Cyprus has been a tourist hotspot for decades. In fact, the mere mention of its name invokes images of pristine Mediterranean beaches, warm sunshine, and, of course, the perfect waters where you can wash away the stresses of a busy year.
The republic thrives on tourism, and is frequently touted as, “Europe’s sunniest island”. It’s an enthralling getaway spot, all year round, and its unspoiled nature reserves, rich culture, and world-class seaside accommodation add to the appeal. Still, you might be wondering what can be found lurking beneath the waves and if there are sharks in Cyprus.
Cyprus’s waters are home to diverse sea life, including more than a few species of shark. However, you’ll be happy to learn that there has only been one recorded shark attack and it happened way back in 1901. Nevertheless, it’s always good to be informed. This guide includes just some of the sharks you can find in the Med and all you need to know about them. Let’s get into it.
Cyprus is home to a vast array of marine life worth experiencing from the beach or while diving in its waters. The thresher shark is one such creature. Boasting a majestic and distinct tail, known as its “caudal fin” which can often reach lengths longer than the shark’s body itself, this relatively large shark is a staple of Mediterranean waters. Other distinguishable characteristics include their wide-set eyes, curved heads, and the lack of deep grooves on the nape of their necks.
Although menacing due to their size, there has only ever been one documented attack by one of these dazzling creatures, and no unprovoked incidents. The thresher shark is not considered as a threat to human life and typically inhabits deep ocean waters. The likelihood of encountering one on a leisurely swim is fairly low and reports of dangerous shark sightings by divers around shipwrecks or reefs are extremely rare.
Experts say that sharks mostly inhabit the waters around Cyprus to breed and therefore pose little to no risk to those looking to enjoy Cyprus’s magical beaches. Funnily enough, they’re so rarely seen around the island that sightings often make news headlines in the local media.
Featuring a mouth full of small, sharp teeth, the spinner shark has a fairly menacing appearance. Thankfully, they prefer to dine on small fish rather than humans and they’re generally completely non-aggressive towards large animals.
However, when spurred on by food or the infamous feeding frenzy behaviors of other sharks, this placid creature might have a change in nature. This is no reason to fear them though. Only 15 reports of attacks have ever been recorded by a spinner shark, none of which resulted in death.
Most sharks are solitary creatures who prefer to hunt prey that isn’t likely to fight back and the spinner shark is one of these species. Cyprus also doesn’t have seal islands or other large food sources that sharks might be interested in, so they typically leave beach dwellers alone. Around half of all attacks in the world are “provoked”, often by fishermen trying to dislodge a hook from a catch. The rest are often a case of mistaken identity, with the shark itself mistaking surfers for prey like seals.
Regarded as fierce and fast, the shortfin Mako shark has garnered quite the reputation but is often mistakenly blamed for many shark attacks. Mako sharks have never been responsible for an attack in Cyprus, but they have been involved in incidents in the Mediterranean and other parts of the world. Although, unprovoked attacks are unlikely.
The mako shark is a sight to behold, distinguishable by its large eyes and slender body. Also known as the blue pointer or bonito shark, these fish are not bloodthirsty by nature, and are generally quite placid creatures.
Nine unprovoked attacks have ever been recorded by mako sharks worldwide, with one fatality. Although endemic to Europe, they’re migratory creatures, who spend most of the year traveling the open ocean, and, as such, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever have an encounter with one.
Also known as the brown shark or thickskin shark, sandbars can be identified by their high first dorsal fins and brownish body. They’re sometimes more grey in color but generally have white bellies, with round snouts and triangular, saw-like teeth too.
Their tall fins help their swimming stability and sandbar sharks are formidable predators to their small prey. However, sandbar sharks are reclusive and rare. Very few attacks have ever been recorded by one of their ranks, and they are regarded as one of the safest species of sharks to swim with globally.
Sandbar sharks choose to frequent deeper waters and tend to shy away from beaches, as well as the water’s surface, but if you’re lucky enough to see one on a dive in Cyprus, they’re unlikely to show aggression unless threatened.
