Learn About the White Tipped Reef Sharks of North Sulawesi
White tipped reef sharks are the most common species of shark found in the waters of North Sulawesi. You can expect to see them on most dives around Gangga Island and the Bangka archipelago. However, just because they are a common sight doesn’t mean they aren’t fascinating. Read on to find out all about this amazing shark species and their importance to the marine environment around Gangga Island Resort & Spa.
What kind of shark is a white tip?
Triaenodon obesus is a requiem shark, a group of migratory, live bearing sharks living in tropical and warm temperate waters in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This family of sharks includes the blacktip reef shark, grey reef shark, blacknose shark, spinner shark, and the oceanic whitetip shark. However the white tipped reef shark is the only member of the genus Triaenodon.
White tips are quite small sharks growing to just around 140 to 160 centimetres in length. The largest ever reported was just under 2.5 metres, but this is very rare. They have broad flat heads and its head is broad and flat and their bodies slim. The tips of their first dorsal and upper caudal fins are white, giving them their name, and the upper body grey or grey/brown. You may also notice their first dorsal fins are much closer to the pelvic fin than most other sharks.
Where do they live?
You can find white tipped reef sharks in the shallows between 8 and 40 metres but they have been recorded all the way down to around 330 metres. However, this nocturnal shark species can often found resting on the seabed during the day.
They are capable of remaining motionless for long periods of time while resting or lying in wait for pray. This makes it great for diving with and also photographing. White tips are rarely aggressive unless harassed. If disturbed they will generally turn and swim away.
The best places for diving with these sharks is at sites where there are crevasses, caves or rocky outcrops where they search for food. Your guides at Gangga Divers will take you to the best dive sites if you ask specifically to see white tips.
White tips are built for searching for their food. They aren’t the fastest swimmers so find it difficult to catch food on the run, but they are very skilled at squeezing their slim bodies between rocks and in cracks to find tasty treats.
They feed mainly on crustaceans like spiny lobsters and crabs, but also octopus, and bony fish like triggerfish, snappers, eels, parrotfish, damselfish and squirrelfish. These are all plentiful in North Sulawesi ensuring a healthy population of white tips.
One of the interesting things about this species is its reproductive process. White tipped reef sharks are viviparous, meaning the embryo develops inside the mother, not outside in an egg. They have an average of 1 to 5 pups per litter and the gestation period is at least 5 months.
These sharks only reach maturity at about 5 years old, but can live to around 25, which is at the top end of the average shark lifespan.
Ready to meet some white tipped reef sharks?
Diving with sharks is exciting and fascinating. During the day you may not see this particular species doing much but will be able to study them while they are still. During night dives in North Sulawesi you will see them in action darting around catching their nightly meals. If you’re ready to dive in North Sulawesi, drop us a comment and tell us all about what is drawing you there.