Blacktip Reef Sharks, or Carcharhinidae Melanopterus, from the Greek melas meaning “black” and pteron meaning “fin” or “wing”, are one of our favourite and most popular residents of the waters around Ko Phi Phi.
Easily identified by the prominent, distinct black tips/triangles on all of its fins (most noticeably on the first dorsal fin and its caudal/tail fin), this small to medium streamlined shark is beige to brownish on top, fading to white below.
Inhabiting the nearshore waters of the tropical and subtropical coral reefs of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, blacktip reef sharks prefer shallow waters, over reef ledges and sandy flats. Displaying strong site fidelity, these sharks remain within the same local area (between .5 -2kms) for several years at a time. Amongst the smallest home area of any shark species they select a spot with an ample food supply (small bony fishes, cephalopods – octopus and squid, and crustaceans – shrimps, and have also been known to feed on sea snakes) and stay near it. This is great news for us, as our divers regularly share their time underwater at Bida Nok, Bida Nai and Palong with these fascinating creatures, and our snorkelers just off Long Beach and Viking Cave.
Female blacktip reef sharks leave their home to give birth in a specific nursery habitat. We are very fortunate to have such a nursery area with abundant resources at Koh Phi Phi Ley. Juvenile sharks prefer clear, extremely shallow water (sometimes as shallow as 30 cms), inside lagoons further inshore. They are often founds swimming along the shoreline, roaming in large groups along the sandy flats. Adults typically occur on shallow parts of the reef, and are most commonly spotted patrolling the reef crest/ledges, near reef drop-offs or the reef flat at flood tide.
Fancy seeing Blacktip Reef Sharks – Want to meet the neighbours?
We offer 2 dive local trips twice daily to the sites around Ko Phi Phi for scuba divers, as well as a variety of snorkel trips to the spots frequented by blacktip reef sharks.
If you are after a guarantee then join our Shark Watch snorkel trip, where we guarantee you see blacktip reef sharks or we give your money back! Be warned that the Shark Watch trips have limited spaces and are very popular to be sure to book your space asap.
Interesting Blacktip Reef Shark Trivia!
- Females become sexually mature between 6.5 – 7 yrs, and males between 4.5 – 5 yrs.
- This shark is viviparous, meaning it gives birth to live young (much like humans)
- The gestation period has been reported as 10–11 months, or even 16 months long in the Indian Ocean
- Litter sizes are typically 2 – 5 pups
- Newborn pups measure 40–50 cm (16–20 in)
- How often they reproduce is dependent upon habitat varying between a biennial, annual, or possibly biannual cycle.
- Females are able to reproduce asexually if males are not available.
- Females rest for 8-14 month between pregnancies to rebuild their energy stores.
- Lifespan is typically 13 years of age, sometimes longer
- One of only a few sharks that can jump fully out of the water, a behaviour called ‘breaching’.
- They can metabolise and are occasionally present in brackish waters
- In Thai they are called “Chalerm Hoo Dam”
This shark species is currently fished and used for its meat, fins, and liver oil. It is vulnerable to depletion due to their small litter sizes and long gestation periods, and is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN’s Red List. Although the blacktip reef sharks are caught for food, its greatest value currently is in reef and dive tourism.