If you’re planning a trip to Corfu, you’re probably hoping to spend most of your time in the sea, which might prompt you to ask, “Does Corfu have sharks?”
Yes, there are sharks in Corfu, Greece. If you are lucky, you will spot blacktip reef sharks, blue sharks, spiny dogfish, and maybe basking sharks if you go deeper. Most of the sharks you’ll encounter will cause no harm.
In the summer, the Ionian Sea sparkles against Corfu’s golden coastline, enticing people into its brilliant blue waters.
The ocean here is warm and clear, perfect for swimming, diving, and snorkeling. It’s also alive with colorful fish and teeming with an abundance of curious species that add to the area’s vibrant tapestry.
Between the graceful sea turtles and flashy colors of the reef fish, swims a potential danger – the shark, but its presence poses little threat to holidaymakers or residents of this historic Greek island.
What Sharks Are There in Corfu?
Although there are sharks in Corfu waters, they are mostly harmless species that are more inclined to avoid people than attack them.
During the past 180 years, there have been just 15 recorded shark attacks in Greek waters, of which six occurred off the coast of Corfu.
Although most of those attacks were fatal, the frequency means you can safely enjoy your water sports and meet some marine life without worrying too much about a shark encounter.
Most divers and snorkelers want to avoid sharks, but a handful actively searches for them, hoping for a glimpse of one of the world’s top predators.
Sadly, most of the sharks around Corfu stick to deeper waters, making sightings unlikely, but there are a handful of species you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of.
#1 Spiny Dogfish
These bottom-dwelling sharks live in shallower waters, which increases your chances of seeing one. At just 40 inches long, they pose no threat to humans, even though their venomous spines could give you a nasty sting.
If you don’t see a spiny dogfish in the water, you might well come across one in a restaurant or taverna.
Spiny dogfish are often used as a substitute for the endangered school shark, which is the main ingredient of a popular seasonal Greek delicacy.
Spiny dogfish have been heavily overfished throughout the world’s oceans, and once abundant populations have now declined significantly.
#2 Basking shark
Not all Corfu sharks are predators, and there’s nothing remotely aggressive about the basking shark.
You’re more likely to sustain an injury from the basking shark’s rough skin than you are from its teeth which, although numerous, are tiny and appear to serve little purpose.
Basking sharks practice filter feeding. Scooping up gallons of water in their large mouths, basking sharks filter out hundreds of pounds of tiny crustaceans and microscopic sea creatures every day.
Capable of filtering up to 2,000 tons of water per hour, the basking shark is the second largest shark species in the world, after the whale shark.
Basking sharks travel the world in search of high concentrations of zooplankton and live in most of the world’s oceans, including the Mediterranean, of which the Ionian Sea is a part.
Basking sharks play a crucial role in maintaining the marine ecosystem’s balance, and their presence in the Ionian Sea contributes to the region’s biodiversity and overall health.
This shark species is highly migratory and often found close to shore, which increases your chances of seeing them while snorkeling off the coast of Corfu.
#3 Blacktip Reef Shark
These timid sharks moved into the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal and have since made themselves at home in its coral reefs and other inshore habitats.
Although they generally prefer shallower waters, blacktip reef sharks have been spotted at depths of up to 250 feet.
Blacktip reef sharks are timid creatures that are notoriously difficult to approach.
They pose little threat to humans and appear to bite only when mistaking a human for food. While no fatal attacks are attributed to the blacktip reef shark, studies show that they are “capable of inflicting injury.”
You have a better chance of spotting a blacktip reef shark in Corfu than you do most other species due to their preference for shallower waters.
#4 Blue Shark
Blue sharks are one of the most common shark species in the world, and yet one of the least talked about, probably because they prefer open waters to coastal regions, so rarely come into contact with humans.
Despite that, blue sharks occasionally move into bay areas and feed in the shallows, like the one spotted off Mytikas Beach’s shores last year.
Although blue sharks measure around 10 feet long and weigh over 100 kg, they’re rarely aggressive and rarely attack humans.
This eye-catching species is bright blue on the back that fades along the sides before merging into their crisp white undersides.
Their slender, cylindrical bodies can cut through the water at speeds of up to 50mph, but it’s more commonly seen swimming slowly at the surface, with its dorsal fin and tail exposed.
#5 Shortfin Mako shark
Just last month, a shortfin mako shark was spotted close to the Zante coastline, a few hundred kilometers south of Corfu.
The shark was two miles away from the coast, so posed little threat to those splashing and frolicking in the waves. Even the fisherman who spotted the shark was surprised, saying, “First shark I have ever seen in our waters.”
Although shortfin mako sharks are fast and aggressive, they rarely attack humans, preferring to use their energy and burst of speed to capture tasty morsels like swordfish and tuna.
Shortfin mako sharks have the admirable distinction of being the fastest sharks in the world, capable of hitting around 56 mph in their quest for a decent meal.
They aren’t the most common sharks around Corfu, but if you’re lucky enough to see one, you’ll appreciate its athleticism as it flies past at the speed of light.
#6 Common Thresher shark
Almost as fast as the shortfin mako, the common thresher shark uses its long tail to slice through the water at speeds of around 30 mph.
