Face to face with a long-legged shark. (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
© Doniphane Lachat

Underwater with long-haired sharks in the Red Sea

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the strange sentences and the funny mistakes that could gave been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here PetitesBullesdAilleurs.fr

  Egypt: Red Sea - October 2016

They are beautiful, long-legged sharks! I loved watching them and photographing them in the Red Sea. But I admit, they are also a little scared ...

Fascinating face-to-face with sharks

Whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, black tip and white tip sharks, gray reef sharks, silky sharks, nurse sharks, fox sharks, walking sharks, bearded carpet sharks ... This is not the first time I have the chance to observe, photograph or film sharks while diving.

→ See here: all my posts with sharks in!

But longan sharks, also known as oceanic sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus, of their scientific name), it's new for me! I give you below a short video of 30 seconds, made in the Red Sea in October 2016during a cruise aboard theExocetby one of my diving friends, Doniphane Lachat.

It shows a long-distance coming to meet me, not really frightened by my little person ...

The longimane can measure 2 to 3 meters long. It's a beautiful shark! I find it very beautiful, very photogenic, almost elegant with its long fins (hence its name longimane shark or "long hand") with a rounded white tip and his faithful cohort of small pilot fish.

What a pace! And watching it swim is absolutely fascinating.

Here is the series of three photos I took, during this little face-to-face we see in the video:

Long-legged shark, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016.
That's it, this longimane spotted me ... (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Long-legged shark, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016.
He comes to observe me more closely ... (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Long-legged shark, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016.
Flip-flops under the surface ... (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)

Brothers Islands

I come out of the water with stars in my eyes, after my very first encounter with a long-distance dog. And I will see others during the following dives! It was the Brothers, the "Brothers," two arid and isolated islets in the Red Sea, in Egyptian waters.

Big Brother and Small Brother are renowned dive spots and the area is a protected marine park. When the swell is not too unfavorable, you can also explore two wrecks.

Big Brother, the largest of the two islands, is about 300 m long. Its lighthouse was built by the English in the late nineteenth century. (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Big Brother, the largest of the two islands, is about 300 m long. Its lighthouse was built by the British in 1883. The site is guarded by Egyptian soldiers, who must be bored while waiting for the next generation ... (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
The wreck of Numidia at Big Brother. (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
The wreck of Numidia, at Big Brother. It was an English freighter that was wrecked in 1901. It was en route to India and was carrying railway equipment. (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
François, my partner, discovered the structures of the wreck of Numidia. (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
The upper part of the wreck of Numidia is between 20 and 40 meters deep. (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Soft corals colonized Numidia, which lies on the starboard side between 20 and 80 m. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Soft corals colonized Numidia. The wreck, placed on the slope of the reef, is about 130 meters long. The bow is very deep, in the 80 meters, inaccessible diving leisure. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)

The Brothers Islands are located very off the coast, their falls are exposed to the currents and descend to several hundred meters of depth, so that one can cross there a so-called pelagic fauna (which lives on the high seas and does not normally does not approach the coast) in addition to the usual small fauna of the reefs.

In addition to the longimanes, I saw a huge tuna and barracudas. Several of my dive companions managed to observe a fox shark and hammerhead sharks. As for the coral, it seemed to me overall less spectacular than in Indonesia, but some parts of the reef are splendid.

The coral is on the reef of Small Brother. (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Coral abounds on the reef of Small Brother. (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Still photogenic, the clouds of anthias above the coral. (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Still photogenic, the clouds of anthias above the coral. (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Along the reef of Big Brother, returning from the wreck, we cross a bank of sardines. (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Along the reef of Big Brother, returning from the wreck, we cross a bank of sardines. (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)

To learn more about the Brothers, I refer you to the site of Alimata, a traveler diver who has explored these sites years before me, and who makes a very complete description on this page → Brothers Islands.

Small "detail" that made me appreciate being on the huge and comfortable Exocet: The crossing to the Brothers lasts long hours and is not exactly a quiet ride at sea, at least during my stay in October. Swell and waves can be strong. Many of us have been sick and I, who did not think I was prone to seasickness, admit that I was not very brave enough to go ... On my return, it was much better: I did not do it the hard to cook, I opted for the seal against seasickness. Effective!

Audrey, of Blue Addiction, enjoyed the Exocet's outdoor lounge, the time of the crossing ... (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Audrey, of Blue Addiction, enjoyed the outdoor lounge of the Exocet, the time of the crossing ... (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)

A dirty reputation

Even among divers and ocean lovers, the longimane has the reputation of being a shark to be wary of.

"This species is a bit like a dog, explains the underwater photographer Phil Simha, organizer of the cruise, the day before our immersions to the Brothers. Longimane is curious, opportunistic, he comes to run under the boats, and everything that moves on the surface attracts him. Under the water he is not afraid to approach divers, sometimes to come into contact ... " 

Longimans do not hesitate to go up to shallow depths, they often come to run under the boats. (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Longimans do not hesitate to patrol at shallow depths, they often come to run under the boats. (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Hello, here it is again! (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Hello, here I am again! (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)

In short, where most of the other sharks that I have already met in diving prefer to keep their distance, when they cross palanquées with plumes of bubbles, the longimane, he will be quite intrigued, attracted and will readily come to see more closely what is happening ...

