Are There Sharks in Bali? (Types, Photos & Attacks)

Bali, Indonesia is a beautiful vacation destination surrounded by a number of seas and bordered by the Indian Ocean. Bali is an island part of the Lesser Sunda Islands south of the mainland.

Tourists from all over the world come to Bali for its rich culture, yummy seafood, exotic nightlife, and relaxing beaches with clear turquoise waters. It’s a popular destination for large gatherings, such as business retreats, weddings, and honeymoons.

There’s a lot to explore on this island with an abundance of beaches. Some of the most popular beach destinations are found in the Badung region, which is located on the southernmost tip.

In the Nusa Penida and Karangasem regions, you can find quiet tropical paradises great for snorkeling, scuba diving, and nature tours.

But with all that being sad, one big question remains:

Are there sharks in Bali, Indonesia? How safe is it to swim, surf, and snorkel in Bali?

Photo by edward stojakovic / Flickr

Some of the main types of sharks that can be found in the waters around Bali are:

  • Blacktip reef sharks
  • Whitetip reef sharks
  • Grey reef sharks
  • Indonesian angel sharks
  • Grey sharpnose sharks
  • Bali catsharks
  • Wobbegong sharks
  • And bull sharks

Visitors needn’t be worried, as Bali sees only an average of about one unprovoked shark attack per year, usually involving surfers.

Let’s learn more about the extremely unique sharks in Bali, how common shark attacks are in Bali, and more!

Types of Sharks in Bali, Indonesia

A variety of marine ecosystems attract all kinds of sharks and fishes to the coast of Bali.

Indonesia is a part of the Coral Triangle, which is known for its diverse coral reefs. Abundant fish populations that live within these reefs provide ample food sources for Bali sharks.

The three reef shark species are the most common types of sharks in Bali. These species inhabit the coral reefs scattered along the island’s coast. Other sharks may be seen during diving adventures and other attractions, including:

Blacktip Reef Shark

The blacktip reef shark is one of the most common sharks in Bali waters. It’s a common shark species in tropical reef ecosystems. The range of this shark extends from the Indo-Pacific Ocean to the North Pacific Ocean around Hawaii.

These reef sharks are attracted to shallow coral reef zones, as their diet mainly consists of reef fishes and cephalopods. They’re not a migratory species and typically stay within their home range year-round.

Blacktip reef sharks are fairly small sharks. Most individuals average about 4 ft in length with a maximum length of 6 ft. They’re grayish-blue with distinct black markings on the tips of their fins, hence their name.

Blacktip reef sharks are considered harmless to humans and not highly aggressive. According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), blacktip reef sharks have been responsible for 14 non-fatal attacks between 1580 to present-day.

Whitetip Reef Shark

By Unknown author – Public Domain

Whitetip reef sharks occur throughout the Indian and Pacific Ocean in tropical and subtropical coastal waters and coral reefs.

These sharks reach an average length of 5 ft with a maximum weight of 40 pounds. They’re named for the distinct white markings located at the tips of the dorsal and caudal fins.

The whitetip reef shark frequents the bottom of coral reefs to feed on bottom-dwelling fishes.

Although they can be found in shallow coral and rock reefs, they’ve also been recorded at depths up to 1,038 ft.

These sharks are common where they occur. However, they’re not likely to be spotted during the day because they’re nocturnal. Whitetip reef sharks spend their days resting in groups and hunting for prey at night.

Grey Reef Shark

By Albert kok – CC BY-SA 3.0

Grey reef sharks are commonly mistaken for blacktip reef sharks because they have a similar appearance and geographic range. One distinct difference between the two is grey reef sharks lack a black marking on the tip of the first dorsal fin.

The grey reef shark occurs in the Indo-West Pacific Ocean to the Central Pacific.

These sharks inhabit coral reefs and may occur in warm open ocean waters. Grey reef sharks have been seen in aggregations during the day, but they’re solitary hunters at night.

These are medium-sized sharks that can reach up to 8.5 ft in length. They’re slow swimmers and not considered aggressive unless provoked. They’re known to be curious and approach divers entering the water.

When grey reef sharks feel threatened, they show off various threat displays. Signs that this shark feels threatened include arching of the back, lowering of the pectoral fins, and swinging the head from side to side.

They’ve only been responsible for nine attacks in modern history, one of which was fatal.

Indonesian Angel Shark

The Indonesian angel shark is a critically endangered Bali shark species. They’ve been spotted at fish landing sites around the Kedonganan region of Bali and around the coasts of other islands in the Lesser Sunda archipelago.

These sharks can be mistaken for manta rays at first glance. They have very flat bodies and heads with broad pectoral and pelvic fins.

There is little information available about the Indonesian angel shark because of its deep water habitat. Indonesian angel sharks like to hang around the continental slope, but they can also be found at the surface around rocky reefs to depths up to 13,000 ft.

