EXPEDITIONS > Sharks of the Neptunes

Sharks of the Neptunes

Great white sharks

The great white sharks we see at the Neptune Islands are seasonal visitors to the islands, and their presence there is timed around the large breeding  colony of New Zealand fur seals. The sharks do not "live" at the islands, but stop off on their migratory pathways to provision on the seals. Some sharks can pass through the islands staying only a few hours, whereas others  can take up temporary residnecy over a couple of months. Often we see the same sharks year after year at a similar time each year. We get to k now these sharks and their different personalities. A large photographic database is held by the Fox Shark Research Foundation housing over 10 years of photographic images of every shark that we have seen (to read more about this project click here). The regular sharks we get to know very well and we eagerly await their return season after season. It is these regular sharks that we use for our standard shark sponsorships. Each shark is unique in many ways and can be identified quite easily, all of which is explained in our onboard talks.

To learn more about the biology and behaviour of white sharks, click here


Size Matters!

The sharks that we see are the ones who "specialise" in seals. This means that we don't typically see juvenile sharks who, in their early years, feed mostly on fish, but see the sharks that have grown enough to shift to a diet of mammals, usually at around 2.5m in length. We see a lot of sub-adult and fully mature sharks in  both seasons, typically around the 3.5-4.5m length and in winter from May-August is when we see the giant female sharks! At their maturity they are over 5.5m a truly a sight to behold! To read more about shark size, click here.

So why do the sharks visit the islands seasonally? The seals have an annual breeding cycle that the white sharks seem to have worked out! In December, pups are being born and, not long afterwards, the mums are ready to mate again and so the large bull seals visit the islands from November, with chocolates and flowers in hand....hmmm well maybe not... it is this seal activity that effectively gives us our "summer season" with the great white sharks.

The pups who grow up to be big and strong start their swimming lessons around May, also the time of the year that the giant female sharks turn up.... the shallow waters in the bays around the islands are full of sleek, black, slippery forms practicing their diving and hunting skills, and are easy pickings on the white sharks' dinner menu. Once these cuties have mastered everything they need to know to make their own way in the world, they leave the islands and their mums around October time.


Other Shark Species

In the summer months, we are often treated to visits by bronze whalers, sometimes whole schools of them, with their dazzling golden colouring and inquistive natures. Other shark species include the oceanic blue sharks and short fin mako sharks, picture above.