RED SEA SHARKS – FAQ

On this page I hope to answer some of the commonly asked questions about sharks as well as provide some links to the most interesting and relevant Youtube vidoes.

HOW DANGEROUS ARE THEY ?

Hundreds of thousands of tourists come to Marsa Alam every year, many of them diving or snorkelling in areas where sharks are common, but as far as I’m aware there has only ever been one fatal attack.

A French woman was killed by a shark while diving at a remote site off the Marsa Alam coastline in the summer of 2009.  However it is thought that she may have aggravated the shark by offering it food which would have changed the shark’s behaviour.  

Elsewhere off Egypt’s Red Sea coast attacks have also been rare.  A man was killed whilst snorkelling off Sharm El Sheikh in 2004 and there was a brief but extremely unusual series of attacks on swimmers off Sharm El Sheikh late in 2010.

On 30 November,  a 48 year old woman had her foot and arm bitten by an oceanic white tip shark while snorkelling at Coral Bay.  15 minutes later a 70 year old woman snorkelling nearby had her foot and right forearm severed. The next morning two men were attacked and badly injured off Ras Nasrani. And finally on 5 December, a 70 year old woman was killed by an oceanic white tip also while snorkelling in the Sharm El Sheikh area.

There was huge media attention following the series of attacks.  Some Egyptians even chose to blame them on an Israeli plot to destroy the country’s tourist industry – something for which there is absolutely no factual basis.  More serious analysts speculated that the  more likely cause could have been the dumping of dead sheep into the sea by cargo ships or shark feeding by divers.

Despite this extremely unusual episode, as of June 2012, we only know of three fatalities off the Egyptian coast as a consequence of shark attacks during the last ten years.  Of the 368 species of shark worldwide only 20 represent any danger to humans.  And statistically shark attacks are very rare. You are more likely to be killed by falling out of bed or by a toaster. Annually over one million people are killed in car accidents every year, but worldwide fatalities from shark attacks average just five a year. The risk of being struck by lightning is ten times greater. 

Elphinstone sharks, incredible sea life & more sharks
Feb 2018 – 3.40 mins – 163+ likes – 39,000+ views 
Why did the Red Sea shark attacks happen in 2010 ?
Feb 2019 – 43.22 mins – 1.9K+ likes – 555,000+ views
Why sharks aren’t usually dangerous.
Jun 2016 – 1.11 mins – 1.8K+ likes – 71,000+ views.

HOW CAN I MINIMIZE THE RISK OF ATTACK ?

  • Try to avoid diving at dawn or dusk when sharks are at their most active.
  • Try to keep in a group as sharks are more likely to attack an individual diver.
  • Avoid murky poor visibility sea water where a shark is most likely to mistake you for its’ normal prey.
  • If you see a shark stay calm, don’t make sudden movements and keep an eye on it.
  • If you are too scared then swim slowly and calmly towards the dive boat or shoreline. 
Sharks at Daedalus & Elphinstone Reefs – Sep 2015 – 2.36 mins – 138+ likes – 24,000+ views

WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF SHARK SPECIES IN THE RED SEA ?

Well “common” is an exaggeration as many Red Sea shark populations are in decline and endangered but if you are lucky enough to see a shark, the relatively more numerous Red Sea species include oceanic whitetip, scalloped hammerhead, silkly shark, silvertip shark, tiger shark, whale shark, whitetip reef shark, zebra shark and grey reef shark. 

From the table below you can see that even the most populous shark species in the Red Sea are considered to be at serious risk.  A status of near threatened means the species is likely to become endangered in the near future.  A status of vulnerable means a very high risk of endangerment in the near future while endangered means a species is at a high risk of extinction in the wild.

Shark typelengthStatusHabitat
Grey Reef2.0 mnear threatenednear coral reefs
Oceanic Whitetip3.5 mvulnerabledeep water
Scalloped Hammerhead3.5 mendangereddeep water
Silky Shark3.3 mnear threateneddeep water
Silvertip3.0 mnear threatenedislands & reefs
Tiger Shark5.5 mnear threatenednear coral reefs
Whale Shark12.0mvulnerablereefs & deep water
Whitetip Reef2.0 mnear threatenedcrevices or caves
Zebra Shark2.5 mvulnerablesandy areas near reefs.
An oceanic whitetip shark at Elphinstone Reef.
Photo: Thomas Ehrensperger – CC BY-SA 3.0 – uploaded by OldakQuill to Wikimedia Commons
A whale shark at Elphinstone Reef – Oct 2019 – 49 secs – 1+ likes – 230+ views.

HOW FAST CAN A SHARK SWIM ?

The Mako shark is the quickest and can reach speeds of up to 45 mph (72 kph).

WHICH ARE THE MOST DANGEROUS SPECIES ?

Only ten species present any significant danger to humans and the most dangerous in the Red Sea are probably the mako, the tiger and the oceanic whitetip. 

HOW LONG DO THEY LIVE ?

Most live to between twenty and thirty years though the giant whale sharks which can be found off Marsa Alam can live up to 100 years.  

HOW INTELLIGENT ARE SHARKS ?

They have a similar brain to body mass as many mammals and birds and frequently exhibits signs of social, playful and highly inquisitive behaviour. Some species even appear to work as a team when hunting.

I WANT TO GO DIVING NEAR MARSA ALAM.

WHO SHOULD I CONTACT ?

Email steven@marsaalam.com or contact him via WhatsApp on +201284332337.

An oceanic – a close encounter at Elphinstone.
Oct 2019 – 2.37 mins – 13+ likes – 980+ views.
Interesting webinar on the oceanic whitetips of the Red Sea.
May 2020 – 1 hr 37 mins – 36+ likes – 1,660+ views.