Nestled off the east coast of Africa you’ll find the paradise island of Mauritius. With waters teeming with marine life, and extensive reefs home to diverse flora and fauna, Mauritius is a destination for beach holidays. Still, with much of the allure centered around the tropical fish, turtles, and dolphins that inhabit Mauritius’s seas, you might be eager to know, are there sharks in Mauritius?
Mauritius is better known for its beaches, lagoons, and reefs, and the island is a lusted honeymoon destination, but its tropical waters are also the perfect environment for the several shark species that call them home. With warm shallow reefs and steep, offshore drop-offs, seeing sharks in Mauritius is not always promised, but they are out there.
There are nineteen species of sharks in the Indian Ocean, and most of them can be spotted around Mauritius, but should you be concerned? Our guide includes everything you need to know about seven of the most common sharks lurking in Mauritius’s seas. Let’s get into it.
Starting with a splash, the whale shark is one of the largest species out there and the biggest fish in Mauritius’s seas. Earning its name from its sheer size, the whale shark can reach lengths of up to 40 feet or more. Though enormous, these gentle giants are generally docile and even occasionally allow swimmers to hitch a ride, although we wouldn’t recommend interfering with marine life.
Their white spotted bodies make them easy to identify. You can find them in tropical waters all over the world but their populations are most rife in the Indo-Pacific. The large sharks can appear daunting at first, but fortunately for us, their favorite meal is plankton. Swimming close to the surface with their jaws wide open, scooping up tiny plants, animals, and fish, and passively filtering everything in their path, they’re very efficient hunters. They might have a varied diet, but whale sharks pose no threat to humans.
Whale sharks, unfortunately, are not just sought out by eager divers but also poachers all over the world. They’re highly valued on international markets for their meat, fins, and oil, so are now officially endangered. Make sure you choose an ethical dive trip from Mauritius if you want to see these majestic creatures in the wild and always keep a safe distance to protect their habitats.
Blacktip Reef Shark
The blacktip reef shark is usually light grey all over, with a white belly, but their distinctive black fin tips, from which they get their name, distinguish them from fellow reef sharks. The color markings may fade as the shark grows but they can usually still be spotted by the eager eye. Blacktip reef sharks range between 30 and 100 kilograms at maturity and can live up to 12 years old.
Blacktips usually make homes of estuaries, coral reefs, and the shallow waters off beaches, so holidaymakers could spot them while dipping in their toes. During the summer, however, they usually migrate to cooler waters, so don’t expect to see them off Mauritius’s coast at all times of the year. The shark can also sometimes be spotted above water, leaping from the surface, rotating, and splashing on its back. This great show is part of their feeding method; chasing schools to the surface and trapping them with their jaws.
They are known to be shy around humans, keeping to themselves if unprovoked. However, there have been a handful of unprovoked bites since records began. The greatest danger with blacktips is if you don’t know that you are swimming with them. If you can’t see the shark because of murky or sandy waters, they may not see you either. The element of surprise when your feet or hands appear in front of the shark could result in a bite.
Gray Reef Shark
The gray reef shark is a medium-sized species distinguished from others by its plain white-tipped dorsal fin, but other features like an arched back raised snout, stiffly lowered pectoral fins, and exaggerated swimming movements also make them easy to identify. It can grow to eight feet in length, weigh around 35 kilograms, and live as long as 25 years.
Gray sharks are found only in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and populate the waters off Madagascar and Mauritius. Gray sharks hunt in shallow waters, feeding on creatures like squid, octopus, shrimp, and lobster. Active day and night, these sharks can socialize in schools of 100 members, crowning themselves and others as the most dominant shark on the reef.
The gray shark is both curious and aggressive. Though hunted by humans for the lucrative shark fin soup trade, it’s unlikely that they will hunt humans. The shark will only attack if provoked or cornered. There have been seven unprovoked attacks on humans in the past and none have been fatal.
If a gray reef shark feels threatened, you’ll know about it. Look out for raised snouts, depressed pectoral fins, and arched backs while swimming. Keep a safe distance if you spot any of these signs on a dive.
Whitetip Reef Shark
Also known as the shipwreck shark, the whitetip reef shark is one of the most commonly spotted sharks throughout warm latitudes of all oceans and seas. Living in open waters, you’ll have to swim further from the shallows and reefs to find them, but when you do, they can be easy to identify. Their fins are rounded at the top, unlike other species, and are white-tipped, hence the name.
Bony fish like tuna or dolphin fish are typically their favorite meal. Whitetips feed in frenzies of mixed groups of predatory species. Though they naturally eat fish and crustaceans, they have been known to not exclude other marine animals like turtles and seabirds.
