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The Whitetip Reef Shark | Scuba Diving Blog

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

Living on reefs throughout much of the Indo-Pacific, the whitetip reef shark is a common site on many dives in this region. Preferring rocky coral heads, walls, and ledges, individuals occupy a small patch of reef, rarely traveling more than a kilometer from their patch in search of prey. Along with the blacktip reef shark and gray reef shark, whitetips are one of the three most common shark species inhabiting our reef systems, and individuals of all three species can often be found together.

Curious Behaviour

Whitetip reef sharks are not territorial and often live in densely populated groups, several individuals resting together in caves and crevices during the day. They are one of a handful of sharks that can manually pump water over their gills, allowing them to remain stationary without drowning. At night, they search the reef for prey, their narrow bodies allowing them to wriggle into small cracks in search of fish and octopus.

Whitetips pose a minimal threat to divers, although they are very curious and can come quite close to investigate when you swim through their turf. At a maximum length of 1.6m, they make an exciting addition to any dive but are certainly not to be feared.

Where to Spot Whitetips

Many of the dive travel destinations booked by Bluewater Travel offer access to whitetip reef sharks. You can spot them throughout Southeast Asia, all around the islands of the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, and in eastern Pacific destinations such as Galapagos, Cocos, and Socorro. The world's highest population of whitetips can be found in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a stunningly isolated reef system in the Philippines, only accessible via liveaboard.

But despite its wide distribution and apparently common status, the whitetip reef shark is listed as 'Vulnerable' by the IUCN. Their limited habitat and slow reproductive process make them especially susceptible to the effects of fishing. Our partners at Shark Allies are working to protect whitetip reef sharks, along with other endangered shark and ray species, and you can read more about their work here.

Check out the Underwater Photography Guide's library of shark photography tutorials.

And if you need some new photography gear, check out the latest underwater cameras from the Bluewater Photo Store.


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