RAGGED TOOTH / SAND TIGER / GREY NURSE SHARK
Where you can see them:
Protea Banks | Aliwal Shoal
RAGGED TOOTH / SAND TIGER / GREY NURSE SHARK SOUTH AFRICA
Raggies are found on Aliwal Shoal, off the coast of KwaZulu/Natal, about an hours drive south of Durban, from July through October. When on a Raggie dive you can also expect to encounter Dusky Sharks, Blacktips and if you are really lucky, a Bull or Zambezi Shark.
All “Raggie” diving is done on scuba and we usually do the first dive at first light so as to be the first group of divers on the reef, as this is when we “catch” the Raggies resting. As more and more divers descend on to the reef they tend to frighten the “Raggie’s” off. After the first dive, we return to our B&B for surface interval time and a hot English breakfast before going out for the second “Raggie” dive of the day. Sometimes we may do a 2 tank dive without coming back for breakfast. SIT is done on the boat.
The modus operandi is that after a light breakfast of muffins, fruit, cereal and juice you will assemble at the dive centre which is situated on the premises of the B&B for dive planning and to kit up for the first of your two scheduled “Raggie” dives of the day. Once the formalities have been dispensed with you will be transferred to the Umkomaas River mouth from where we will launch the “Rubber Duck” or Zodiac and head for the Shoal. A river mouth launch at Aliwal is often likened to “white water rafting in a wetsuit”. The launch itself is an adrenalin rush!!
Once over the reef you will don your BC, fins and mask and do a backward roll into the ocean and descend to the sandy bottom where the group will assemble and under the guidance of the Dive Master and one everyone is down you will all head off in search of the “Raggies”. Your dive master will have a pretty good idea of exactly where they are to be found as he has more than likely do the same dive the morning before, and Raggies being creatures of habit, return to the same location every night to rest.
As a diver get low on air, usually at 50 bar, they ascend up the buoy line which is held by the DM to the dive boat above which constantly keeps the buoy in view. Once on the surface, you pass your tank and fins to the shipper who will secure them on the boat and then he will help you back into the boat. Once all the divers and the DM are back on board the skipper will head back to the Umkomaas River Mouth where he ties up and joins you for breakfast at the B&B. After breakfast and SIT you will change tanks and head back to the river mouth for your second “Raggies” dive for the day. After the dive, you will return to the B&B and the rest of the day is free.
Heavy-bodied; short pointed snout; small eyes. The anal and 2 dorsal fins are almost the same size. The body is light brown, often with darker blotches. Larger specimens have a prominent hump in front of the first dorsal fin. A protruding set of teeth gives this specimen its name. Each tooth is slender, with a very small cusp on each side; a complicated tooth count.
It favours shallow, inshore waters. Juveniles are common in the Eastern Cape, where they may enter estuaries. The mature females migrate between northern Zululand and the winter nursery grounds in the Eastern Cape.
In South Africa, mating takes place inshore along the KwaZulu-Natal coast in October and November. The females carry scars from mating bites. Aplacental viviparous development; as a result of intrauterine cannibalism only 2 pups are born at about 70 cm in winter in waters south of KwaZulu-Natal.
The teeth are designed for seizing a variety of fish and small sharks which are usually swallowed whole. It may feed co-operativly in packs on a variety of shoaling fish including small tuna.
It is slow moving and is not regarded as dangerous unless provoked or aroused by a speared fish. It swallows air to overcome a natural negative buoyancy. Unlike most other large sharks it can actively pump water over its gills; survival in captivity is therefore excellent. Smaller specimens are often seen on Aliwal Shoal. It is known as a sand tiger (USA) and a grey nurse shark (Australia).
The likelihood of encountering a “Raggie” or Sand Tiger or Grey Nurse Shark when on a diving safari to South Africa?
“Raggies” or Sand Tiger or Grey Nurse Sharks are found in great numbers on Aliwal Shoal and on Protea Banks. “Raggies” or Sand Tiger or Grey Nurse Sharks are also “target” species” for “baited shark dives off both Aliwal and Protea, and are also “target” species” when doing an Aliwal or Protea Reef Dive. As with all Sharks in South Africa, “Raggies” or Sand Tiger or Grey Nurse Sharks are seasonal. The best months in which to encounter “Raggies” or Sand Tiger or Grey Nurse Sharks is July thru October, which are exceptionally good months! November, December, January, February, & March being being “average months during which to encounter “Raggies” or Sand Tiger or Grey Nurse Sharks. The months April, May & June are notoriously poor “Raggies” or Sand Tiger or Grey Nurse Sharks months. Refer to Dive The Big 5’s Shark Timetable
Please note that the Sharks have not read this timetable so they have no idea where they are supposed to be, and when. This Timetable is purely a guide!
Remember, our daily average winter month temperature is higher that the UK average summer month temperature.