Although the thresher shark utilizes both onshore and offshore waters, it is usually seen far from shore, hunting shoals of fish that it stuns with its whip-like tail.
Like many of the sharks in Corfu, the common thresher shark is endangered and globally vulnerable, with studies indicating that large sharks such as the thresher are “at risk of extinction in the Mediterranean Sea.”
Thresher sharks aren’t particularly aggressive creatures despite being expert hunters and generally avoid humans rather than attack them.
#7 Great White shark
Of all the sharks near Corfu, the great white is by far the most dangerous. In 1951, a 16-year-old girl was killed by a great white just 150 yards from shore. This is one of just a handful of shark attacks in Corfu, most of which occurred during the 1950s.
Great whites are undeniably dangerous, but they rarely enter the coastal waters of Corfu, preferring to hunt in deeper waters further out to sea, where their prey is more abundant.
White sharks enjoy a varied diet in the Mediterranean and Ionian seas, consuming loggerhead turtles alongside dolphin, tuna, and swordfish.
They hunt aggressively, often leaping from the water to secure their prey in a violent ambush.
#8 Smooth Hammerhead Shark
This coastal shark species appears infrequently in the waters around Corfu and Greece.
With its distinctive hammer-shaped head, the smooth hammerhead reaches lengths of four meters long, making it the second largest species of hammerhead.
Unlike the smaller bonnethead shark that enjoys a largely vegetarian diet, the smooth hammerhead is a dedicated carnivore, preying on large fish, other shark species, skates, and squid.
When hunting squid, the smooth hammerhead uses electrical signals to detect its prey, which is often hidden at the bottom of the ocean.
Having detected and unearthed their prey, the smooth hammerhead pins it to the ocean floor with its hammer-shaped head before devouring it.
#9 Bluntnose Sixgill Shark
Also known as the cow shark, the bluntnose six gill is one of the most common shark species in the Mediterranean and is occasionally spotted off the coast of Corfu.
Little is known about this secretive species due to its preference for deep waters and tendency to hunt at night.
If you do happen to encounter one, you have little to fear as these sharks have little interest in humans and do their best to avoid them, often by descending to even greater depths.
#9 Sandbar Shark
Sandbar sharks are active predators that utilize tropical and temperate waters to hunt for small bony fishes and crustaceans.
Despite reaching lengths of up to 7.5 feet long, sandbar sharks prefer smaller prey and pose little threat to humans.
Despite that, there have been attacks, including one on a 12-year-old girl in Ocean City, Maryland a couple of years ago.
None of these have been fatal and are usually referred to as “bites” rather than “attacks” due to the lack of severity.
#10 Angel Shark
Angel sharks look more like skates or rays than sharks and spend much of their time buried in sediment on the ocean floor.
Hiding beneath the sand, angel sharks can ambush their unsuspecting prey, picking off tasty morsels, including bony fish, skates, mollusks, and crustaceans.
In the past, angel sharks were a popular and expensive delicacy on both the mainland and on the Greek islands, and their popularity has brought all species of angel sharks to the brink of extinction.
Once relatively abundant in both the Ionian and Aegean seas, angel sharks are now seen infrequently, and the last sighting of an angel shark in Corfu occurred over 20 years ago.
Let’s hope the conversation initiatives designed to protect these sharks prove successful so that people like you can once encounter these mysterious sharks near Corfu.
When was the Last Shark Attack in Corfu?
The last shark attack in Corfu occurred nearly 70 years ago when a great white shark attacked a young girl swimming off a yacht.
The attack proved fatal, and the 15-year-old victim’s body was never recovered. That was in 1956, just five years after a great white off the coast of Corfu island injured an 18-year-old male.
There have been just 15 recorded shark attacks off the Greek islands and coasts, six of which occurred off the coast of Corfu.
The highest incidence of shark attacks was observed in the 1950s, but researchers suspect that may be due to “increased reporting and awareness of shark attacks.”
Sightings of dangerous sharks in Corfu are extremely infrequent and have been since sightings peaked in the mid-20th century.
The only recent sighting was that of a shortfin mako shark in June, which “was spotted two miles outside the port of Zakynthos, between Kyllini and Kefalonia.”
Can you Swim with Sharks in Corfu?
No, you can’t swim or snorkel with sharks in Corfu.
Although there are numerous dive operators around Corfu, few offer excursions specifically to see sharks, probably because sightings are so infrequent.
If you want to dive with sharks, you’d be better off heading to Hawaii or Isla Guadalupe in Mexico, where numerous shark diving opportunities are available.
Despite that, Corfu’s a great destination for those who want to snorkel with turtles, soak up the sun, and sample some traditional Greek cuisine.
Are there Great White Sharks in Corfu?
There are great white sharks in Corfu, but they tend to frequent deeper waters and avoid the coastal areas utilized by holidaymakers and residents.
Sightings are rare and encounters infrequently, which is fortunate as great whites are responsible for more attacks on humans than any other species.
Nicky is a British adventurer and animal lover who spends her time exploring the natural world and writing about her experiences. Whether on horseback, underwater, running, hiking or just standing with a fishing rod in hand, she embraces everything her adopted home of South Africa has to offer.