We don’t need to tell you what a hammerhead shark looks like, because they’re probably the easiest shark to identify. But you may, however, not know about the best places to dive with hammerhead sharks. Check out these top diving destinations where the chances of spotting them are as high as they can get:
The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
A must-visit destination for divers, the Galapagos Islands are the perfect place to see pretty much anything you can think of. These remote islands are home to about 30 species of sharks and the most frequently seen here are the hammerheads. The Galapagos is part of an area known as the Hammerhead Triangle, which also includes Columbia’s Malpelo Island and Costa Rica’s Cocos Islands.
Divers can spot lone sharks, small groups, as well as large schools of hundreds of hammerheads. Most species of hammerheads in the Galapagos are scalloped, but you can also see smooth and great hammerheads. You can distinguish between these three species by looking at the shape of their heads. Great hammerheads have a notch in the center of their head, while scalloped and smooth hammerheads have a more rounded, shovel-like head.
Where: Around the islands of Darwin and Wolf. Kicker Rock and Gordon Rocks are also good spots.
When: You can spot hammerheads all year round, but the largest congregation can be seen in June.
Malpelo Island, Columbia
Malpelo is renowned for its large hammerhead population. The Malpelo Fauna and Flora Marine Sanctuary represents the largest no-fishing zone in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean. These pristine waters are crucial to several threatened species of marine animals and are considered a “reservoir” for sharks.
Around this lonely rock some 500 kilometers away from the Colombian mainland, you can swim with 200 to 300 hammerhead sharks. It definitely makes up for the fact that the trip between the mainland and this remote island takes up to 40 hours over sometimes rough seas.
Where: El Bajón, La Nevera, and Sahara are some of the dive sites where there’s almost a warranty that you will see at least a few hammerheads on every dive.
When: The best time to visit Malpelo Island and see the hammerheads is January through May.
Cocos Island, Costa Rica
How does being surrounded by hundreds of sharks during your dive sounds like? Also part of the Hammerhead Triangle, Cocos Island reportedly has the largest gatherings of hammerhead sharks in the world. These sharks come to the island to feed and get pampered by the black-nosed butterflyfish and king angelfish at the cleaning stations.
Their behavior in this environment is non-threatening, allowing very close encounters. They put up quite a show during the night when they hunt in packs searching every nook and cranny for fish. Definitely go on a night dive if you want to see these bad boys in action.
Where: Bajo Alcyone, Dirty Rock, and Dos Amigos.
When: While for the calmest sea conditions, the best time to visit is during the dry season (December through May), the rainy season (June through November) is viewed as the best season for big pelagics because of the nutrient upwellings that attract a larger number of hammerheads.
Bimini, The Bahamas
Bimini is a unique place that benefits from the rich currents that sweep up eggs and larvae along the way. The eggs and larvae then grow into lobsters, crabs, and conch, providing a source of food for large animals such as sharks and stingrays. You will find several shark species in The Bahamas, but Bimini has become famous for its great hammerhead encounters.
The great hammerhead is the largest species of hammerhead shark and can reach a maximum length of 6.1 meters (20 feet). Great hammerhead populations are declining throughout their range, but The Bahamian Government has taken action to protect these creatures. In Bimini, you’ll get consistent, close-up encounters, and long bottom times with these – dare we say – gentle giants.
Where: Hammer Headquarters, South Bimini
When: During the winter months (December-April).
Socorro Island, Mexico
The largest and most famous of the four Revillagigedo Islands, Socorro is the place to be if your dream is to dive with some of the largest pelagic species in the world. Although the main attraction of diving Socorro Island is the large population of giant oceanic manta rays, sightings of schooling hammerheads are also very common.
Where: Roca O’Neal, Hammerhead Central
When: April to June
Layang Layang, Malaysia
Located in the South China Sea in waters 2,000 meters/6,500 feet deep, Layang Layang is a remote atoll of 13 linked coral reefs. Since they experience almost no man-made pollution at all and fishing is not permitted, these are undoubtedly the healthiest reefs in Malaysia.
Scuba divers from all over the world flock to this biodiverse region for the chance to see vast schools of scalloped hammerheads. It is quite common to experience hundreds of hammerhead sharks on the dive sites around Layang Layang.
Where: D’Wall, Sharks Cave
When: March to May, during the mating season
Fuvahmulah, The Maldives
This tiny island has found fame as one of the few locations in the Maldives where divers can encounter hammerhead sharks. Solitary hammerheads can be found around Fuvahmulah year-round, although you’ll see them in higher numbers during the dry season. Sightings also rely heavily on the perfect currents. Most of the hammerhead sharks you’ll see here are scalloped but you may also spot some great hammerheads.
Where: All around the atoll
When: Visit between January and March for your best chances to see these incredible creatures.
Where in the world have you spotted hammerhead sharks?