9+1 amazing sharks of the Red Sea

Over half of the Earth’s surface is covered by water and there is only one place that is not really paralleled by any other, and that is the Red Sea, hidden between vast land strips of scorching sand. Who would imagine that a prolific and vibrant marine life thrives beneath the surface of the sea, deep in the water, in this empire of deserts.

Eight countries share a border with the Red Sea (Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Djibouti). The Red Sea stretches to 1,900 km and its width is 300 km at its widest point. The average depth is around 50 m but its deepest point lies at 3,039 m.

It is not surprising that tourists and divers, seeking to discover the deep blue, are drawn here like magnet by the magical marine life that the sea harbours underneath its surface. One of the most sought-after experiences divers crave is the chance to meet up with sharks.

While more than 400 shark species exist in the world, only a small fraction of them ever attack people, and even in those cases, they are mostly provoked or the animals feel threatened. The largest animal of the fish species, the whale shark, for example, is vegetarian, and eats planktons and algae, and is harmless to humans. Divers are able to freely swim around and among them.

Contrary to popular culture, sharks do not attack people, since humans are not part of their natural diet. Problems could start when they are being fed to attract them close to divers. When feeding, the shark’s brain flips into a different gear and it is all for grabs, human or not. They become aggressive and only focus on the feeding. If divers happen to be in their vicinity during this time, there is a good chance of getting bitten or even worse. Sharks can also become defensive and go on the attack if they feel threatened, if they are being harassed, if they become confused, or if their young ones are threatened, just to name a few instances. The moral of the story – respect the sharks’ habitat, you are the guest and as such, show respect and humility.

And now introducing 9+1 sharks that are most commonly found in the Red Sea

1. Leopard shark

Despite its name, it is a relatively calm predator. Its main food source are octopus, crabs, shell fish, crustaceans, and smaller fish. It does not attack people, if anything, avoids contact with humans because its fiercest hunters, aside from larger shark species, are fishermen. The female tends to be more active, the male is more reserved, and more skittish. It does not need to swim constantly for survival, so it often rests at the sea bottom. It grows to an average length of 1.2 – 1.5 m but it can also reach 2.1 m in some cases. The intricate motifs on its skin is quite different from the usual grey colour of shark skin. If you want a chance encounter with them, they can be found mostly in the North and the Tiran regions in Egypt.

2. Whale shark

It is the world’s largest fish specie. It can reach up to 12 m in length on average, but much larger specimens are not unusual either. It can choose from a wide array of foods but it is partial to plankton. It poses no danger to humans. An alarming fact is that the sizes of caught specimens have been decreasing in recent years, which indicates over-fishing and as a result, the specie has now been categorised as endangered. The mating and reproduction process of the whale shark is quite a mystery as females and males live in separate communities. According to scientists, it is ovoviviparous and gives birth to live pups though the young ones have rarely been observed. It can be found by open-water reefs in plankton-rich waters.

3. Thresher shark

The thresher shark belongs to the group of large-bodied sharks, yet it is quite timid in nature. The size of adult male and female sharks are pretty much the same. The average length of the adult male is around 2.6 – 3.3 m, while the adult female’s is around 2.7 – 3.6 m. The longest known specimen reached 3.95 m. The thresher shark’s unique characteristic is its proportionately long tail fin which can often grow as long as the body of the shark itself. It is an ovoviviparous specie, giving birth to live pups. Intra-uterine cannibalism, or ovophagy, is also representative of this shark specie. The young fish hatch while still inside the mother and start feeding on the unfertilised eggs. This results in a small litter, usually only 2 – 4 pups that are well developed, reaching 0.9 – 1.4 m in length. Of the reefs in the Egyptian Red Sea, it can be observed at the Brother Islands, especially at Small Brother.

4. Silky shark

The silky shark can be found in all tropical and warm-climate waters around the world. If you want to meet up with them in the Red Sea, head down to Sudan, and to the southern region of the Red Sea. It is very inquisitive and it often approaches visitors. It grows in length to about 2.5 m but it can be as large as 3.5 m as well. The heaviest specimen every caught weighed 346 kg. It has a robust, long body which ends in a rounded nose. This shark got its name from the smooth and silky texture of its skin. It prefers the open waters and depths of up to 500 m but it can swim as deep as 4,000 m. The life expectancy of a silky shark is about 25 years.

