Are There Sharks in Phuket

During a trip to Phuket in October, I took an island hopping tour to a few islands off the coast. I wanted to enjoy Thailand’s warm waters, swimming, snorkelling, and seeing all the little fish! But standing on a boat, looking out across the ocean, the thought of sharks filled me with pure fear. After all, I come from Australia, home to 180 different species of sharks!

Once I got exploring in the water, my fear slowly reduced as I realised that I was a guest in their home. While the risk of encountering a shark was a reality, the chance of an encounter seemed somewhat less frightening. At the end of the tour, I asked the guide if there were sharks in Thailand. He laughed and said no, but was this true?

Bamboo Island off the Coast of Phuket - Great for Snorkelling

After hours of research and countless conversations with locals and experts, I’ve created this article to finally answer the question, “Are There Sharks in Phuket?” The short and most obvious answer is yes. Phuket and the surrounding areas are home to various shark species. There are no barriers or stopgaps in the ocean stopping a shark from entering certain areas.

I invite you to continue reading this detailed article to find out what types of sharks you may encounter, conservation efforts, and safety tips if you do encounter a shark.

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Common Shark Species in Phuket

The Andaman Sea, around Phuket and the Phi Phi Islands, is a great spot for snorkelling and diving due to its marine life, including several species of shark.

The most common shark species in this area are the blacktip reef shark, the bamboo shark, and the leopard shark. These types of sharks prefer the warm, shallow waters around coral reefs, making them a possible sighting for snorkelers and scuba divers.

While on my tour, I overheard other tourists asking the guide about whale sharks in Phuket. He mentioned that there were some sightings. I asked Metavee Chuangcharoendee (May), a Marine Biologist with Thai Sharks and Rays (TSAR) about whale sharks in Phuket, and they said, “There are frequent sightings of whale sharks down south of Phuket around Racha islands (both Racha Yai and Racha Noi), but I have not heard of sightings close to the shore of Phuket.”

Leopard Shark and Scuba diver

“Dangerous” Sharks

When we think about sharks, people tend to assume that all sharks are dangerous, which is not true. However, there are some shark species that are considered to be dangerous to people: the great white shark, the tiger shark, and the bull shark.

Great white sharks are rarely found in the waters around Phuket or in Thailand. You may see tiger and bull sharks in the waters surrounding Phuket. They are more likely to be seen by divers than by people snorkelling, as they prefer deeper waters.

Something to keep in mind is that there have been very few incidents of shark attacks in Thailand. In fact, in 2022 there was 1 recorded attack , which was not fatal (none in 2023), making it a fairly safe destination to swim, snorkel, and enjoy the water.

Metavee Chuangcharoendee commented that “there are currently no sightings of Great White sharks throughout Thailand due to the temperature preferences of Great White (preferring colder water).

When asking if there are certain types of sharks, if seen, that people should immediately (but calmly) get out of the water. Prof Charlie Huveneers, who is a director of Flinders University Marine & Coastal Research Consortium, with over 15 years experience in shark and ray ecology, said “The species that are typically considered potentially dangerous are the white, tiger, and bull shark.”

Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) Approaching over Sand Bottom. Tiger Beach, Bahamas

Shark Conservation and Eco-Tourism

The presence of sharks in Phuket and the surrounding areas is not only an exciting experience for divers but also an important aspect of the marine ecosystem. Sharks play a vital role in maintaining the health of coral reefs, populations of fish, and the overall balance of marine life.

Efforts are being made to protect these creatures and their habitat; this is done by encouraging eco-friendly tourism practices. Visitors to Thailand are encouraged to respect the marine environment, pick eco friendly tours, avoid activities that could harm marine life or disrupt their natural behaviour, and, of course, be responsible when disposing of their plastics and rubbish.

Metavee Chuangcharoendee, mentioned that “conservation efforts are still limited around Phuket, though there are government agencies situated in Phuket, eg, the Department of Fisheries local offices and the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources research center. Although their work is mostly focused on turtles and marine mammals. Currently, whale sharks and hammerhead sharks (3 species), totalling up to 4 species, are being protected under the Protected Species Act.

Safety Tips for Divers and Swimmers

While the risk of shark attacks in Phuket is fairly minimal, it’s always good to use common sense, do your research, and follow safety tips provided to you when swimming or diving in areas where sharks are present.

Avoid swimming at dawn or dusk when sharks are most active, and, of course, respect the sharks and their environment by not provoking or trying to touch them; they aren’t cute little puppies that want a cudle.

Metavee Chuangcharoendee mentioned, “As for shark attacks, there have been very few cases in the last ten years (most of them are accidental bites from juvenile Bullshark in murky water). Swimming is not advised in murky water, not commonly visited beaches, and during dusk, dawn, and night because accidental bites may occur. However, it is very uncommon in touristy areas.

Prof Charlie says ” There is nothing you can do if encounter a shark while swimming or diving, considering the location, it is highly unlikely that swimmers/divers will encounter a potentially dangerous species and people can safely swim and dive with >99% of shark species (>500 species)”

Prof Charlie also mentioned “There are old guidelines suggesting that dusk and dawn should be avoided, and while this might be true in some situations, this is not the case for all species. Reef sharks can be more active and hunt at night, but this does not necessarily mean that they’re likely to bite humans and that “there is no scientific evidence that swimming alone or in groups makes a difference to a shark. You’d expect that some shark species might be less likely to approach a tightly formed group, but there would not be much differences between a single swimmer/diver or a group of swimmers/divers with normal distances between them.”

Sitting on a boat waiting to go Snorkelling near Phuket Thailand

Final Thoughts:

Are there sharks in Phuket? Yes, of course, but there’s no need to fear going for a swim. Sharks found in these waters play an essential role in the ecosystem and offer thrilling encounters for those who wish to see them up close (mostly divers).

Whether you’re a seasoned scuba diver or someone enjoying the shallow waters of one of Phuket’s most amazing beaches, there is little to fear about getting attacked. Remember to respect these magnificent animals and the beauty of Thailand’s oceans.

Read more about Phuket:


  • Samantha King

    Sam, a seasoned traveler across four continents and 49 countries, is a leading authority in travel planning. Her website, Travelling King, offers tailored itineraries and expert guides for seamless trips. Sam's expertise in luxury travel, fast travel, and destination guides keeps her at the forefront of the travel community.

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