We are often asked what kind of sharks can be seen in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
The BIG gun is the Whaleshark – Rhincodon typus.
Throughout March and April these beautiful creatures can be seen within the TAR Park when their migration paths bring them to our region.
Easily identified they are the largest fish in the ocean growing up to approx 18m in length.
Dots and lines pattern their huge bodies and they are generally seen here close to the surface waters.
A resident Shark species in the TAR Park is the Black Tip Reef Shark Carcharhinus melanopterus (image above left, photographed on a local dive site)
As its name suggests, the tips of the shark’s pectoral fin and dorsal fin are black, with a white underside.
We often see very cute and harmless Juvenile Black Tip Reef Sharks in our bay at Gaya Island.
Another resident and fairly commonly encountered Shark is the Bamboo Shark / Brown Banded Cat Shark – Chiloscyllium punctatum. (Bamboo Sahrk: Image below)
To an in-experienced eye the the Bamboo Shark is often mistaken as a Juvenile Nurse Shark – Ginglymostoma cirratum (Nurse Shark: Image below right)
However once you’ve encountered both Sharks and with a little bit of knowledge and experience the Bamboo Shark can be easily identified.
Both Sharks are nocturnal hunters. Nurse Sharks are a larger and bolder Shark, they can be seen resting on the seabed or beneath coral blocks but they do not need to hide away for protection particularly once they have reached maturity.
Whereas the much smaller and timid Bamboo Shark will hide deep in the coral reef during the day, seeking protection from larger predators.
The body of a Bamboo Shark is noticeably slender, especially when compared to the head whereas the Nurse Shark has a very chunky body, as wide if not wider than its head, (notice the head and body shape of the Nurse Shark on the plate below left).
A very quick and easy way to recognize a Bamboo Shark is to look at the gill slits – they are edged in white, differentiating them from the Nurse Shark.
A Juvenile Bamboo Shark has brown bands along the body, as the shark matures these lines fade to a solid grey.
Most often young Nurse Shark have tiny spots which usually fade to a solid dark / grey / brown solid colour as the Shark matures.
Nurse Sharks can grow to 4m in length and are not seen in the TAR Park, their known distribution is Western Atlantic Ocean and Eastern Pacific, a closely related species lives in the Indian Ocean.
The Bamboo Shark grows to approx 1.2m and can be found throughout Indo – West Pacific.
Very occasionally we may see other species of Shark and by nature all are harmless to humans – unless provoked.