5. Oceanic white-tip shark

It is a good friend of divers. It is not aggressive at all and tends to approach divers up close. It prefers the open waters and can be seen at Elphinstone, Daedalus, the Brothers in Egypt, and by the southern reefs in the Red Sea. It is about 1.5 m long, or even larger than 2 m, and weighs close to 20 kg. The white-tip shark can be easily identified by its white-tipped round fins.

6. Grey reef shark

Tropical waters are the usual home for this shark but you may very well run into it in the Red Sea as well, especially around Sanganeb and Shaab Rumi in Sudan. Its habitat is close to the coral reefs, and this is where it hunts for its prey. It tends to live near the drop-offs of outer-edge reefs and prefers moderately deep waters, usually between 20 – 60 m, though they have been found as deep as 1,000 m too. In the west it can be found between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean’s East African shores, and in the east all the way to Polynesia. It must remain in constant motion. If it stops moving, it sinks and dies. When taking a breather, they float and relax in currents.

7. Scalloped hammerhead shark

This shark’s unique feature is it hammer-shaped head. The width of the head, depending on the species, is about 20 – 30% of the animal’s entire length. The eyes are placed at the far ends of the head, and provide a 360-degree vision and excellent depth perception. A transparent membrane or eyelid protects the eyes during hunting and feeding. It usually cruises in deeper waters and in large schools, often counting up to 100 individuals. Its main food supplies are smaller sharks (even small hammerheads at times), manta rays, bony fish, and cephalopods. Females give birth to live young ones, and fertilisation happens internally. There are usually 15 – 30 pups in one litter, and the little scalloped hammerhead sharks can be as long as 43 – 55 cm.

8. Tiger shark

The tiger shark grows to a length of about 3 – 6 m but can be as large as 9 m. It weighs around 1 tonne. It is a solitary and nomadic animal, spending most of its life roaming from place to place. It is quite inquisitive and as such, it likes to “taste” everything, just like the great white. Its massive built and the unique patterns on its skin make it easy to identify. It is considered to be the second most dangerous animal to humans after the great white. In Egypt, it can be found cruising near Safaga and Elphinstone.

9. White-tip reef shark

It is one of the most often sighted sharks by divers. You can meet up with them pretty much at any coral reef. It rests in the caves and larger crevices near the reefs during the day, often in groups. It comes out of hiding during the night to go on a hunt for reef fish, octopus, crayfish, and crabs hiding among the corals. The white-tip reef shark often hunts in large groups. It sniffs out its prey, approaches it, and if necessary, breaks away the corals to get to it. It got its name from the white spots on the edges of its fins.

+1. Guitarfish

The guitarfish, or shark ray, is a peculiar creature, a mix between a shark and a manta ray. The average size of this cartilaginous fish is 1.5 – 1.8 m. The largest specimen every caught was 3 m long and weighed 135 kg. It has a wide, flat head and a rounded snout. Two sharp dorsal fins rise out of its body, while the pectoral fins are large and wide. Its habitat is near the coral reefs of tropical waters, in depths of 3 – 90 m. It is mostly a bottom dweller, preferring sandy and muddy bottoms, and its diet usually consists of crabs and shell fish. On the northern routes of our tours in Egypt you will find it on the sandy sea bottom.

And finally, here are 10 typical misconceptions about sharks (source: Wikipedia)

“All sharks are dangerous.” Of the 370 known shark species, about 80% is physically incapable of harming humans, or rarely ever meets them. The whale shark, largest in size, growing to a length of 15 m, for example, feeds mostly on planktons, and is completely harmless to humans.

“Sharks are voracious eaters, they must constantly feed.” As all animals, sharks must also eat periodically, as their metabolism dictates. Humans are not their main source of food. They feed on other fish, shell fish, and fatty animals like seals.

