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Types of Sharks in the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef

Updated on January 7, 2019

Shovel Nosed Shark

Shovel Nosed Sharks are often seen in the Whitsundays
Shovel Nosed Sharks are often seen in the Whitsundays | Source

Shark Sightings in the Great Barrier Reef

Amongst many of the different types of shark seen in the Great Barrier Reef and the waters of the Whitsundays is the shovel nose shark named for the obvious shovel shape of its upper body. But there are many other recorded sightings from the bull nose to tiger and a number of reef sharks. It is possible the white nose pointer, the most dangerous shark to humans, may swim in the deeper waters past the continental shelf, but is more commonly seen from the sunshine coast and further south preferring the cooler southern waters.

If it is rare to see one of the most dangerous sharks of Australia if not the world in the Queensland coastal region, it is important to understand the migratory path of the shark. In some ways they are akin to snakes in that they mark their territories and may cruise past at certain times of the year but not bother to stop and feed.

That's Not a Shark

Hairy legged shrimp found on the ocean floor - the only way to see him alive is to get in the water.
Hairy legged shrimp found on the ocean floor - the only way to see him alive is to get in the water. | Source

Types of Sharks in the Great Barrier Reef

So, how many different types of sharks swim in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef? The exact number is unclear, although there are certainly more than a dozen from the bottom feeding cat shark to the larger and more dangerous tiger shark. The following list names some of the more commonly seen sharks frequenting the area:

  • White Tip Reef Shark
  • Grey Reef Shark
  • Oceanic Silvertip shark
  • Hammerhead Shark
  • Shovel Nosed Shark
  • Bull Shark
  • Cat Shark
  • Tiger Shark

You'll Need Somewhere to Stay

Airlie Beach boasts some of the finest accommodation in the world. Apartments with sea and island views are the norm. Why not spend some extra time in North Queensland and truly explore the wonders of the reef and Whitsunday waters.

The Dangerous Creatures of the Great Barrier Reef series has been commissioned by Toscana Village Resort, Airlie Beach Accommodation.

Reef Sharks

The white tip reef shark; with its slender body and short, broad head, only measures in at an average of 1.6 metres (5 feet 2 inches). It swims close to the floor of the ocean in clear waters, making the Great Barrier Reef an ideal environment for the Reef Shark. The shark is well renowned for its nightly hunt after resting in caves during the day. It would be a rare occasion for the white tip reef shark to instigate an assault on humans. The only obvious difference on the Black Tip Reef Shark is the black tip of the fin as opposed to the white tip. The black tip reef sharks sticks to shallow lagoons and is considerably smaller than the white tip.

Are Sharks in the Great Barrier Reef Dangerous to Humans?

All sharks are natural predators swimming beneath the surface hunting for the next meal but not many are dangerous to humans. There are a few because of their size, power and massive jaws that a diver needs to be aware of such as the tiger, bull, bronze whaler, mako and hammerhead sharks. Attacks on humans are very rare in the northern waters. It is said the tiger shark is the most dangerous but it is a night feeder and heads to deeper waters during the day.

There are several towns along the coast offering dive tours for anyone anxious to explore the reef. Some tours are especially aimed at spotting one of the sharks of the Great Barrier Reef. In the Whitsundays sticking with an experienced tour guide lessens the risks of being in the water and increases the chances of seeing some extraordinary tropical fish, live coral and sharks.

The Dangerous Creatures of the Great Barrier Reef series has been commissioned by Toscana Village Resort, Airlie Beach Accommodation.


© 2012 Karen Wilton


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    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      6 years ago from Australia

      Fantastic research @channelwhitsunday. Only 6 attacks over a long period I would think makes the shark a minimal risk in these beautiful waters. I hope no one is deterred from visiting because there is too much on offer in the Whitsundays.

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      6 years ago from Australia

      Oh, thank you Eiddwen, you are always welcome here with your wonderful comments. I appreciate the time you have spent responding to the Dangerous Creatures series and am so glad you enjoyed this one on sharks of the Great Barrier Reef.

    • channelwhitsunday profile image


      6 years ago

      Informative hub. Thank you. My own research found that there have been only 6 recorded attacks... And interestingly they were only in the summer months!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      Another great hub ;so very well informed and amazing pictures to balance beautifully.

      Thanks for sharing this gnm and I award an up up and away here.

      Take care and have a wonderful day.



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