Sharks in Bora Bora: Everything you need to know

Sharks in Bora Bora? Yeah, you heard it right! Bora Bora, situated in the south pacific ocean is one of the most epic destinations to visit in the world. And, one of the few natural landscapes where you find sharks & experience swimming with these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

Already getting the adrenaline rush flowing through your body? Us too! Don't worry though. In this post, we cover everything you need to know about sharks in Bora Bora.

But first thing first.

Why are so many people scared of sharks?

Jaws movie poster

There are a lot of reasons why people are scared of sharks. One of the most common reasons is because of movies like Jaws. People see movies like that and think that every time they go into the water, they're going to be attacked by a shark.

But the truth is, sharks aren't that interested in humans. Most sharks are more scared of us than we are of them!

Another reason why people might be afraid of sharks is that they're such powerful predators. They're at the top of the food chain, so it's natural for us to be a little bit intimidated by them. But again, sharks usually only attack humans if they feel threatened or if they've mistaken us for prey.

So why do some people still insist on being afraid of sharks? I think it comes down to a basic fear of the unknown. Sharks are mysterious creatures that we know very little about. And when we don't understand something, it's easy to be afraid of it.

But here's the good news: the more you learn about sharks, the less scary they become. So if you're feeling brave, why not dive into our blog section and learn all about these amazing wild animals?

Are sharks a threat to humans?

No, sharks are not a threat to humans. They are quite the opposite!

Poster about how many sharks are killed per year

Sharks are one of the most misunderstood creatures in the world and are often feared because of their reputation. However, sharks are gentle giants and pose no threat to humans whatsoever. They are vital to the health of our oceans! 

Sharks are much more likely to fear humans than we fear them. Each year, between 26 and 73 million sharks get their fins traded. More likely though, many sharks are killed at sea, but it is unquantifiable.

Over 1000 sharks will have been killed by humans by the time you finish reading this article (5 minutes).

Without sharks, the ecosystem becomes unbalanced. The food chain relies on sharks to stay in balance and for clean oceans. While sharks are efficient predators, they are also scavengers.

French Polynesia, a shark sanctuary

Black tip sharks swiming in French Polynesia

Before there used to be a saying that “sharks outnumber the people of French Polynesia”. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case anymore due to shark fishing, and generally polluted oceans.

However, since French Polynesians noticed their alarming decline, sharks became protected throughout the whole territory of French Polynesia. Fishing, as well as trade and commerce with sharks, has been outlawed.

The most common shark species in Bora Bora

Blacktip reef sharks

A Black tip shark swimming in the lagoon in Bora Bora
Black tip shark in Bora Bora

Blacktip sharks are one of the most common sharks in Bora Bora. You can easily recognize them by their black-tipped fins. These guys grow to be up to 6 feet long (up to 1.6m) and can weigh up to 150 pounds. Pretty impossible to miss, right?!

Blacktip reef sharks aren't aggressive and are mostly harmless to humans unless provoked. These reef sharks live under the green lagoons and inhabit the coral reefs filled with colorful corals.

You might find them swimming in inshore waters and if you spot one, you’ll see that they’re actually friendly and very used to the presence of people. They'll allow you to approach them and observe. Quite the show offs!

If you're worried about being on their menu, don't. The black tip reef shark species prefer to eat mainly fish and small water animals. If they feel fancy, they’d indulge in sea snakes or sea birds but not humans. 😉 

Lemon sharks in Bora Bora

You’ll also find lemon sharks in Bora Bora. Other friendly & cute marine creatures that grow up to 3m in length. You'll recognize lemon sharks by their olive-gray coloration on the dorsal fin and the pale yellowish color on the underside.

Lemon shark species are super exciting to watch and you'll usually find them cruising around the mindblowing tropical coral reefs. You can also see some small by the St James Restaurant some nights.

Are there great white sharks in Bora Bora?

No, there are no great white sharks in Bora Bora.

Instead, when going diving you might spot some hammerhead sharks, black tip reef sharks, bull sharks, whitetip sharks, gray sharks, whale shark species, plethora of tropical fish and divine coral gardens. It's a full-blown underwater tropical paradise out there!

Snorkeling with sharks in Bora Bora: Is it safe?

A boat from above with sharks around in bora bora

Oh, so many misconceptions about sharks! Here's the truth. Sharks are generally not that interested in humans. (Sorry if it hurt your feelings.)

Yet, this way snorkeling with sharks can be a safe and exhilarating experience. The sharks in Bora Bora aren't aggressive and they're used to humans. Reef sharks are quite curious and will often swim up to you to check you out. The water is so clear that the chances you can get mistaken for a prey are virtually none.