“Most shark attacks are fatal.” In reality, about 85% of people attacked by sharks, actually survive the attack. Most large-bodied sharks initially only bite their prey to prevent it from moving and will try to actually eat it later on. This means that most potential victims do have a chance to get away and to survive the attack. The groups who are most often targeted by sharks are surfers (49%), swimmers, bathers (29%), scuba divers (15%), and paddlers (6%). These encounters are more out of curiosity than for feeding purposes.

“Lots of people are killed by sharks.” The chance of being attacked by sharks is very minute compared to other rare ways of being killed like by lightening or from dog bites. On average, 5 – 15 people die worldwide as a result of shark attacks. And at the same time, humans kill close to 100 million sharks every year, in large due to commercial fishing that sharks often fall victim to. Compared to other fish species, the reproduction speed and the growth of sharks is quite slow, and as a result, many shark species are already among the endangered species or are very much on their way to join this un-coveted list.

“Great white sharks can often be found near beaches.” Great whites are a relatively rare sight as they prefer deeper and colder waters. It is unusual to spot them by the beaches. This myth can be attributed to Hollywood and the false depiction of these animals (i.e. from the movie Jaws) because of their frightening look.

“There are no sharks is fresh waters.” A special osmotic system makes it possible for some species like bull sharks, for example, to tolerate a wide range of salinity. These species are able to swim up rivers and into lakes.

“Sharks must continuously swim.” Actually, there are several species of sharks that are able to stop moving and rest on the sea bottom. Opening and closing their mouth enables them to take on sufficient amount of oxygen. Sharks are relatively slow swimmers in general, reaching cruising speeds of about 9 km/h however they can rev it up to about 37 km/h as well.

“Sharks have poor eye sight.” The underwater vision of sharks is about 10 times better than of humans. Sharks can also see colours.

“Eating shark meat makes you more aggressive.” There is no scientific proof to confirm this. Unfortunately to many, shark meat is very appetising due to its mild taste, low fat content, and white and firm flesh.

“Nobody wants to be in waters full of sharks.” Suspicion and fear is often replaced by curiosity in people towards an advanced predator that has existed for millions of years and whose role in maintaining the balance in the oceans’ ecosystem is vital. There are many places around the world that offer a glimpse into the lives of these amazing creatures up close, within a safe and protected environment (i.e. cage diving).

Photos by Daniel Selmeczi
Photo of thresher shark by Martin Strimiska

LAST MINUTE SOCORRO!

Visit Mexico’s world-famous Revillagigedo islands in 2019! Spend a week onboard M/Y Cassiopeia and dive the awesome sites of Socorro, Roca Partida and San Benedicto!

Tour date: January 15-22, 2019

Original Price: 3 400 USD

Last Minute Offer: 2 990 USD / person + Free Nitrox 

Socorro Island is well-known for its manta rays and hammerhead sharks. It is also one of the most famous places in the world to swim with humpback whales. Socorro is the largest of the four volcanic islands in the vast Pacific that form the Revillagigedo Archipelago.

The Revillagigedo Islands are four volcanic islands that form an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, which are under Mexican federal jurisdiction and are part of the Mexican state of Colima. San Benedicto Island, the island closest to mainland shores, lies about 550km from the Mexican state of Jalisco, and about 400km from the tip of the Baja California Peninsula.

Most of the islands’ surface is of volcanic origins with some sandy shores, with no source of fresh water (except for Socorro where a smaller reservoir can be found). Climate is very hot but not arid. On lower-lying areas of Socorro Island, for instance, the average annual precipitation is about 600mm, and on higher grounds it can reach up to 1,200mm as well. Most precipitation falls in the summer months, and the rest of the year (from February until May) is very dry. Water temperatures in this part of the ocean are around 25°C, and the salt content of the water is the lowest in the world here, at 28‰. Prevailing wind direction is from the Northeast.

The four islands were discovered on four different dates. First, Socorro Island was spotted on December 19, 1533 by Spanish sailors led by Hernando de Grijalva. A few days later, on December 28, 1533 they officially recorded the sighting of another island, San Benedicto Island. The first sighting of Roca Partida was recorded by the Spanish expedition of Ruy Lopez de Villalobis in November, 1542, and later that year, Clarion Island also came out of anonymity thanks to the same expedition.

