey reef sharks typically eat octopus, squid, crustaceans, surgeon, and butterflyfish. Even though these sharks are slightly more prominent, they still have to watch out for predators. They can be a target for Tiger sharks, Hammerhead sharks, or other giant sharks, and of course, commercial fishers.

Leopard Shark

The next sharks of Thailand we will be discussing is the beautiful leopard shark. This majestic shark is probably one of the most unique sharks in the ocean due to its appearance.

The leopard shark is a lovely greyish-bronze colour with black ovals and spots all over its body, making it look like a leopard. It also has a sleek and slim build, perfect for weaving around large rocks, caves, and coral.

The leopard shark is another smaller shark in the Carcharhiniformes order. These sharks are between 4-7ft long and weigh between 25-45 pounds. Typically, the female sharks tend to be larger than the males. Because the females are so much more extensive, they can give birth to up to 37 pups per litter!

Leopard sharks of Thailand are also commonly seen because they are fond of shallow water and lie on the sandy ocean floor. They are incredibly social to not only humans, but other sea animals, and they have been known to hunt for food with other leopard sharks, dogfish, and smoothhound sharks. Since they mostly sweep the bottom of the ocean for food to eat, they mostly munch on bottom dwellers like crabs, marine worms, crustaceans, and small fish.

Tiger Shark

While diving in Thailand, the next shark you may spot is the tiger shark. These sharks are grey with distinct black strips along their back that are more prominent when they are younger and will usually fade as they age. They are also in the Carcharhiniformes order, and they are the only living species of shark in the Galeocerdo genus.

These sharks of Thailand are humongous, reaching lengths of up to 25ft and weighing up to 2000 pounds! They are the fourth largest shark underneath the whale, basking, and megamouth. These giants feast on larger animals, such as seals, turtles, flatfish, and occasionally garbage in the ocean. 

Sadly, the tiger sharks of Thailand is in the near-threatened conservation category due to its high value. Like many sharks, they are prized for their fins. But in addition to their fins, the tiger shark is targeted by commercial fishers for their livers which are used to make vitamin oils as they contain a high amount of vitamin A.

Whale Shark

The next sharks of Thailand on the list is the enormous whale shark. The whale shark’s name is from its sheer size and whale-like appearance, behaviour, and eating habits. But, they are not whales; they are, in fact, a shark. They are also part of the Orectolobiformes order and the Rhincodontidae family.

These gentle giants are the world’s largest and most friendly sharks. These sharks typically reach about 18-33ft long and weigh approximately 21 tons or 42000 pounds. But they have been known to get as big as 66ft in length and 46 tons or 92000 pounds in weight. 

Whale sharks also have a unique appearance. They have a flattened head with a wide mouth like a whale, and they are a greyish-brown colour with white spots all over their bodies. They are very mellow and friendly creatures that are not predatory and have never eaten humans. As a matter of fact, they will willingly swim next to humans and even interact with them on occasion.

Even though whale sharks of thailand love meat like any other shark, they don’t hunt for food in the same way. They eat by opening their colossal mouth and sucking in their food. Their bodies then filter out the water from the food and release the access water back into the ocean. They typically feast on plankton, shrimp, mackerels, sardines, and fish eggs.

One more unique fact about the whale shark is that they can have up to 300 pups per litter once they reach the age of sexual maturity. But not all of them will reach that age, as sexual maturity doesn’t come until age 25. Although, the whale sharks of Thailand can live anywhere from 100-150 years.

Grey Bamboo Shark

Now we have the grey bamboo shark in the Orectolobiformes order. These tiny sharks are anything but intimidating, and they are actually pretty cute with their flat heads, wide eyes, and small size. There isn’t much information about these sharks of Thailand as they are mainly hiding in caves or under the coral.

These sharks only reach up to 2.5ft and mainly munch on shrimp, crabs, worms, and other small fish. They are rather sluggish and mostly roam on the ocean’s bed or hideout. The Grey bamboo shark also gets confused for different species of bamboo shark and their distant cousin, the nurse shark. Because of their petite, manageable size, some individuals also keep them as pets.

Nurse Shark

Next, we have the nurse shark! While they aren’t nearly as big as the whale shark, they are still considered another gentle giant of the sea. These sharks of thailand are slightly different from the typical shark because they have a unique appearance. Usually, sharks are a greyish colour with varieties of patterns and shades, but the nurse shark is a yellow-brown colour all over their body. They also have a flat head, small glowing eyes, and a mouth full of sharp, serrated teeth.

As mentioned before, they can get rather large. Typically nurse sharks are around 7-9ft, but they can grow up to 14-15ft long! They also can weigh anywhere from 200-330 pounds. Additionally, they are a part of the Orectolobiformes order and have a lifespan of approximately 25 years.

