Just when you thought that the land of the mighty pharaoh tombs and the soaring pyramids couldn’t offer any more bucket-list-busting attractions, it opens up the Red Sea coast and the shimmering beaches of the southern Med. Now a playground for sun-seeking travelers, they are areas rich in coral reefs and dive spots. But are there sharks in Egypt that you’ll need to watch out for if you choose to travel to such regions?
There are. In fact, there are a whole bunch of sharks in Egypt. They range from formidable ocean killers like the great white to more passive reef sharks that you might well spot on dive days out of Sharm El-Sheik.
This guide will focus in on just five of the types of sharks that you’re most likely to encounter in the home of the snaking River Nile and the Valley of the Kings. We’ll outline where you might cross paths with them, what they look like, and – crucially – just how much of a danger they pose to human travelers. Let’s begin…
Shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)
Despite official figures reading that the shortfin mako shark has only been responsible for nine attacks on humans between 1580 and 2022, it’s actually the most recent culprit of a fatal attack in the home of the Giza Pyramids and Tutankhamun. Yep, an incident involving an Austrian tourist in the Red Sea region ended in the worst possible way in the early summer, leading to major beach shutdowns all over the Hurghada strip.
A fairly beefy species of shark, the mako can grow to up to four meters in length from fin to nose. They’re capable of weighing in at over 600kgs, though most specimens are closer to the 150-200kg mark. You can tell them apart from other sharks in Egypt by the distinctly metallic coloring and the cylindrical shape of the central torso.
Now listed as endangered by the IUCN, these sharks have seen serious dips in numbers in recent years. Many think that’s down to habitat destruction on account of climate change. However, they are still thought to live in considerable numbers in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, the two bodies of water that enfold Egypt to the east and the north.
Usually, encounters that end violently between shortfin mako sharks and humans are all down to the shark being provoked, often after getting tangled in fishing lines. They’re not considered to be overly aggressive like, say, bull sharks. Still, they’re among the fastest sharks out there, able to skim through the water at speeds of up to 30mph, sometimes launching themselves into the air to perform acrobatic twists and turns. We wouldn’t want to be pursued by one of those!
Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharia)
The great white, the white pointer, the star of Jaws – call it what you will, there’s no getting around the fact that this is the most feared of all the fish in the ocean. And, yep, it does exist in the warm waters of Egypt, which is far away from the Amity Island sandbanks that featured in the haunting Spielberg epic. In fact, great whites are known to lurk in both the Mediterranean Sea along Egypt’s north coast and in the reef-filled scuba mecca of the Red Sea out east.
One of the largest known apex predators in the saltwater of planet Earth, these guys can put on over two tons of mass before reaching full adulthood. That translates into a colossal body that can hit 6.1 meters in length, dwarfing your average diver and even outsizing small fishing skiffs. See why they strike fear into so many ocean goers?
Adding to all that is the fact that the great white shark is far and away the deadliest of all. It’s got 270+ notches on its fatal attack counter since records began, and probably a whole load more that haven’t been confirmed. They’ve proven so dangerous that governments around the globe, from Australia to South Africa, have even instituted mass shark culling programs around their most popular beaches and resorts.
The good news is that many experts think that the Red Sea and the southern Med are generally a little too hot for these stalkers of the waves. They tend to prefer H2O that hovers somewhere between 50-75 F (13-22 C), a good 15 degrees cooler than what you get along the sands of Hurghada and Sharm. Sightings have happened though, so an encounter isn’t impossible!
Grey reef shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos)
Looking to dive under the sparkling waters of the Red Sea? There’s a good chance that, if you do happen to encounter any of the sharks in Egypt, the grey reef shark will be the one you see. They’re among the most common of the requiem sharks to make their home in the eastern saltwater of this ancient land, and actually have a geographic range that extends all across the Indo-Pacific region, from the Arabian Sea through the Maldives archipelago and to the South Sea islands past New Zealand.
As the name implies, these guys are proud reef dwellers. They generally reside solely in areas very close to the coast and seldom stray to depths of over 50m. The reason they’re a common sighting on dive trips out of Sharm El-Sheikh is because they like to hang around the drop zones on the edges of coral gardens, between the darker, cooler open water and the life-teeming sponges and sea fingers.
