Tiger Shark

By Lee Paxman




Tiger sharks are found all the way up and down the WA coast and I suppose most parts of the worlds oceans.We have seen tiger sharks range from about six foot up to at least 18 feet long. These sharks are not hard to identify as they have a very blunt head with tiger like stripe down their body, the smaller one usually have more distinctive stripes.

 photo by Scott Paxman

Dad has seen  them at Rottnest,( a holiday island 12 miles off the coast of Fremantle) close to the island. One at West End was around 15ft long and on another day he saw two 13 & 14 ft together off Narrow Neck.  We have seen many tigers at Cervantes, Jurien & Leeman, Dongara and Geraldton has many large tiger sharks that are regularly seen.

Photo by Scott Paxman


My first real experience with tiger sharks was when I was 10 years of age, my father Barry, my brother Scott, Greg & I were heading on our way to Ningaloo for my first spearfishing trip to the northwest.  We had seen on the news about the anchovies and feeding frenzies off the cliffs of Cape Cuvier. The plan was to dive outside the reef near Norwegian Bay Ningaloo and then back to Cape Cuvier to dive with the anchovies on our cousin, Dean’s boat from Carnarvon.

Photo by Scott Paxman


On arriving at Ningaloo we say that the swell was reasonably low and the wind was very light making the diving conditions ideal. I remember that I felt excited going out in the boat, it was really calm, but I also felt a lit nervous about getting in the water outside the reef. After Dad anchored the boat I could see that the water was fairly clear.  Dad and Greg got in the water then Scott, my brother, & I jumped over the side.  Greg & Dad speared some Trevally for burley. We then shifted the boat into deeper water, about 70feet on a sandy dropoff, to burley for Spanish Mackerel. 

With burley in the water it wasn’t long before sharks gathered under the boat.

Photo by Scott Paxman

After Greg & Dad had speared a couple of mackerel a large tiger shark that had been hanging around the bottom came straight up underneath me with its mouth wide open. All I could see was a big round head with all teeth showing.  As it got close to the surface it leveled out and started circling us. It was amazing how huge the tiger looked on the surface compared with it on the bottom.  The shark came too close to Scott & I so Dad poked it away with the spear in his speargun.  The shark swam off most indignantly.


After Greg shot a mackerel a few big tigers appeared there was about 5 of them. I was watching all this happen from the safety of the boat. Sometimes an advantage of having a glass panel in the floor of the boat. Dad came back to the boat and told me that Greg had shot a mackerel that a tiger shark had tried to attack.  The mackerel kept avoiding the shark by swimming in tighter circles than the shark could follow bring it closer and closer to Greg. At the point where Greg was about to grab the mackerel Dad had to push the tiger off with his speargun.  This was my first experience with tiger sharks.

Photo by Scott Paxman


On another trip to Ningaloo not so long ago, we were diving with the main aim to film mackerel and sharks and any other thing that swam our way.

This day we were diving outside the reef just north of Norwegian Bay on an edge we regularly dive for mackerel.  It was very clean, an excellent day for filming, there were fish of every kind swimming around. There were sharks everywhere so we decided to film some whalers.  Dad & Scott were spearing fish.  I was filming a tiger shark that had been mouthing a small bronze whaler on the bottom, I thought I would dive down with the camera and get as close as possible to get some good footage.  As I got close the tiger then suddenly turned and charged at me. I started back paddling and holding the camera between my legs.  (Mum said I didn’t do a very good job, I should have stuck the camera in his mouth and got a real action shot.) I thought it was definitely going to bite me.  I had the camera between me and it’s mouth so looked up to see how far it was to the surface. When I looked back it had turned away and was swimming off.  I popped up and Dad said straight away that the tiger was going to bite me.  Dah!   I kept filming but nothing

else that happened that day was as exciting.   When we got home and looked at the footage it was very clear what the tiger shark’s intentions were.  Proving that they are very unpredictable.


Dad had a frightening experience with a 13 ft tiger.  He was diving with one of his friends John Pentland at Peak Island off Exmouth.  They were cleaning mackerel at the float line at the back of the boat, in a big cloud of blood.  Dad thought that John was pushing him but when he turned around it was a big tiger shark trying to get to the fish on the float. Dad added to the clarity of the water.

Photo by Scott Paxman


Another one of our friends was living in Exmouth and was a very experienced diver. He had shot a large fish and was taking it off his spear when from behind a huge tiger knocked the side of his head and grabbed the fish from his hands.  It seems the tiger knew what it was after otherwise our friend would have been headless. Our friend did not dive for a while after that scare.