Sharks in Phuket - how to protect yourself?

Sharks in Phuket - how to protect yourself?

Tropical location of Thailand, warm water, a variety of marine life attract not only tourists from all over the world, but also sea creatures in the seas surrounding this country. Underwater fauna of Thai waters is varied, represented by numerous species, among which sharks are considered to be one of the most colorful.

Different in size (but in most cases quite large), austere in their appearance (but there are also very carnival-looking) - these animals are of interest to all divers. Vacationers who are not into diving and hunting, on the contrary, are afraid of these fish. However, their fear is exaggerated.

What sharks live in Phuket waters

Sharks inhabit the waters of Thailand on both sides of the Malacca Peninsula in both the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. However, it is the former that is known for its beautiful and diverse underwater life. This also applies in full measure to the sharks, which are represented by a wide variety of species in the waters surrounding Phuket.

Reef Whitetip Shark

The most common shark in the Pacific region, which also lives in the waters of the Indian Ocean. The animal belongs to the well-known family of gray sharks. Accordingly, it has a traditional gray coloration for all members of the family.

Reef Shark

A distinctive feature of this species (Triaenodon obesus, lat.) is the white-colored fin tips. The reef species is not large: these fish rarely exceed 1.5 m in length. Due to its relatively large population and nimble behavior, it is often seen by humans.

Reef blacktip shark

Another representative of the gray family with a wide range of habitat in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Despite the fact that the black tip shark is a separate species (Carcharhinus melanopterus, lat.), it looks similar to the white tip reef shark: small size (up to 1.5 m), wide slightly flattened head, streamlined body.


Rim fins are not white, but black. Loves reefs, lives shallow, making it an easy target for observation. It is also known as the Malgashe nocturnal.

Leopard Shark

This leopard-colored fish belongs to the large feline shark family. Its full name is the leopard whiskered cat shark (Poroderma pantherinum, lat.).

leopard shark

For this small animal - no more than 1 m in length - is characterized by benthic habitat: in reefs, in algae, close to the sandy bottom, have a habit of hiding in underwater caves.

The Nanny Shark

The mustached nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum, Latin), although endemic to the Atlantic Ocean, is well represented in the waters of the Andaman Sea, including it can be found near Phuket. In appearance, it resembles a leopard shark. And this is no coincidence: both species belong to the same large feline family.

Nanny Shark

It lives near the bottom - for this reason it is easily accessible for observation. Small (up to 0.5 m), a little slow and not threatening to humans, despite its 7 rows of sharp and small teeth, the nurse shark is traditionally of interest to practitioners of informative and safe diving near the shore.

Shark species that are rare in Phuket waters

The gray whitetip shark (Carcharhinus albimarginatus, lat.) - not to be confused with the white tip reef shark discussed above - is a large representative of the shark family. Reaches a length of 2-2.5 m. Has a characteristic torpedo-like body shape, vertically tapered to the head and tail. White edging on all fins is its distinguishing feature from the similar dark gray shark. The latter is not found in Phuket waters.


The white-throated gray raptor likes coastal areas, reefs, can often be found near the island. Behavior is sharp, as is its appearance, aggressive. Its size allows it to dominate most underwater inhabitants, including other members of its family.

The whale shark (Rhincodon typus, lat.) does not appear near the coasts. However, if you dive far out in the Andaman Sea, there is a chance of finding the largest member of the wobbegons. This slow fish reaches a length of 20 m. Not everyone dares to get close to it, but even watching from a distance will not leave any diver indifferent.


The stingray (Rhina ancylostoma, Latin),  although not a shark according to the zoological classification, can be mentioned in this review primarily because of its quite shark-like size (up to 3 m in length) and unusual extended body shape (similar to a stingray). The coloration is spotted. Behavior is calm and majestic. To meet this sea hulk is great luck and sheer delight.

How dangerous sharks are in Phuket

Practically not dangerous. The following arguments can be cited to prove this:

  1. These animals are nocturnal: if they can be found, then only in the early morning.
  2. They hunt in muddy water, which is not characteristic of coastal waters.
  3. Predators do not swim into the zone of human recreation: the beaches on the side of the open sea are fenced with nets, special people watching for the safety of tourists.
  4. Humans are not the object of hunting for sharks and are not of any interest to them.

Only one accident is known to have occurred in Phuket because of a shark.

In 2015, in the waters of Karon Beach one vacationer was bitten by a marine predator. It happened at a distance of 200 meters from the shore. However, the depth of the sea in this place did not exceed 1.5 m, and the vacationer was in the water, standing with her feet on the sandy bottom. The woman's leg was clawed by the swimming animal.

The bite was accompanied by a typical predatory "shaking" of the shark in order to tear out some of the flesh. Despite the fact that the woman was unable to determine the exact species of predator that attacked her due to the raised suspension of sand, according to a set of circumstantial signs after the fact it was confirmed that it was a shark. Namely, it was a dumb shark.

Stupid shark

The species carcharhinus leucas (lat.) is also known as bull shark and gray bull shark. Belongs to the family of gray sharks: has a characteristic color and body shape. It lives in tropical waters everywhere, but does not go to great depths, preferring coastal waters.


The dumb sharks are large: they reach a length of more than 2.5 m. They are characterized by aggressive behavior. They are considered the only shark species posing a potential danger to humans.

Nevertheless, even for a dumb shark attacking people is not typical. To avoid becoming a victim of this predator certain rules of behavior should be followed.

How to be safe from sharks in Phuket

The following tips are useful for floating above water:

  • You should swim in designated areas. You should not swim beyond the buoys. "Wild" beaches are more dangerous than "civilized" beaches.
  • Do not be in the water if it is turbid, opaque, with suspended sand, algae, etc. All predators, including moray eels, fugues, triggers, barracudas, hunt in murky water that disorients their prey.
  • Swim and swim in the company of other people. Predators always attack solitary individuals.
  • When a shark appears, assume an upright body position. Spread your arms and legs wider so you don't look like a fish. Do not "flounder" in the water.
  • While in the water, do not urinate, as predators are attracted to any bodily fluid.

Recommendations for divers include the following tips:

  • The diver's equipment should be dark in color, without shiny elements.
  • No loose items in the outfit: belts, hoses, etc.
  • When a shark appears, the person must assume a near-vertical position.
  • The diver must exercise maximum caution and control the movement of fish around him.
  • No sudden movements, including quick surfacing or diving, are allowed.
  • Sharks should not be touched with your hands. Their skin, rough as sandpaper, can easily hurt.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the danger of sharks to humans is exaggerated. Humans are not part of their diet and are of no interest to these animals. On the contrary, sharks, including in Thailand, suffer from humans, being subjected to uncontrolled fishing for their meat and fins.

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