Egypt's Red Sea is renowned for its colourful coral reefs, plummeting walls and pinnacles, and eerie shipwrecks. But, this dazzling dive destination is also home to impressive marine wildlife of all kinds, with many sites delivering exhilarating shark encounters throughout the year. 

In this article, we'll introduce you to the top types of sharks divers are likely to encounter in the Red Sea. We'll also tip you off to which dive spots offer the most reliable sightings, and the best time to visit for the most impressive shark action – giving you the best possible chance of enjoying multiple epic encounters.

So, keep reading to learn about the Red Sea's infamous sharks... and, once you're finished, download our free guide to sharks from around the world to learn more about other species and where to find them.

1. Reef sharks

Grey reef sharks are the most commonly spotted species in Egypt's Red Sea, along with both blacktip and whitetip reef sharks, which are also often seen.

Grey reef shark in the Red Sea
Grey reef shark in the Red Sea

Grey reef sharks are shy reef dwellers, have a stocky build, and grow to a maximum length of around two metres. This species is easily recognised by the dark grey band running along the outside edge of the tail, and a small white tip or margin on the dorsal fin. Because they spend much of their time patrolling reef walls and drop-offs, grey reef sharks are often encountered by beginner divers, cruising the easy-going currents.

  • Top dive sites: This is the most common species seen while shark diving in Egypt, with encounters possible at most of the region's popular dive sites.
  • Seasonal encounters: Reef sharks inhabit these waters all year long.
  • Pro tips: This smaller species is ideal for your first shark encounter, typically observing dive groups from afar rather than approaching.
  • Conservation status: Near threatened

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2. Hammerhead shark

Easily identified by their uniquely shaped head, scalloped hammerheads are among the Red Sea's most fascinating shark species. These graceful pelagic predators are most often seen during early morning dives, emerging from the depths to visit cleaning stations or gathering at current-swept drop-offs.

Hammerhead shark in the Red Sea
Hammerhead shark in the Red Sea

Dozens of these sharks can sometimes be seen schooling out in the blue, especially in the Red Sea’s central dive sites, known for fast-moving currents and schooling fish like jacks, tuna, and mackerel. But, in this diverse region, you never know when a hammerhead might pop up. Chance encounters can take place anytime, anywhere, especially during dawn and dusk dives. 

  • Top dive sites: Head to Daedalus and Elphinstone for seasonal schools, and Jackson Reef in the Tiran Straits for chance encounters at depth.
  • Seasonal encounters: Hammerheads are most frequently spotted in the north from July to September, and in the south from May to July.
  • Pro tips: This is a timid shark species, easily scared off by loud noises like tank bangers and boat engines. So, you'll want to observe them in absolute silence!
  • Conservation status: Critically endangered

3. Oceanic whitetip sharks

Not to be confused with the smaller whitetip reef shark, this striking pelagic species is one of the most dynamic animals you can encounter whilst diving in the Red Sea. Oceanic whitetips are opportunistic and inquisitive pelagic predators, but by following a few simple instructions from your dive guide, you can ensure a safe and responsible, up-close encounter with this incredibly powerful shark species.

Oceanic whitetip in the Red Sea
Oceanic whitetip in the Red Sea

These solitary ocean-goers are easily identified by their elongated, rounded and white-tipped dorsal and pectoral fins, and impressive stature – growing up to four-metres in length!

  • Top dive sites: Take a trip to the Brothers Islands, Elphinstone and St. Johns, for a chance to spot these sharks cruising gracefully out in the blue. 
  • Seasonal encounters: Encounters are most common between October and January, but sightings are reported year-round.
  • Pro tips: Avoid rapid or flailing motions around this species that could accidentally imitate a struggling fish – every shark's favourite snack!
  • Conservation status: Critically endangered

4. Tiger sharks

This is one of the rarest and most elusive species in the region, spending most of its time patrolling in the open ocean. So, you'll need a bit of luck on your side for a Red Sea tiger shark encounter. But, that doesn't mean you won't spot one!

Tiger shark in the Red Sea
Tiger shark in the Red Sea

This solitary nomad can grow to an impressive five-metres in length, and weigh in at over a tonne. Tiger sharks have a distinctive striped pattern running along their back and sides. This natural camouflage helps the tiger shark to slowly approach its prey before striking with great speed and agility. 

