Aruba is on many people’s travel lists and no wonder. This stunning island nation has it all – a rich culture, gorgeous beaches and delicious cuisine. That’s why, pandemic aside, over 1 million people visit this country per year.
However if you’re preparing to make Aruba your next destination, it makes sense to have an understanding of the local wildlife. And wanting to know if there are sharks in Aruba is a question often on the minds of many who wish to visit this slice of Caribbean paradise.
Here we will dive into that question and more. We will let you know the different types of sharks typically spotted in Aruba, the areas they frequent, and the basic information you need to know to keep yourself safe when visiting the beautiful island.
How frequent are shark attacks in Aruba?
The most well-known shark attack in Aruba occurred in 2015 when a Venezuelan man died during his attempted rescue from a capsized boat. The man was one of seven who was being rescued by the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard after their boat had capsized off the coast of Aruba. The man was clinging to a rescue buoy when the coast guard helicopter saw him and released a rescuer winch down to him.
Unfortunately, right as the winch was being lowered, the man was attacked by a shark. The rescuers were able to reach him after the attack, but the man had suffered fatal injuries and succumbed to them later at the hospital. It’s not known what shark attacked the man, but some believe it may have been a Tiger Shark. These sharks are not common near Aruba’s shores, but are known for being an aggressive shark species.
While this story is unsettling, it’s also unusual. According to the global Shark Research Institute, there has only been one recording of a shark attack in Aruba, which is the one highlighted above. While sharks are common in Aruba, they are mostly present farther offshore in deeper waters.
There have been no recent reports of swimmers being attacked by a shark in Aruba. Despite hyped-up media reports, shark attacks are incredibly rare, and sharks are more likely to be killed by human intervention than a human is to be killed by a shark.
While shark attacks in Aruba are rare, boaters, snorkelers, and scuba divers who are visiting the deeper waters should stay vigilant as you may encounter a shark, but it is unlikely that your encounter will result in an injury or death. The three most common species of sharks in Aruba – Whale Sharks, Reef Sharks, and Hammerhead Sharks – are all typically non-aggressive towards humans too.
Below we give you more information on those three shark species, where they’re often found in the waters of Aruba, and some tips to stay safe when swimming and snorkeling.
Common Species of Sharks in Aruba
As an island country within the Caribbean, Aruba is home to some varieties of shark species. The most common types of sharks you may encounter in Aruba are reef sharks, whale sharks, and hammerhead sharks.
When visiting the waters around Aruba, it’s important to respect the area and remember that sharks play a vital role in the ecosystem of the ocean. Shark attacks are rare, particularly unprovoked attacks, so you should not be fearful and instead enjoy seeing these beautiful animals. Learn more about the different types of sharks you could encounter here.
1. Reef Sharks
Reef sharks are common in the coral reefs that can be found in the Caribbean ocean surrounding Aruba. As the top predator, reef sharks play a very important role in the reef communities, so much so that the World Wildlife Fund has classified them as one of the most important species on the planet.
Reef sharks ensure that the marine ecosystem stays in balance. The reef sharks found around Aruba grow up to about three feet in length. While they can be a threat to humans, it’s more likely that the reef shark would be killed by humans as their meat, leather, liver oil, and fishmeal are highly valued. The reef shark is known to avoid human interaction and typically doesn’t pose a threat to scuba divers, snorkelers, and swimmers.
2. Whale Sharks
The whale shark is the largest fish in the sea, measuring up to 32 feet in length! Whale sharks typically live offshore but will sometimes come shoreside into lagoons or coral atolls. Whale sharks have very narrow throats, meaning they typically feed on very small marine animals.
They also use the “filter feed” method of eating, similar to that of whales. Whale sharks are considered endangered due to the risks of being entangled in fishing nets, boat strikes, and ingesting microplastics.
These incredible creatures are considered gentle giants by marine enthusiasts and are of very little threat to humans. In fact, whale sharks are incredibly social and many divers report hitching a ride on the fins of whale sharks, and the most common injury to humans from whale sharks is getting hit by their large fins.
3. Hammerhead Sharks
Hammerhead sharks are probably the most easily identifiable shark due to their hammer-like head. Depending on the species, some hammerhead sharks can be as small as thirty-five inches in length, or as large as twenty feet!
These sharks are known to frequent tropical waters and consume a wide variety of fish, with some species even eating crabs and shrimp. Hammerheads are typically spotted along continental shelves and coastlines and are very rarely seen in the deep ocean.
Unfortunately, hammerhead sharks are at some of the highest risks of extinction because their fins are considered a delicacy in many countries. Without their fins, the hammerhead shark is unable to swim and dies.
Hammerheads attacks on humans are incredibly rare, making them a favorite site for many divers. Hammerheads who are agitated by humans will provide warning signs, like wild contortions, before they will attack.
Sharks in Aruba: Safety and What You Need to Know
Make sure you have the proper equipment
Swimming in the ocean is one of the most enjoyable parts of any tropical retreat. To make sure you fully enjoy your trip and are safe while doing so, make sure you are wearing the right equipment.
If you are snorkeling in deeper waters, fins and goggles are a must. If you would rather scuba dive, it’s advised that you check with local experts before embarking on your own trip, or book a tour with a group who is familiar with the waters and can provide all necessary equipment.
Stick to darker colors
Sharks have a monochromatic vision, and they tend to be very interested and curious about high contrast areas.
Therefore it is best to avoid very brightly colored gear like white, yellow, or other bright colors because they will stand out against the natural, darker colors of the ocean. Stick to blacks and blues which will blend in with your surroundings, so you will too!
Sharks aren’t actually attracted to human blood
This may come as a shocker, but the belief that sharks are attracted to blood is actually false. Sharks have poor eyesight but amazing senses of smell, and yes, they can detect the smell of blood from miles away.
However, scientists have done experiments and found that sharks do not react to human blood and are far more likely to react to a bleeding marine animal that they would like to typically snack on.
If you encounter a shark, make eye contact
A surprise encounter with a shark can be very unsettling! Your gut reaction will be to swim away as quickly as possible, but doing so will encourage the shark to view you as prey.
Instead, focus on showing the shark that you are a predator, not prey, by making eye contact with them and showing them that you are confident and aware of your surroundings. However, don’t stick around too long – after initial eye contact make sure to survey your surroundings again to ensure there aren’t other sharks around.
Notice the shark’s body language
Like we mentioned with the hammerhead sharks, sharks who are going to attack will typically give physical warning signs before doing so.
If the shark is arching its pectoral fins, opening its mouth, or making other sudden jerky movements, slowly back away from the shark and put some space between you and the animal. It’s important to avoid splashing or making noise which will make them view you as prey.
As mentioned above, the overwhelming majority of sharks are not interested in interacting with humans, and those who tend to be quite social, like whale sharks.
While you may encounter a shark, especially if you are scuba diving or snorkeling, it’s unlikely that your encounter will result in an attack. Stay aware of your surroundings, avoid rapid movements, and make eye contact to establish yourself as a predator to the shark, and you may find that you go home with a great story about your shark in Aruba encounter.
Sharks in Aruba: Our Final Thoughts
Shark attacks in Aruba are incredibly rare, and it is unlikely that you will be in a situation where you feel unsafe and threatened by a shark in Aruba.
However, the best way to address any travel is to be completely prepared, so it’s important to know where and what types of sharks in Aruba you may encounter on your vacation. By researching the area you are visiting, relying on local guides, and always staying aware of your surroundings, you are sure to have a great experience enjoying the beautiful white sand beaches of Aruba.