 

10-day diving program:

Dive sites

1.) Roca Partida Island

The smallest of the four islands, Roca Partida (“Split Rock”) is essentially two barren peaks that rise out of the ocean and are split by a low-lying rock area, hence the name. The island is about 91m long and 45m wide, and its taller peak ends at 34m. Of the four islands, this one lies in the middle. Clarion is 290km south-southwest, Socorro is 110km east-southeast, and San Benedicto is 135km east-northeast.

Beneath it, the sea teems with rich marine life. Divers have branded this spot one of the most magnificent diving experiences in the world, and no wonder. The rich eco system is home to large schools of jackfish and tuna, and  schools of hammerhead, white-tip, whale and Galapagos sharks that patrol the area. Playful dolphins and majestic mantas dance in the great blue while some silver-tip sharks take refuge in the caves.

 

2.) San Benedicto Island

This is the easternmost island of the group and closest to the mainland. It is 4.4km long and its widest part runs 2.3km. Its surface area is less than 10km2. It boasts two prominent peaks, the taller one (about 300m), on the southwestern part of the island, actually forming a volcanic crater. The smaller one lies on the northeastern part of the island. On the eastern side there is a spot for mooring.

The secret of the island is The Boiler, home to giant Pacific manta rays, some with a wingspan of up to 8m. These gentle creatures meet and greet divers, curiously playing and dancing around them. The encounters with such magnificent giants leave divers with ever-lasting memories. The Canyon surprises with large schools of hammerhead, Galapagos, silky, dusky, and white-tip sharks appearing out of the deep blue.

 

3.) Socorro Island

With an area of 132km2Socorro is the largest island in the archipelago. Originally Santo Tomas, it is named after Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Virgen del Perpetuo Socorro). The island is a volcano (Mount Evermann) that rises out of the ocean to a height of 1,050m above the surface, making it the tallest of the four islands. There is a small naval station on the western side of the island and a small village where the staff and their families are stationed. The village is served by a dock, a medical centre, a school, a church, and a canteen. There is a small fresh-water spring and also a distillation system for producing drinking water. The steep western shore walls hide numerous caves that had been carved out by the force of the ocean.

The island serves up delightful dive spots for adventure seekers like Cabo Pearce with its playful dolphins. The show of black and chevron mantas, silky sharks, and humpback whales whizzing by in the strong currents can be enjoyed from the protection of the boulders. Punta Costa’s medley of corals and gorgeous tropical fish shine in brilliant colours. The mysterious tiger shark makes its presence known while dolphins and torpedo rays provide lively entertainment. Roca O’Neil is home to a large school of scalloped hammerhead sharks. Silk, silver-tip, Galapagos, and grey reef sharks round out the eclectic mix with various species of tropical fish hovering over the reef. Diamond sting rays majestically fly in the blue, always ready for a chance encounter.

Cultural Programs in Mexico:

While in Mexico, expand your cultural experience and stop in Mexico City! Enjoy an additional day or two in Mexico and visit some grand sights, for example:

The ancient city of ruins Teotihuacan, lies in the northeastern part of the Valley of Mexico in the state of Mexico (about 40km from Mexico City). Its Mesoamerican pyramids are not the only attractions. The expansive residential quarters, the Avenue of the Dead, and the well-preserved colourful murals all bear anthropological significance.

The mere size of this ancient city makes it an impressive sight. Its name roughly means “The place of those who have the road of the Gods” (Thelma D. Sullivan). The history of the city is not clear but one thing is for sure—the Aztecs “inherited” this magical place way after it had already been completed (but already in some ruins). The two prominent features of the city are the Pyramid of the Sun, and the Pyramid of the Moon. The ancient city’s original area covered about 20km2. The section of the Avenue of the Dead (starting from the Pyramid of the Moon), that had been uncovered to this date, is also kilometres long. While the buildings in Teotihuacan are not very decorated, it is these dark and blackish colours and the echo reverberating among the buildings that make it so eerie. And when standing at the foot of the Pyramid of the Sun, you have the same feeling, and with reason, just like the Aztecs did, that this structure was not created by man. It is the third largest known pyramid in the world. According to archaeologists’ measurements and calculations, the base area of the Pyramid of the Sun is believed to be the exact size of the Great Pyramid of Giza’s base area. The top of this pyramid provides the best view onto the entire city.