They’re colored fully grey with whiter markings dashing down the belly of the body. Measuring around two meters from snout to fin, they aren’t the largest sharks in the water by any stretch. However, they still count two rows of 14 teeth on the top and bottom of the jaw and are known to be adapted for efficient group hunting sessions.
Grey reef sharks will perform a clear threat display whenever they feel cornered. It involves a hunching of the back and pendulum-like swinging of the tail. When this happens during a dive – and these guys often cross paths with divers – the human in question should instantly attempt to back away and leave the situation. Most human attacks by grey reef sharks are down to mistaken identities, though fatalities have happened.
Scalloped hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini)
Scalloped hammerheads are a strange looking customer. True to their name, they have a head that’s elongated on both sides, extending to a tip on the left and right, which is where you find each of the eye sockets. The mouth – and the dual rows of spiked teeth that go with it – is tucked beneath the bulk of the head, almost hidden from view. Body and size wise, these guys can hit three meters or more and weigh close to 30kgs.
In Egypt, these sharks are regularly spotted by divers to the distant offshore reefs of Daedalus and Elphinstone. They’re among the most incredible scuba spots on the coastline between Port Ghalib and Marsa Alam, a place for gazing at strange scorpionfish and all manner of turtle species, not to mention old-growth coral systems that drop off dramatically into the darker open sea.
You might have mixed feelings if you do spot one. Scalloped hammerhead sharks are known to be among the most aggressive of all shark species. They’re fast to attack and don’t shy away from attempting to take down larger prey, even if humans aren’t their usual meal of choice. They’re also well-adapted swimmers who can navigate waters in the darkness of night.
On the flip side, scalloped hammerheads have suffered hugely at human hands. They’re now listed as critically endangered since numbers have plummeted in the last couple of decades. Lots of that is down to the degradation of reef systems, in the Red Sea and beyond, because of global warming. But it’s also due to the fact that hammerhead fins are highly sought after for consumption, largely in East Asian kitchens.
Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus)
While you could easily be forgiven for being overcome with fear if you were to spot any of the other sharks in Egypt listed here, the whale shark is a whole different story. Totally harmless to humans, these guys are carpet grazers that hoover up plankton on the sea floor. They are also the largest known fish species in the world, and one of the most bucket-list-busting creatures to encounter in the ocean.
Now, it’s rare, but it does happen that groups of the Rhincodon typus gather around the shores of the old kingdoms. Recent reports of sightings have been made from Hurghada and Fanadir, but also in the more southerly shallows of Marsa Alam. Typically, whale sharks will meet in groups and spend hours feeding on algae blooms and smaller microorganisms.
They can live for a whopping 130 years and grow pretty big – they’re the largest fish there is, remember? We’re talking the same length as a cricket pitch and then some; in the region of 20 meters from end to end in some cases. That can translate into total body weights in the region of 30-40 tons!
There are two known population groups of the whale shark on the planet. One is native to the Atlantic Ocean and the other to the Indo Pacific. The latter, which includes the whale sharks of Egypt, is the larger, counting an estimated three quarters of all individuals alive today.
Are there sharks in Egypt? Our conclusion
Egypt has waters to the north and the east. That’s because the Mediterranean scores across one side of the country and the Red Sea rolls in on the other, framing the Sinai Peninsula and the whole shore around the popular resort escape of Hurghada. Both of those waters, but especially the Red Sea, are known to host sharks. They include some pretty fear-inducing animals in the form of the great white and the hammerhead shark, but also amazing carpet grazers like the whale shark.
Are there sharks in Egypt?
There most certainly are sharks in Egypt. That’s because the country has access to the Red Sea and the Med, which both contain a number of large and small shark species, including some shark species that can pose a danger to humans.
Are there sharks in Egypt’s Red Sea?
The Red Sea has most of the sharks in Egypt. Its temperate waters and access to the open Arabian Sea make it a top place for spotting all manner of species, including the hammerhead shark and the mako shortfin shark.