The Nurse Sharks of Hol Chan Marine Reserve are one of the attractions for many who sail with us on our full day sailing trip. These sleek light brown sharks are not as monstrous as they first appear. I mean it’s a very practical and natural reaction to freak out when you see these guys close up, but under the care and guidance of our tour guides the Raggamuffin guests are introduced to these “gentle” sharks. These sharks can grow up to 4 meters and weigh in at 300 lbs. They are lucky sharks as they live in the reserve and they hang in the shallows, they can rest upon the bottom in the soft turtle grass and nap all day. They often sleep in sharks piles all on top of each other.
Nurse sharks are nocturnal feeders; they eat fish, squid and octopus but will eat shellfish if it’s around. I watched a nurse shark messing around in a coral head and when I moved him away found that he was trying to get at an octopus, which I then pointed out to my snorkelling guests!
This shark can live for 25 years so most of the sharks at Hol Chan have been swimming with people their entire lives; they know we are “friends not food”.
To indentify a nurse sharks check for super long tail fin and double dorsal fins. They are light brown fish with a small under turned mouth. Layers of small serrated teeth sharp enough to do damage, and they have barbells like a catfish.
My guess is they are called Nurse Sharks because of the suction ability they have for eating. I tell my guests “they can suck yer brains out of your eyeball sockets, so don’t get kissy face with them!”