This species was assessed as critically endangered in 2019 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to overfishing. Since populations are decreasing, it’s unlikely you’ll see an Indonesian angel shark in Bali.

Grey Sharpnose Shark

The native range of the grey sharpnose shark is in the Indo-West Pacific Ocean. 

The largest part of its range occurs around the coast of Indonesia, including the Greater and Lesser Sunda Islands.

This near threatened species inhabits shallow waters from the surface to depths up to 118 ft. It’s vulnerable to overfishing because its meat is harvested for fish meal.

Grey sharpnose sharks are fairly small, only reaching an average length of about 2-3 ft. They feed on various fishes, crustaceans, and cephalopods found in coral reef ecosystems.

Bali Catshark

By 出羽雀台 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Bali catsharks are reef-dwelling sharks native to the bodies of water surrounding Bali.

This unique-looking species has a sandy brown, cream, or light gray background color decorated with darker spots. They’re very small and slender. Most individuals reach no more than 1.7 ft in length.

The Bali catshark is a part of the Scyliorhinidae shark family. This is the largest shark family, consisting of more than 150 species. Catsharks are named for their oblong oval-shaped eyes.

Although these sharks occur in coral reefs, they mostly inhabit the ocean floor. They’ve been recorded at depths of more than 6,500 ft. Their deep water habitat makes them an unlikely species to encounter in Bali waters. It also makes them difficult for researchers to study.

Wobbegong Shark

CC BY-SA 3.0

Wobbegong is a common term used to refer to bottom-dwelling carpet sharks. These sharks belong to the Orectolobidae family, which includes 12 species.

Two Wobbegong shark species found in Bali include the tasseled wobbegong and the spotted wobbegong. Their range is limited to the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific Ocean.

Similar to the Indonesian angel shark, the wobbegong shark has a flattened body and head that resembles a manta ray.

Sizes can range depending on the specific species, but wobbegongs in Indonesian waters have a maximum length ranging between 4-10 ft.

Wobbegong sharks inhabit coral and rocky reefs and sandy bottoms. The tasseled wobbegong occurs at the surface to depths up to 130 ft. Spotted wobbegongs may frequent shallow waters, but can also be found near continental shelves and at depths up to 360 ft.

Wobbegong sharks are considered harmless to humans. However, they can inflict a nasty bite and there are 31 non-fatal wobbegong shark attacks reported in the ISAF. These bites often occur when wobbegongs are disturbed. They’ve been known to latch onto victims with their fang-like teeth and not let go.

Bull Shark

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The bull shark is distributed worldwide in tropical and warm temperate waters. They inhabit coastal waters and rivers. These sharks are capable of living in freshwater for much longer periods than other shark species.

Bull sharks are considered aggressive predators, and they have the track record to prove it.

The bull shark has been responsible for more than 110 attacks, according to the ISAF. They place third behind the great white and tiger sharks for most attacks.

The bull shark is a large, heavy shark that reaches lengths up to 11 ft and can weigh as much as 700 pounds. These sharks occur in shallow inshore waters of less than 100 ft. The shallow water habitat and aggressive nature of bull sharks makes them a threat to humans.

Shark Attack History & Statistics in Bali, Indonesia

According to the Global Shark Attack File incident log, there have been seven reported shark attacks in Bali between 2010 and February 2023.

All of the victims in these attacks were surfing when the attack occurred. None of the attacks were fatal.

Almost all of the attacks occurred at Balian Beach, which is located on the southwest coast of the Tabanan region.

The most recent attack occurred in July 2022 at Balian Beach. The victim suffered lacerations to the foot. Other injuries that victims suffered included lacerations to forearms and hands.

Bull sharks were responsible for two attacks that occurred in January 2017 and April 2016. Details on specific shark species weren’t recorded for the other attacks.

Although seven shark attacks might sound like a lot, this is over a 10-year span.

If you consider the frequency of shark attacks in other areas, such as the United States, it puts into perspective the rarity of shark attacks in Bali, Indonesia. There were 41 shark attacks recorded in the US in 2022 alone.

Wrapping Up

Shark attacks aren’t common occurrences in almost any part of the world. They usually occur because sharks easily confuse humans with prey.

These species are often described as dangerous sea dwellers, but they don’t like humans as food. This means they don’t purposely attack humans unless they’re confused or feel threatened.

With an average of less than one shark attack occurring per year over the last decade, it’s safe to say that shark attacks in Bali are especially rare. Most of the shark species listed here have relatively low attack numbers on record, or none at all.

So there’s no need to worry, and you can focus on enjoying the beautiful Indonesian waters! If you do spot a shark (from a safe distance) consider yourself lucky!

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Hope this helps!