Do you want to look for the best places to dive with bull sharks? Bull Sharks are said to be one of the most dangerous sharks for men around the globe.
Out of the 400 or so species of sharks there are only a handful which are commonly made responsible for most shark attacks on people. Among great whites and tigers it’s the Bull shark which is considered to be one of the most dangerous sharks on our planet.
However, please keep in mind there is less than one bull shark per year on a human making the risk of an attack almost 0%.
We have researched for you the major facts about these animals. Read here what makes bull sharks so special, why they are likely involved in shark attacks and, most importantly, in which places you can experience a thrilling dive adventure with this species.
Either jump to your favourite section below or read the entire article in its full length.
If you would like to have a sneak peek on where you can dive with bull sharks, take a look at this map:
Get to know Bull Sharks
The bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) is also known as Zambezi shark or Lake Nicaragua shark. These two latter names stem from the places where bull sharks populations occur. This species belongs to the family of the Requiem Sharks (Carcharhinidae) which comprises of live bearing sharks from the warmer oceans such as the tiger shark or the grey reef shark. The bull shark owes its name to its short and strong body shape. It has an unusual habitat for sharks since it is found in freshwater and saltwater.
Bull sharks, due to their size and aggressiveness, are among the most impressive shark species that demand respect from humans. Bull sharks and their predecessors have inhabited the oceans for over 400 million years.
How to identify a bull shark?
The most striking feature apart from the bulky body with the blunt and short muzzle, which makes bull sharks distinguishable from other sharks, is the right-angled first dorsal fin, which is shaped like an equilateral triangle.
Other specifics of its appearance are for instance the triangular teeth (similar to the ones of the great whites), the small rear dorsal fin which is located immediately in front of the tail and the small eyes compared to other sharks.
The upper side of its body is kept in a dark grey, the underside is lighter and can be almost white. The ends of the fins are black when young, but this colouring disappears with age.
Key Facts of Bull Sharks
In contrast to other shark species, female bull sharks are larger and heavier than males!
|Average length||females: 2.4 m (7.9 ft)males: 2.25 m (7.4 ft)|
|Maximum length||approximately 3.5 m (11,5 ft)|
|typical weight||females: 130 kg (290 lb)males: 95 kg (209 lb)|
|Maximum weight||exceeding 300 kg|
|Bite force||up to approximately 6,000 newtons (1,330 lbf)|
|diet||a very broad food spectrum, ranging from bony fish, molluscs and crustaceans to other shark species (they are even cannibalistic) and rays.|
|Reproduction||live born animals are appr. 70 cm (2.3 ft) longpregnancy period: 10 – 11 monthssexual maturity: females: after 10 – 14 years males: after 18 years|
Where do bull sharks live?
Bull sharks have a very special ability in that they can adapt to the salinity of the water and even can live in fresh water. This ability allows them to leave the coastal areas of warm oceans. From there they swim across the murky waters of estuaries and bays into rivers and further up into lakes connected to the rivers. Bull sharks can swim hundreds of kilometres up rivers. It is said that specimens have been found over 4,000 kilometres upstream. Sightings of this predator have been in various rivers such as the Amazon, the Zambezi or the Ganges. Lake Nicaragua holds a population of considerable size, which led to the name Carcharhinus nicaraguensis i.e. Nicaragua shark.
It has been observed that females give birth to their young in fresh water. Researchers assume, that growing up in fresh water increases the survival rate of young bull sharks. This could be the primary reason why evolution has pushed bull sharks to the adaptation of fresh water, as their typical diet is primarily salt water based.
Bull sharks can be found in the shallow coastal waters of virtually all tropical and subtropical oceans (see blue marked regions) and the corresponding rivers.
source: Chris_huh – Compagno, Leonard; Dando, Marc & Fowler, Sarah (2005). Sharks of the World. Collins Field Guides. ISBN 0-00-713610-2., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2828217
Are Bull Sharks Dangerous for Humans?
The Bull shark is said to be the most aggressive and deadly shark of all. Bull sharks lead the statistics of shark attacks. It is even suspected, that the number of unrecorded bull shark attacks is high as a number of bull shark attacks occur in rivers or in areas where such accidents are likely not reported. Also, quite some shark attacks could have been wrongly attributed to the great white shark. The bite marks of these two species are very similar.
There are two main reasons, why bull sharks are comparatively often involved in shark attacks on humans. For one thing, their natural habitat coincides with places where humans use to enter open waters. This predatory fish commonly lurks in the shallow muddy water near the beach or in bays where it is not visible. This means, for instance, surfers bear a certain risk for Bull shark attacks, especially when they pick spots close to the mouth of a river.
Secondly, due to their wide prey spectrum they are principally dangerous for humans during accidental encounters.
For divers this means, when diving with Bull sharks a good set of safety procedures must be followed.
The Best Places to Dive with Bull Sharks
We have done a comprehensive research to find for you the best spots to dive with bull sharks. In any event, all such shark dive trips require from you in general:
- a certification of Open Water Diver or a similar qualification
- the ability to keep a good buoyancy control and air consumption
Please make sure to discuss all further requirements with the dive team of your choice.
Some of the considerations you might want to look into when searching for the right dive center for you are the following questions:
- Do I want to meet Bull sharks in a cage free environment or do I prefer the added safety of a cage?
- Am I open to dive trips which involve feeding the sharks with chummed food. Here, sharks are attracted to the dive site by exposing a mixture of fish scrap and blood into the water.
