Sharks are one of the most feared animals on the planet. For most people, coming face to face with a shark is what nightmares are made of. For most scuba divers it’s the exact opposite. Sharks are the top predator in the ocean, and they keep our oceans healthy and thriving. If you’ve ever dived with sharks, you’d agree that they are a thing of beauty and grace and don’t deserve their vicious reputation (way to go Jaws movies!) In fact, statistically speaking, you’re more likely to win an Oscar than get eaten by a shark.
Of the 360 or so different species of shark, one of the most fascinating and strange-looking species of shark is the hammerhead. Hammerhead sharks possess one of the most bizarre looking head shapes in the animal kingdom. As the name suggests, this shark has a head literally shaped like a hammer, and it’s believed these sharks’ heads have evolved to enhance its hunting technique. Apart from the nine species of hammerhead, all other shark species are streamlined hunters, designed like slick underwater torpedo’s. So whats the point of this species giant head?
For a while there, some scientist were adamant that hammerhead sharks would have worse sight thanks to their anatomy. Research has shown that these sharks have incredible eyesight, and the strange positioning of their eyes allows them to see both above and below them at once. They can even see behind them as they swim by moving their heads from side to side. Along with their 360 degree vision, hammerhead sharks use their long rectangular noggin’ as storage space for their highly sensorized sensory organs. A hammerheads favourite food is stingray, and rays like to rest hidden under a pile of sand. Hammerheads don’t only have amazing vision, but can detect fields of energy in the water created by their prey, using sensory organs called ampullae of Lorenzini. Their combination of eyesight and other senses we mere humans could only dream of make them an efficient and powerful predator. In addition to these more advanced adaptations, hammerhead sharks use their rectangular heads just like, well… a hammer. Once they’ve found their prey, they pin it down using their head and wallah, dinner is served!
For some reason, their bizarre looks make hammerheads one of the more-feared shark species. In reality, they are completely harmless and are fantastic and beautiful animals to scuba dive with.
Where can I dive with hammerheads?
Hammerhead sharks thrive in temperate and tropical waters globally, and can be spotted in huge groups migrating to cooler waters. While there are plenty of places you might see hammerheads, there are a few destinations that are renowned for their regular hammerhead shark sightings.
Cocos Islands, Costa Rica
Cocos Islands is a diving mecca, and the place to head to if you want to dive with hammerhead sharks and a plethora of other big sea life. Diving the Cocos Islands is where you can see hammerhead sharks in huge numbers, and is a remote untouched dive destination 550 kilometeres off the Costa Rican Coastline. Due to it’s remoteness, the only way to visit this destination is via a diving live aboard departing from Costa Rica.
The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Honestly, I feel like the Galapagos features in every ‘best place to see…’ themed article I’ve ever written (find out why it’s so special here). Another untouched and remote area, hammerheads are commonly seen here. At the favourite Wolf and Darwin Islands they can be spotted by the hundreds. These islands are a minimum of 14 hours from the mainland, so like the Cocos, The Galapagos Islands can only be visited by a dive live aboard.
Bahamas is a shark hub. Consisting of 700 different islands, there are quite a few different destinations to see hammerhead sharks, all of them boasting crystal clear, deliciously warm water. Why not jump on the yacht ‘Carib Dancer’ for an 8 day shark-filled dive extravaganza?
Rasdhoo Atoll, The Maldives
The Maldives is a picture perfect escape, and the place to go to spend some quality time underwater with hammerhead sharks. The Rasdhoo Atoll is renowned for hammerheads in large groups, however you can frequently spot these sharks throughout the Maldives. The best way to dive the Maldives is onboard a live a board, and we’ve found some of the most luxurious live aboards in the Maldives for you.
Hammerheads are one of the most bizarre, intelligent and wonderful species to call the ocean home. Seeing them is something every diver needs to have ticked off on their bucket list at some point in their lifetime.
Have any experience with hammerhead sharks you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!