Tope sharks are frequent visitors to Cyprus’s waters. Reaching lengths of six feet they’re easily distinguished but this shark is known to swim to depths of up to 800 meters so you’re unlikely to catch a glimpse of one when snorkeling.
Nevertheless, tope sharks are generally considered harmless to humans with a diverse seafood diet. They’re relatively unfussy eaters but feed mainly on fish, crustaceans, and even cephalopods on occasion.
Tope sharks can be identified by their slender, grey upper bodies, white bellies, two dorsal fins, and notched tail. They’re also sometimes called soupfin sharks due to their appearance and have been responsible for zero unprovoked attacks on humans since records began. With their abundant populations in the Med, there is a bigger likelihood of humans having one of these fish for dinner than the other way around.
Big Nose Shark
A species of requiem shark, the big nose shark is often spotted in tropical and subtropical climates, but it’s also a fixture of the Mediterranean. These grey sharks have broad, pointed snouts with prominent nostril flaps, from which they get their name, but their bodies are medium-sized.
Big nose sharks typically live offshore at depths over 400 meters, sustaining themselves on a diet of bony fish and other, smaller sharks and rays found near the sea floor. They pose very little threat to human life thanks to their deepwater habitats, with zero recorded attacks to date. Nonetheless, when confronted by divers they have been sometimes known to give a defensive display, arching their backs with their heads raised.
This shouldn’t deter you from enjoying Cyprus’s stunning beaches though, since these sharks are quite harmless if they’re respected and left alone. If you would like even further peace of mind, look out for marked swimming zones, often indicated by red flags on beaches or buoys located just off Cyprus’s coast, for the safest waters to explore.
Distinctively flat, angel sharks are ambush predators who rely on camouflage to hunt their prey, but with their small size and seafloor habitat, they rarely bother swimmers and divers. In fact, angel sharks are the second-most threatened of all shark and ray species thanks to their desirability in the seafood trade.
These peculiar creatures typically inhabit coastal waters, largely on sandy and muddy bottoms. They’re predominantly nocturnal hunters, with a diet consisting of a variety of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks, and they can detect electric fields produced by prey using their sensitive barbels.
Angel sharks aren’t considered dangerous to humans, although they have been reported to bite divers when provoked from time to time. This is most likely a result of their habit of remaining sedentary, which makes them tempted to touch, as divers often do. Still, attacks are rarely severe, so there’s very little reason to fear them.
Is it safe to swim in the sea in Cyprus?
There might be sharks in the Med, but Cyprus has virtually no problems with its sea life, and its history with the ocean has closer ties to enjoyment and revelry, which means there’s no reason not to indulge. Strong currents and rip tides can make for unsafe conditions, but lifeguards and marked swimming zones are common on Cyprus’s beaches and millions of revelers enjoy the waters every year without problems.
Are there sharks in Ayia Napa?
Like the rest of the country, sharks can be spotted in the waters off the party haven of Ayia Napa, but most species will steer clear of the tourist-choked beaches and sandy shallows. Divers can spot solitary sharks off Ayia Napa’s coast, but most dwell in very deep waters away from the shore.
What are the most dangerous animals in Cyprus?
Cyprus’s sharks generally pose little-to-no threat to human life, but some other dangerous creatures can be found on the island. These include three species of poisonous snake, namely the blunt nose viper, Montpellier snake, and European cat snake, which all carry venom with enough punch to prove fatal to humans if not treated correctly.
When is the best time to visit Cyprus?
Cyprus is a year-round holiday destination and one of the sunniest countries in Europe. However, the summer months can be crowded and expensive and temperatures drop with higher rain in winter. For these reasons, the best time to visit the island nation is between April and June, when temperatures start to climb and you can expect plenty of blue skies. Average highs hover between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit at this time of year, with up to 13 hours of sunshine a day and very little rainfall. Cyprus is also less crowded than in the summer and you might benefit from some pre-season discounts.