Here is our list of the best places to dive with Bull sharks.
#1 Shark Reef Marine Reserve, Fiji
Pacific Harbour is located on the island of Viti Levu and claims itself the bustling adventure capital of Fiji. If you want to meet bull sharks underwater, this is the place to go to. It offers probably the best opportunity for Bull shark encounters on the world. Just a 10 minute boat ride from the docks into Beqa lagoon the dive teams will bring you to a community based marine conservation area called Shark Reef Marine Reserve. Here you can see bull sharks during baited dives on a regular basis together with other shark species and hundreds of fish. Depths are up to 30 m (100ft).
Dive Operators in Pacific Harbour which have a focus on bull shark dives are:
#2 Playa del Carmen, peninsula Yucatan, Mexico
From November until March it’s the season for bull sharks at Playa del Carmen. Female sharks use the shallow waters in front of the coast as breeding grounds in winter.
Morning dives tend to be the best for encountering bull sharks within the waters. You can book your trip with a dive center in Playa that will take you to the best locations for viewing the sharks. Dive depths range from approximately 25 meters (82 ft) to shallower dives amidst coral reef systems.
Check out the following dive shops:
#3 Santa Lucia, Cuba
Santa Lucia is located on the northern coast of Cuba. There you can dive with bull sharks while the sharks are hand-fed by an instructor. This occasion arises in the time span from mid-August/early September to the end of November. Reservations for those trips are made on a short term basis only, as departures depend on local conditions.
#4 Thailand – Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan is a beautiful island situated in the Gulf of Thailand and neighour to Koh Tao. Its most popular dive site is Sail Rock, which is located between the two islands. Sail Rock is known for its whale shark sightings and also Bull sharks turn up occasionally.
The most popular and most reliable diving centers to offer bull shark diving Koh Phangan Dive centers who offer trips to Sail Rock are for instance:
#5 Bat Island, Costa Rica
The Costa Rican Pacific has a lot to offer. National parks such as Manuel Antonio, with lush rainforests, world-class beaches, volcanoes and a rich flora and fauna that is second to none, or the Santa Rosa National Park, on whose western tip lie the Islas Murcielagos (Bat Islands – “Bat Islands”). They are a diver’s paradise, where you can not only see bull sharks and giant mantas, but also eels and squid, rich coral reefs and many other underwater creatures.
As this is a protected area, all islands are uninhabited. However, there is a national park station that can be visited and a nearby hill is the ideal place to enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the islands and the mainland and take pictures.
Especially at the dive site Big Scare you can have a tête-à-tête with bull sharks, which can be up to 3 meters long.
In general, the variety of creatures in the Bat Islands is simply fascinating. There are also various species of rays that glide through the water in groups, or various moray eels, such as the zebra (Gymnomuraena zebra), the jewel (Muraena lentiginosa), the white-mouth (Gymnothorax meleagris) and the star-spotted moray eels (Echidna nebulosa) that snake through the breathtaking coral reef. But also seahorses, squids, frogfish, Pacific swordfish, tunas and schools of lady fish (Elopidae), spade fish (Ephippidae), spear fish (Istiophoridae) and fan or sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) as well as turtles can pass by.
The most popular diving center to offer bull shark diving on the Bat Islands are:
#6 Great Blue Hole, Belize
The Blue Hole is an almost perfect circle with a diameter of 274 and a depth of 125 meters. The visible part is slightly smaller than the main body, so it looks like a huge bell on the seafloor. When the Blue Hole was formed about 15,000 years ago, it was still above water. This is evidenced by the beautiful stalactites hanging from the ceiling of the bell.
The dive into the cave is serious and should not be taken lightly. The attractions of the Blue Hole lie deep under the overhangs in the middle of stalactites, and the diver has to stay at a considerable depth above a Blue Water Drop Off “of a few meters”: definitely not a dive for inexperienced divers! The dive starts on a slightly sloping sandy slope leading to the edge of the cave. At a depth of about twelve meters, it will be clarified if the dive will be continued.
From here the wall drops steeply down into the heart of the Blue Hole, then it begins to bend, forming a massive overhang. If you follow it you will soon discover the first stalactites, some of which are up to three meters long and curved in the most beautiful shapes.
If you look down from here, you can clearly see the edge of the next level of the cave, where the bulges of the bell drop several hundred feet down to the sea floor.
With a bit of luck the divers will be examined during the dive by the inhabitants of the Blue Hole – the bull sharks.
The most popular diving centers to offer bull shark diving and tours to the great blue hole in Belize are:
- Ecological Divers
- Belize Pro Diving Center
- Belize Diving Adventure
- Scuba School Belize
- Belize Diving Services
#7 Thailand – Koh Tao
Koh Tao means turtle island and is considered by many as one of the best dive destinations in the Gulf of Thailand. It is surrounded by beautiful coral reefs and some renown dive sites for bull shark sightings such as Chumphon Pinnacle and Sail rock. Sail rock is rated among the most popular dive spots in the Gulf. IIt s situated between the islands of Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. Its maximum depth is at 47 m (154 ft). There are lots of dive centers in Koh Tao.
Here are a few of them to be checked out and which seem to be the most promising in terms of diving with bull sharks.
How About More Sharks?
If you are interested in reading about more sharks, we would recommend you to have a look at our article with the Best Places to Dive with Hammerhead Sharks.