German Diver Injured by Oceanic Whitetip Shark at Red Sea Reef
A German diver was 'lightly bitten' by an oceanic whitetip shark during a scuba dive at the Egyptian Red Sea reef of Elphinstone on 2 December.
According to a report from Red Sea Diving Safari posted to the operator's website shortly after the incident:
This morning (2nd December) our guests went as usual to Elphinstone Reef, a world-class reef renowned for its beautiful drop-offs, corals, marine life and in particular its pelagic marine life. One of the main aims of visiting Elphinstone for many divers is to see sharks, and it is famous for encounters with the Oceanic White Tip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus). Thousands of divers have dived with this species of shark every year, mostly without incident. Unfortunately during the dive this morning, for reasons we are still trying to find out, one of our guests was lightly bitten by an Oceanic White Tip at the back of the left arm.
Our dive guide immediately went to assist her and she and her buddy ascended to the speedboat which was already waiting directly above the divers. Our dive guide then brought the rest of the divers together to ascend to the boat to safely exit the water. The diver was given first aid treatment on a nearby Safari boat. She was brought immediately back to Marsa Shagra where the waiting car took her to our on-site medical clinic to be treated for two wounds with stitches. The guest is now back in Marsa Shagra and the authorities are investigating the cause of the incident.
Elphinstone is a large, offshore island reef located approximately 30km north of Marsa Alam. It is a popular feature on liveaboard itineraries and is also accessible from shore. Elphinstone is visited by many thousands of divers each year as one of the best places to encounter a number of species of shark, including scalloped hammerheads, grey and whitetip reef sharks, and the oceanic whitetip.
Oceanic whitetips are a favourite among the diving community, known for their inquisitive nature and close approaches. They have been responsible for a small number of serious injuries, including an incident at Shark Reef in Sharm El Sheikh – which is designated as off-limits to snorkellers – in October this year, in which a Ukrainian mother and son and their snorkel guide were bitten. Unfortunately, surgeons were unable to save the young boy's arm, which had to be amputated in hospital.
Following the 2 December incident, a Facebook post by Red Sea Diving Safari and shared by conservation group Red Sea Sharks stated that the diver bitten at Elphinstone was 'absolutely fine' and 'needed a few stitches for two wounds to the back of her left arm'. The diver is pictured relaxed and smiling with her partner after receiving her stitches.
Authorities and local dive operators are keen to stress that such incidents are rare, given the level of tourism to the region, even during the Covid-19 pandemic when numbers are far lower than usual. The risk of incidents can be further minimised by following guidelines for diving safely with sharks.