Note that they're still powerful predators and should be treated with respect. So, here are…

A few tips to help you stay safe when swimming with sharks in Bora Bora:

  1. Stay calm, enjoy, and don't make any sudden movements.

  2. Take off your shiny jewelry before entering the water. Sharks in Bora Bora can be attracted to the shine and mistake it for a fish.

  3. Also, avoid bright colors (for the same reason). Instead of white bikinis, choose darker colors like black or dark blue. 

  4. If you see a shark, don’t try to swim away right that instance. Instead, make eye contact. This will position you as a predator instead of prey. Once you’ve done that, slowly back away. 

  5. Keep your distance between yourself and the reef sharks. Sharks in Bora Bora like their personal space, so don’t risk your safety over a cool Insty picture. (Yep, I know how hard that can be.)

  6. Avoid diving at dawn. This is the shark species' feeding time when they’re actively searching for prey and could mistake you for one. The best is to go diving at midday under bright sunlight. 

  7. Always stay close to your group and avoid diving alone. You could appear as easy prey if they notice you alone. But when in a group, it’s very unlikely they’d attack you. 

  8. Make sure to go with an experienced guide. He’ll tell you all the further instructions to ensure maximum safety for an exciting experience. 

  9. Don’t forget about insurance! Check if your selected travel insurance has included adventure activities such as scuba diving and swimming with sharks in Bora Bora. Also, look for any applicable limits, conditions, exclusions, and special terms before you buy.

Can you go swimming with sharks in Bora Bora on your period?

It’s a very common thing for women to be concerned about swimming with sharks on their period. Especially, because of what we see in the movies and media.

So, if you're on your period and thinking about taking a dip in the water with sharks, you might be wondering if it's safe. The answer is yes, you can swim with sharks while you're on your period.

However, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make sure the experience is safe and enjoyable for both you and the sharks.

First and foremost, it's important to remember that sharks are attracted to blood in the water. While this doesn't mean that they will automatically attack you if they smell blood, it's important to be aware that they may be more curious than usual.

If a shark does come close, try to stay calm and avoid making any sudden movements.

Shark attacks in Bora Bora

People swimming with black tip sharks and rays in Bora Bora

In the past 50 years, there has not been a deadly shark attack in French Polynesia.

Though shark attacks are very rare, they can happen. In Bora Bora, there have been a few attacks in the past decade. The most recent one was in 2022 when a tourist was attacked while swimming near the reef. The attack was not fatal but required a few stitches.

Where can I spot sharks in Bora Bora?

The best way to see sharks in Bora Bora is to join a shark and rays tour. This way, you can be certain that you will come across them (and even snorkel with them if you feel like it).

Sharks, on the other hand, are very common here and can be seen almost anywhere.

While working in resorts, I would often see black tip sharks swimming near the common areas or near the overwater bungalows. There is even a "nursery" with tiny cute baby sharks at the Conrad, close to the bungalows 100's.

Shark feeding in Bora Bora: Pros & Cons

People looking at sharks from a boat in Bora Bora

Before you book your shark adventure, here’s all the info you need to know to make an informed decision about whether or not you’d like to support shark feeding tours (cause yes, most of the tours still feed the sharks here so they can stay around). Many people debate the ethics of shark feeding so here are all the pros & cons: 

Pros:

  • Shark tourism is getting more and more popular generating money to hire locals and give them a stable income.
  • It also helps to show locals that there’s more money to make in shark tourism than in the shark finning industry preventing them from illegal shark hunting. Sidenote: (Ever heard of the shark fin soup? In some countries, people kill sharks only for their fins and sell them as the ultimate exquisite delicacy. However, the whole giant animal dies and only a tiny part of it gets used.) 
  • Swimming with sharks raises awareness and increases compassion for them. It can also inspire travelers to push their governments to put more effort into ocean conservation and watch out more for illegal fishing practices. 
  • And, well... it's once in a lifetime thrilling experience swimming with sharks in their natural habitat.

Cons:

  • Many scientists claim that shark baiting/chumming - the process of feeding sharks with dead fish and fish scraps can change the shark’s natural behavior and disturb the natural order of the food chain. It might make them associate humans with food, become aggressive to humans, and maybe even attack people when they have no food for them. 

If you’re a bit confused now, we suggest looking for responsible tour operators that track and follow groups of sharks from a close distance. Sharks have predictable movement patterns so it’s easy to spot them at certain locations even without needing to attract them with food. 

Before booking a company, check their online reviews and experiences of other snorkelers. See if you like their values & their vibes and decide based on that.  Here are some providers we can recommend on the island for a shark and rays tour :

In summary

Diving with sharks is generally safe but make sure you always stay within your group and follow the rules and safety advice of your instructor. If you have that adventure itch, you’ll love this experience!

We highly recommend giving sharks a shot but as we mentioned before, research the tour companies and see which one stands with your values. Once you’ve done that, just book your trip and you’re good to go! 😉 

Happy swimming!

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