See also → Wikipedia page of longimane

On the blog Sharkuterie → Is the reputation of longimanus justified? [post of 2006]

Although I find it beautiful, the sinister reputation of the Longimane is not really usurped. In recent years, in the Red Sea, there were deadly attacks (one in 2009, several in 2010 and one in 2015, in particular). Each time, bites inflicted from below or from the back, to persons swimming on the surface, bathers or palms-mask-snorkel. But never on submerged bottle divers, to my knowledge.

Update 2018: Unfortunately, the brothers had two cases of bites on bottle divers in 2018, one on the thigh and the other on the calf. I take this opportunity to add below the educational sheet designed by Steven Surina de Shark Education, on the right attitude to adopt when you are in the presence of a shark under water:

(Source: Steven Surina / Shark Education)
(Source: Steven Surina / Shark Education)

On the boat, we are seriously briefed before our dives at the Brothers, territory of fascinating and worrying longimanes ...

Prohibition for freedivers to go in the water and for all absolute prohibition to go splashing in the sea. To observe the sharks, only the scuba-diving is allowed, with some precautions: one avoids to drag on the surface at the moment of immersion like the ascent, we stay together under water, especially when we are under the boats where the sharks like to hang out, and at the end of the dive, we do not resurfaced all together but the one after another. We are of course asked not to lose his partner, to remain calm under the water and to think to monitor the blue in the different directions ...

We are moored to Small Brother and the longimanes are here! (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
We are moored to Small Brother and the longimanes are here! (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
We do not hang out on the surface ... (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
We do not hang out on the surface ... (Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)

Drift in the blue

But during one of our dives at Small Brother, my partner Françoise has the misfortune to lose her camera, at the time of the launch from the stern of theExocet. There is a lot of swell, I just went down a few meters to wait for it and, already a little deported by the current, I attend the scene under the surface, helpless.

I'm a little too far to darken and try to recover the device, that I can only watch flowing ... 😱 The longimane rode near the boat and I watch out of the corner of the eye is more alive than me. But he immediately disinterested in this non-edible object, which continues its course towards the depths ... There is a hundred meters of bottom where we are moored, alas, which makes any project of recovery impossible.

At Exocet's stern, Françoise's camera is dark and a shark is watching the block with the diver ... (Small Borther, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
At the stern of the Exocet, Françoise's camera dark (it's the little black spot under the shark) in front of the longimane that rode under the block at the diver ... (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)

Atrocement frustrated, terribly annoyed, Françoise still wants to go diving and joined me, with big sad eyes behind his mask. 😢 I sympathize with my heart and check again that my own device is secure, attached to my BCD ...

We remain shallow, between 10 and 5 meters, captivated by the spectacle of this longimane who turns us around. As a result, we drift, and when we recover, it is already too late: we are moving away from the reef of the island, towards which we were supposed to lead. After a few minutes, we fall into the blue on a drift of several other divers of theExocet. A little lost too, one would say. Like us, they were surprised by the surface current ...

But they are two longimans who are turning around now! And they pass nearby. What luck ! I had been a little disappointed with the dives at Big Brother, where not a shark had deigned to cross my path. But Small Brother fills me! Longimans are here and there. And they are not shy models ... 😮

Photographers are at the party! (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Photographers are at the party! Here Gilles, who was delighted to draw the portrait of this longimane not shy. → See his gallery on his website Cool-Diving.ch. (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)

We are several photographers in the group and everyone is happy, I think, to be able to make images ... But hey, it's still a little while drifting without knowing where we are. Better to report without further delay on the Zodiac surface and back up. This dive lasted only 20-30 minutes instead of the usual 50-60 ... But what intense minutes!

One of us deploys his parachute (for non-divers: it is a sausage-shaped buoy, which is filled with air under water and let it fuse towards the surface, so that the boatman spots us and knows where to pick us up). The Zodiac appears immediately. Françoise is the first to go up. One by one, we climb aboard the annex, without any trouble, while those who wait underwater watch the sharks passing and repassing.

Of course, we all have an emotional thought for the last of the team to go up again: alone under the parachute, he lived a little moment of solitude with the longimans ... Rich in emotions, this dive! I'm not about to forget it.

Phew, that's the Zodiac coming! (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Phew, that's the Zodiac coming! (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
This longimane gauges me a bit at a distance ... (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
This longimane gauges me a bit at a distance ... (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Even the parachute interests him ... (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
Even the parachute interests him ... (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
The longimane is a subject of choice for photographers ... (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
The longimane is a subject of choice for photographers ... (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
He flip-flies when I fire. (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
He flip-flies when I fire. (Small Brother, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)

Overfishing and fin soup

I come back marveled at this cruise in the Red Sea thanks to the longimanes. But like many other sharks, the species is a victim of overfishing: its huge fins are highly coveted for the Asian market, where they end up in soup at the restaurant or in a supposedly medicinal or aphrodisiac remedy ...

