Zambezi Sharks, Carcharhinus leucas – or Bull Sharks as they are known elsewhere… “Zambies” as they are called locally are almost a constant year-round presence at the Protea Banks. They can be seen on most dives, but are most common from November through to July.
Zambezi Sharks of Protea Banks – The Name
They take their name from Africa’s fourth-largest river, the Zambezi, where they have been seen over 1000 miles from the coast. Carcharhinus leucas are the only species of salt-water shark that can exist for long periods in freshwater.
Zambezi’s are large and robust bodied sharks with distinctive broad, flat snouts. And their overall appearance, together with their small eyes and general demeanor, is why they are called “bulls” elsewhere! Their average length is around 2.3m, but larger ones are not uncommon and the biggest captured was a 4m long female.
Zambezi Sharks of Protea Banks – Are They Dangerous?
Zambezi sharks are rated as the third most dangerous shark in Southern Africa after Great Whites and Tigers. And, as in other parts of the world, they are believed to be responsible for most shallow-water attacks on swimmers and bathers.
They are a very regular feature of the Protea Banks and while not as common as Oceanic Blacktips are seen on most dives.
Encounters with Zambezi’s come in two flavors… First there are the random ones on both the northern and southern pinnacles. These are fairly common and can be quite interactive experiences as the Zambies are often very inquisitive!
The area is rich in tuna and the sharks seem well fed generally. So they are not aggressive – just nosy….
The second type of encounter is on the baited dives. Where it is normal for between 5 to 10 Zambies to gather some 15m below the bait box at a depth of around 25m. Often they stay there and if you go down to get closer, so do they and before you know where you are 40m is approaching!
But occasionally they will come up. At which point the Oceanic Blacktips will quickly fade in to the background and the show belongs to the Zambesi’s!
They really are an impressive, if somewhat intimidating shark. They show no fear or hesitation when they do come close and the encounter is clearly being conducted on their terms. Very exciting stuff!