  • Top dive sites: Rocky Island, Safaga, and Elphinstone are known for chance encounters, but tiger sharks make surprise appearances around the Straits of Tiran, too. 
  • Seasonal encounters: Because tiger sharks are so highly nomadic, they have no true season. If you want to see one, you'll just have to keep diving!
  • Pro tips: This species can be highly curious, even approaching dive groups. But, they likely won't stick around for long – so keep your camera handy!
  • Conservation status: Near threatened

5. Whale sharks

Each year for a few short months, certain spots in Egypt's northern and southern Red Sea transform into hotspots for whale sharks. These massive filter feeders are frequently spotted on the surface as they cruise in the shallows feasting on their favourite meal – plankton.

Whale shark in the Red Sea
Whale shark in the Red Sea
  • Top dive sites: Visit reefs like Jackson and Woodhouse in the Tiran Straits for your best chances at an encounter.
  • Seasonal encounters: Plan your trip between March and July when whale shark sightings are most consistent.
  • Pro tips: Though it's tempting to reach out and touch these harmless giants, divers should keep their distance for the sharks' comfort and safety!
  • Conservation status: Endangered

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6. Leopard sharks

Correctly named the zebra shark, but known the world over as a leopard, this spotted bottom-dweller is most often encountered resting on the reef or sand.

Zebra shark in the Red Sea
Zebra shark in the Red Sea

The leopard shark is a nocturnal species, so in most cases, you'll spot it napping during daylight hours. But, Red Sea night divers can sometimes come across one free swimming. Similar to a nurse shark, this animal uses suction to feed, favouring molluscs and crustaceans over more challenging prey like fish. If you are lucky enough to spot one of these fascinating sharks, approach slowly as they tend to startle. And, avoid flash photography which hurt their light-sensitive eyes.

  • Top dive sites: Leopard sharks are most commonly seen in northern sites around Tiran and Ras Mohammed but are present throughout the region.
  • Seasonal encounters: Many liveaboards focusing on shark itineraries between May and October, offering great chances of an encounter. But sightings do occur year-round.
  • Pro tips: Observe this sleeping shark from afar for a chance to watch it pump air over its gills, allowing it to breathe without swimming.
  • Conservation status: Endangered

7. Thresher sharks

One of the Red Sea's most shy and elusive species, an encounter with a thresher shark can be a real highlight of a trip. But luckily for divers, several of the Red Sea’s famous sites offer regular sightings.

Thresher shark in the Red Sea
Thresher shark in the Red Sea

This fascinating animal is unique in its appearance, sporting massive eyes for hunting in the ocean's depths, and a long whip-like tail for stunning its prey. Because threshers are deepwater sharks, they are usually seen during early morning dives, as they slowly make their way up towards cleaning stations. Threshers are extremely sensitive to light and sound, so if you see one, resist the temptation to bang on your tank or use a flash for photos – you'll just scare the shark off.

  • Top dive sites: Threshers are most commonly seen around the Brothers Islands.
  • Seasonal encounters: Unlike most Red Sea shark species, your best chances of an encounter are from September to February. Although chance sightings do occur year-round.
  • Pro tips: Don't forget to stay silent and avoid startling this species with flash photography.
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

Now that you know a bit about shark diving in Egypt, you're probably excited to start planning your trip. But is it safe, and ethical, to dive with such powerful predators?

Remember, you should always select an operator who uses sustainable shark diving practices that don't interfere with the animals' natural behaviour. And, it's up to you to keep a safe distance to help protect yourself, and these fascinating endangered animals. Learn more about ZuBlu's commitment to conservation here, as well as the organisations and projects we partner with.

And, keep the Red Sea’s other shark species in mind as you plan your trip – in addition to the major players above, you might also spot species such as silvertips and silkies here.

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A Diver's Guide to Sharks

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Article written by
Matthew Oldfield
Co-founder, dive travel expert

Matthew has lived in Indonesia and Malaysia for the last 20 years, and explored some of the world’s best scuba diving destinations as a photographer. He is our resident expert at finding the perfect dive resort, the best time of year to explore, and destinations with the best street food!

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