Jaws and shark fins in a shop window in Kuching, on the island of Borneo, Malaysia side. I took this picture several years ago, during my trip in July 2013.
Jaws and shark fins in a shop window in Kuching, on the island of Borneo, Malaysia side. I took this picture several years ago, during my trip in July 2013.

As longimane willingly follows boats, cetaceans and schools of pelagic fish opportunistically, it also often ends up in so-called accidental catches ...

Spread in all the tropical seas of the globe, it was once one of the most abundant sharks. Today, it is one of the most threatened. Will the conservation measures and regulations put in place succeed in reversing the trend? The longimane is on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) World Red List and in 2013 it was added to Annex II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

I measure the chance that I have, as a simple diving tourist, to have observed in their natural environment these magnificent sharks. In ten or twenty years, if the shark-finning (fishing for fins) continues at the same rate as today, there will be nothing left to observe under the sea ...

🙄

  Egypt: Red Sea - October 2016

  1. Hello Corinne, I always read with so much passion your many posts on diving ... what a joy you must have felt meeting these magnificent sharks. I too had this great chance at Marsa Alam on the site of Elphinstone reef. What a memory and especially what a surprise to see these beautiful sharks so close to the surface but also and especially so close to the divers. We, so used to seeing the sharks escape on our arrival or in any case to stay at a safe distance, distance justified by the organized slaughter of these animals for their fins so coveted by the Chinese market and which further accelerates their disappearance. So take advantage of their presence we diver and testify their beauty but also their fragility, far from the caricatures of the man-eating shark films like the teeth of the sea.

    1. @Bandini: thank you for your little word, happy that my posts please you! Yes, meeting the long-liners was a highlight of this cruise ... But every time I dive I wonder if we will still have the chance to see so many things in a few years ... I remember when I started diving in Thailand Zeopard sharks (leopard sharks) were often found in the waters of Koh Phi Phi, off Krabi, they were even "common". Today, they have become a rarity ...

  2. Thrilling this dive !!!
    Staying zen while there is only blue around and sharks little fierce, it must not be easy! I imagine that with experience we gain control 🙂 I can not wait to put my head back under water!
    Again thank you for your feedback and your beautiful photos!

    1. @Claire: yes, thrilling, it's the word ... Fortunately, before this drift in the blue I had already been familiar with the behavior of the longimans during the previous dive, suddenly I was not too stressed. Vigilante, but fully fascinated, amazed ... 🙂

  3. I'm divided. Shared between your dive rich in emotions and your last paragraphs which are unfortunately quite sad. I guess it's like everywhere, there's less and less, even here?

    Wonderful photos as usual. I do not imagine the horror of seeing his camera slowly sink to the bottom of the sea. Fortunately you did not lose yours to bring us back these beautiful pictures 🙂

  4. Congratulations for this beautiful article and your beautiful photos ... I take this com to ask you a question ... I'm leaving Rajat Ampat soon. I am asked to take a specific insurance for diving (repatriation etc ...). Do you have an idea of serious company and not ruinous? Thank you in advance for your advice ...

    1. @Anne: for diving insurance, I can recommend DAN (that's what I have, you can subscribe online on their website, it's convenient, they have correspondents worldwide) or Cabinet Lafont (many French divers are at home). Good preparations!

  5. Wow great article! We read faster and faster to know what will happen with these sharks very curious 😉 A big thought also for the camera of your partner, it must have a strange effect to see him sink slowly in the depths without anything to do to recover ...
    Also happy to see that it is still possible to dive in Egypt! The media is not very reassuring for this destination ... I admit that without really knowing the situation, I do not prefer to go there, probably wrongly seen the beauty of your photos.

    1. @Anne Sophie : sorry to respond with several months late ... Zero risk does not exist anywhere, but we are no less safe in Egypt than in Paris in my humble opinion ... Egyptians working in tourism are happy to see travelers coming back and are in desperate need to resume an activity worthy of the name. For my part, I produce some of the information provided by these media "more reassuring" (I'm a journalist in real life) and I will not hesitate to go back to Egypt to dive ... 😉

    1. @Julia: watching sharks in their natural environment is an extraordinary experience, very moving, really fascinating ... The "shark" dives are not dives like the others, that's for sure.

  6. a big thank you Corinne, your article is fascinating,
    Do you know why the fascinating Sharkuterie blog has been closed for 2 years?

  7. Thank you for your very interesting, thoughtful and thoughtful testimony. I am trying at this moment to know where the cursor is between "carelessness" and bad interpretations as soon as it starts to have contact. I currently dive with lemons sharks and I had a not very nice experience of a big lemon that came up from the bottom to come to turn and seek contact while I was shifted a few meters from the pool in open water.

    1. @ Loïc: yes, lemons sharks are also sharks rather inquisitors and not too frightened by the man. It is better to avoid being separated from the team when there is one prowling ... Faced with a wild animal, caution is always required, and the "cursor" is not easy to adjust. Fortunately, this lemon too curious did not push further his "explorations" ...

  8. What meeting, I did not know this shark, I hope I can see it underwater one day.

    The video is explicit, we take photos before everything even if the shark is a few centimeters away from you.

    Bravo

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