Whitetip reef sharks never stop moving. They’re constantly swimming forward with their mouths slightly open. They can grow to between 10 and 13 feet in length and weigh 130 kilograms.
Whitetips are one of the more dangerous shark species to humans. They have been known to attack survivors of ship and plane wrecks at sea. When the Nova Scotia steamship sunk off the coast of South Africa in 1942, a thousand men were on board, but only 192 lived to tell the story. In what was described by survivors as a “feeding frenzy,” many fell victim to the whitetips’ hunger.
Due to their opportunistic feeding habits and unpredictability around divers, the whitetip should be respected and treated with caution.
The famous great white’s cousin, the bull shark, also known as the Zambezi shark in Africa, can be found cruising throughout the warm, shallow waters off Mauritius’s coast. They’re fast, agile predators that will eat almost anything they come nose-to-nose with and are often recognized as one of the most dangerous sharks in the world. Humans, though, are rarely on the menu.
Named after their signature hunting move to headbutt prey before going in for the kill, their short, blunt snout has also had them likened to bulls. Bull sharks tend to live near populated areas along tropical shorelines. They can even venture far inland through rivers because of their specialized glands and kidney functions that help their bodies retain salt while in freshwater.
Though they do not hunt humans, they roam shallow waters and have been known to attack, sometimes unprovoked. They are solitary hunters but easy to distinguish. Humans remain a bigger threat to bull shark populations than they do to us as they are frequently hunted for their meat, oils, and hides.
Tiger sharks can be found both in shallow reefs and deep waters, so the island of Mauritius is the perfect habitat for the species to inhabit. They tend to mate and birth young near fresh water, and Mauritius has plenty of spots where the river meets the ocean and populations are rife.
Tiger sharks are named after the dark, vertical stripes on their bodies that tend to fade with age and almost disappear when the shark has reached full maturity. The larger of the species can grow to as many as 25 feet in length and weigh 850 kilograms. They are scavengers with a fabulous sense of sight and smell and feast on almost anything they lay their eyes on.
Serrated teeth and a powerful jaw allow them to crack into sea turtles. Marine biologists have found stingrays, sea snakes, seals, birds, squids, and even old tires in the stomachs of inspected tiger sharks.
Tiger sharks have a reputation for being dangerous They come second in shark attacks stats to the great white, but unlike great whites, they will eat anything and are not likely to swim away after biting. Tiger sharks should be avoided by divers, but luckily, sightings in Mauritius are rare.
The Great Hammerhead
One of the most easily recognized sharks, thanks to its distinct head shape, is the hammerhead and several varieties populate Mauritius’s waters. The great hammerhead is much larger than the other nine hammerhead sharks in the world’s oceans. It can grow up to 20 feet in length and weigh up to 450 kilograms, although smaller sizes are more common.
Hammerhead sharks have wide-set eyes, giving them better eyesight than other shark breeds. And by spreading their sensory organs over a large head width, they can scan the ocean floor more thoroughly for prey. The hammerhead’s increased sensory system allows it to find its favorite meal, the stingray, that often hides in the sand.
Found both far offshore and near shorelines, hammerheads are often seen in mass migration in Mauritius, seeking cooler water. The majority of the species are quite small and are generally considered harmless to humans. However, the great hammerhead’s size and predatory behavior make it potentially dangerous. Still, few attacks have ever been recorded.
Does Mauritius have great white sharks?
Although uncommon, the presence of great whites has been recorded in Mauritius, but only on one occasion. In 2003, a French diver encountered a three-meter great white and managed to capture an underwater video of the fish for later identification. It has been the only recorded sighting of its kind and the reason for her presence is unknown. Either lost or on an intercontinental migration, great white sightings are unlikely but can happen.
When was the last shark attack in Mauritius?
The Indian Ocean is home to around 19 different known species of shark, but unprovoked shark attacks are extremely rare. The last unprovoked human-shark confrontation in Mauritius was in the 1980s and tighter shark conservation rules make these incidents even less likely.
Are there crocodiles in Mauritius?
Mauritius’s wildlife is even more dynamic than the diverse creatures who call its waters home. On land, you’ll find the perfect climate for crocodiles. In fact, La Vanille Crocodile Farm houses the largest group of captive crocodiles in the world, although they can be found in small numbers in the wild too.
Is Mauritius safe?
Mauritius is one of Africa’s safest countries with low violent crime rates, a stable political situation, a well-trained police force, and a friendly population. It has its dangers and you need to use common sense, keeping your valuables close at all times. However, the biggest risk is natural threats like exotic wildlife, weather, and water. Sharks populate Mauritius’s crystal clear seas but generally pose no threat to humans. T strong currents and deep drop-offs can be a different story.