In the north of Mexico City is where you will find the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the most important pilgrimage site in North America for Christians. It is also called La Villa or La Villa de Guadalupe as it has several other buildings and three magnificent churches.

 

For more information, write to us: info@cassiopeiasafari.com

We look forward to welcoming you onboard M/Y Cassiopeia in Mexico too!

Our Sudan fall season has officially started!

Great anticipation preceded our first week in Sudan this fall especially since this was going to be our first week-long Deep South tour in Sudan in the fall. We have travelled this itinerary in the spring many times and we were curious what it was going to be like down south close to the Eritrean border a few months later. What can we expect? What can we see? What is the weather like? How is the visibility? How warm of a sea can we jump into?

Sunset in SudanAir temperature: average 36C
Water temperature: 30-31C all the way to 40m
Visibility: varying from moderate to excellent
Tour dates: October 6-13, 2014
Itinerary: Sudan – Deep South
Boat: Andromeda

Mantas, even in groups, are a common sight, especially in the Northern region. But the South is not lagging behind either. 🙂 We were met by a world of gorgeous corals and insanely rich marine life. At the end of the dives, we almost had to force the divers out of the water!

Silky shark in the sudanese red seaOh, and since this is a true expedition and discovery tour, true to it, we have discovered a brand new site – Farsa Andromeda! 🙂

The schools of dolphins escorting our boat, sharks, brilliantly coloured corals, schools of fish packed by the hundreds in each school, magical sunsets, endless tranquility and smooth waters helped everybody soon forget the rush of civilization left behind.

Dolphins in the Sudanese Red SeaThe group this week was just as colourful and vibrant as the sights below the water but the week was spent in perfect and jolly harmony. Thank you for diving with us!

Group photo AndromedaTIP OF THE WEEK:
After a couple of our guests had planned on staying in Sudan after the safari and doing some sightseeing, we must emphasize that the Sudanese visa we issue you is valid

– only for the Red Sea State which is the Port Sudan area and
– only for the duration of the safari.

This visa is not valid for any areas outside of Port Sudan or for any periods before or after the safari.

In case someone wishes to do further travelling in Sudan outside of the safari period, please inform us about these plans in advance. In this case, the visa would have to be acquired from the local Sudanese Embassy.

Diving cruise AndromedaSchedule of the week:

Tuesday:
1. Shaab Ambar lagoon – check dive
2. Shaab Ambar South
3. Night Dive

Wednesday:
1. Dahrat Abid
2. Dahrat Abid
3. Darraka
4. Darraka – night dive

Thursday:
1. Habili Dahrat Abid
2. Quab Miyum
3. Habili Dahrat Abid

Friday:
1. Dibsel
2. Dibsel
3. Protector

Saturday:
1. Protector
2. Farsa Andromeda (a new site we have discovered! 5*)
3. Jibna
4. Umbria – night dive

Sunday:
1. Umbria
2. Umbria

https://sudan-diving.com

The special THREE on Andromeda in Sudan!

The Sudanese Red Sea is equally spectacular if not better! The more experienced and adventurous divers have been coming here for years but as the word spreads of pristine reefs, healthy shark populations and fantastic wrecks, it’s becoming more and more popular so you may want to keep that to yourself! So what are you waiting for? Get in touch with our expert dive consultants to arrange your perfect Red Sea boat vacation!

And now we would like to announce our brand NEW promotion:

Our February, 2014 promotion in Sudan – the special THREE!

Book 2 and the 3rd is free!

Special promotion onboard Andromeda in Sudan!Only in February, on M/Y Andromeda.

Duration: Book by December 20, 2013 to be part of this promotion.

Are you ready to plan your diving in the Sudanese Red Sea? Then contact Cassiopeiasafari for dates and details. BOOK YOUR BOAT VACATION NOW ATonline@cassiopeiasafari.com

Note: All prices quoted are per diver sharing and are subject to availability and currency fluctuations. Currency rate is correct at time of publishing. Special offers apply to new bookings only.