These sharks are bottom dwellers and can remain still for hours on end. They are relatively calm and even slightly sluggish sharks, but they can defend themselves if need be.

But in general, nurse sharks are considered one of the friendliest species of sharks and will let humans swim close by and sometimes even touch them! Nurse sharks like to eat shellfish, squid, and fish, but sometimes they chew on some coral. They are suction feeders, which means they suck in their food and eat it whole.

Hammerhead Shark

The hammerhead shark is next up on our list! These uniquely goofy-looking sharks belong to the Carcharhiniformes order and have many interesting characteristics. The hammerhead has wide set eyes that increase their vision, making them better hunters. It also helps that they have susceptible sensory organs, making scanning the ocean for food a breeze!

When people think about the hammerhead, the first thing that usually comes to mind is their oddly shaped head, but what is unappreciated is the size of these sharks of Thailand. They can grow anywhere from 13-20 ft long and weigh more than 1000 pounds.

But it is more common to see slighter smaller hammerheads roaming the waters. They also have extraordinarily long dorsal fins and almost a greyish-brown or olive green colour on the top and white at the bottom. These sharks are very easily recognizable. 

As far as their diet, they mainly eat squids, crustaceans, stingrays, and even other sharks. They are pretty docile sharks for the most part, but they are aggressive hunters! Hammerheads will swim with schools during the day but then branch off at nighttime and hunt for their own food.

Hammerheads are also pretty good when it comes to human interaction. They aren’t aggressive towards humans unless they feel like they are in danger, but there have barely been any instances like that. In fact, some people offer dive tours where you can dive with hammerhead sharks.

Bull Shark

The last shark you may encounter while diving in Thailand is the infamous bull shark. The bull shark has a bit of a bad reputation as being one of the most dangerous sharks because it can be rather aggressive. But, if left alone and not bothered, they should do the same.

The bull shark is in the Carcharhiniformes order. These sharks can be up to 11.5 ft in length and weigh up to 700 pounds. Something interesting about bull sharks is that they have a gland that allows them to go from saltwater to freshwater. Basically, this gland will enable them to retain saltwater in their bodies at all times so that even if they go into freshwater, their body keeps a supply of saltwater. Without this, a regular shark would die.

Bull sharks’ typical diet consists of whatever they can find; they aren’t picky. They will eat fish, birds, turtles, and smaller sharks. These sharks get a dangerous impression because they are aggressive hunters constantly looking for food.

Humans aren’t a part of the bull sharks’ diet, and they won’t go after humans specifically. If there ever were a bull shark attack on a human, it would probably be because the shark thought the human was a turtle, and they would most likely release and retreat once they realised that it wasn’t a turtle. 

What Should You Do If You Encounter A Shark While Diving In Thailand?

When diving, it is a genuine possibility that you will encounter a sharks of thailand or two. This can be intimidating and even scary for some, but try not to stress. If you see a shark, please do not panic! Panicking will only make the situation worse for yourself, and you may scare the shark in the process. 

Start by breathing and trying to swim out of the area slowly. Do not speed off or try to chase the shark; this will cause them to feel threatened and possibly feel the need to defend themselves. You can tell if a shark feels threatened if they begin to arch their back and fins. 

Sharks of thailand don’t want to eat humans, and they are more just curious about you and wondering what you are. Another thing you should do if you see a shark is stay close to your diving buddies because you will look bigger in the water. Then you should let the shark swim off on its own, don’t try and force it to leave the area because this could also come off as threatening.

If seeing a shark is something you are concerned about or don’t want to do, talk to your dive guide, and they may suggest areas where there aren’t many sharks spotted. Also, try and book your dive tours in the afternoon, as sharks tend to roam and hunt at dusk and dawn.

If seeing a shark is something you are concerned about or don’t want to do, talk to your dive guide, and they may suggest areas where there aren’t many sharks spotted. Also, try and book your dive tours in the afternoon, as sharks tend to roam and hunt at dusk and dawn.

Final Thoughts

Scuba diving in Thailand is one of the best excursions you can participate in. You get to experience underneath the crystal clear waters and see all types of sea creatures while learning and hanging out with your friends. Most of the sharks of Thailand typically spotted in Thai waters don’t pose a threat to divers or snorkellers. More often than not, they are just curious and want to look at you, then will go off and continue roaming.

But on the contrary, seeing the sharks of Thailand while diving is a part of the whole experience and can be incredible! You can get some great pictures to take home with you, and you have memories that will last forever! So what are you waiting for? Book your diving excursion with us today for an out of this world experience!

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