Shark Series – Diving with Tiger Sharks

Shark Series - Diving with Tiger Sharks
Greg Amptman

One of the most characteristic sharks in the oceans, the tiger shark is one of the largest species of sharks, and quite possibly one of the most infamous.

It is considered one of the most dangerous species of sharks, with number of attacks only surpassed by the great white shark.

They have an impressive arsenal of senses, including the ability to sense electrical fields generated by live creatures in their vicinity, and the ability to detect even minute movements in the water, using special receptors along their sides.

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They are non-discerning eaters, and will attack a wide range of prey, or even resort to eating garbage or dead animals. This has earned them the nickname “the wastebasket of the sea”.


The tiger shark is a very large shark, up to five meters long and weighing more than 600 kilos, but typical specimens are around 3-4 meters.

It has a blunt snout, and a very streamlined body, with a distinct fore-body and tapering off to a relatively thin tail. This gives the shark a very muscular appearance. In juvenile specimens vertical lines can be seen along its body, giving the distinct tiger-like appearance that has given the species its name.

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It usually swims quite slowly compared to other species, only bursting into top speed when attacking prey.

A diver watches a Tiger Shark – Credit: A Cotton Photo

Where to see it

The shark lives in tropical waters throughout the world, and can be seen as far north as California, the Red Sea, and Japan, and as far south as New Zealand and the southern parts of South America. It is often seen in Hawaii and the Caribbean.

It has been recorded to go depths as great as 900 meters, but has also been spotted in just a few meters of water, especially in Hawaii and the Caribbean.

Best times to see them

The shark is highly nomadic, and generally moves with the seasons, meaning that in the warmer months.

It is spotted in it’s more northern and southern habitats, whereas in the colder months, it tends to stay around the equator.

Diving With Tiger Sharks Solo
A tiger shark cruising the bottom for food

Interaction with humans

The tiger shark is considered one of the most dangerous sharks, with only the great white shark accounting for more human attacks. Be careful when diving with tiger sharks, the tiger shark is less likely than other shark to abandon an attack once started, they cause relatively more fatal attacks than many other species.

It tendency to often coming into shallow waters near human habitats increases the risk of attacks, and may cause a disproportionate image of the danger of the shark. The shark is often spotted by divers, and only in very rare circumstances has this caused problems.

Nonetheless, it is a shark that should be treated with caution.

Conservation status

The tiger shark is fished for its fins and liver, the latter being high in vitamin A. It reproduces slowly, so intense fishing can be devastating for the population.

Due to its reputation as a ferocious man-eater, it has often been hunted and killed to protect tourism in areas dependent on this for their economy, including Hawaii.

The shark is considered as being “near-threatened” in all of its habitats.

Read more about sharks here.

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