Hammerheads. Kurkap Island, Maluku, Indonesia, October 2015.
Hammerheads. Kurkap Island, Maluku, Indonesia, October 2015.

These sharks are driving me crazy.


  Indonesia: Banda + Raja Ampat - Oct-Nov 2015

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

Hammerhead sharks make fantasies for diving fans. These sharks have mouths, it must be said. I met them (again) during a fabulous cruise in Indonesia.

The year of the hammers

In July 2015, I had glimpsed them - furtively - during a dive south of Lombok, the neighboring island of Bali, at the famous site called The Magnet.

Three months later, I had the chance to encounter hammerhead sharks again, in Indonesia (again), during a diving cruise on board the Waow, in the eastern part of the archipelago, in the Banda Sea. This time, the show is less stealthy!

This year 2015 is definitely the year of hammers, in my little life as a diver...

Hammerhead shark bank. Maluku, Indonesia, October 2015.
Hammerhead shark bank. Maluku, Indonesia, October 2015.
Hammerheads. Kurkap Island, Maluku, Indonesia, October 2015.
Hammerheads. Kurkap Island, Maluku, Indonesia, October 2015.
Waow burning

Updated February 2018. The Waow???? Unfortunately, this magnificent diving cruise ship that used to sail the waters of the Indonesian archipelago, and on which I had the chance to embark in 2015, no longer exists... ???? Unfortunately, it burned and sank in the bay of Cenderawasih, Indonesia, during the night of January 31 to February 1, 2018. I refer you to the message published on their Facebook page and on their site.

Having said that, when it comes to underwater photos, I'm not spoiled: on each of our "hammer" outings, from the Banda archipelago to Kurkap island, the visi is rather rotten and my autofocus is slipping, unable to manage the focus in this heavy water...

The Waow route for this cruise, from Ambon to Sorong.
The Waow route for this cruise, from Ambon to Sorong.

(For non-divers: underwater "visibility" can be very changeable and can vary from just a few meters to more than 25m, from one site to another, from one day to another, sometimes even from one hour to another, depending on suspended particles and plankton, linked to currents, tides, weather, etc.). Sharks can only be seen at the very last moment, they seem to emerge from the greenish blue "fog" of the water.

As a result, I haven't been able to take a single photo of hammerhead sharks... I have to admit that Indonesian waters are probably not the most favourable for photographing these animals - and I've been given promising names like the Galapagos, Cocos Island, the Bahamas... So many destinations to put on my diver's bucket list!

In short, the only images I have to offer you are in fact screenshots, from the film made by the videographer of the Waow, Steffan Kilby...who managed to get closer to them than I did. With his permission, I will give you an excerpt below.

Face to face with the sharks

I keep a moving memory of my first real face-to-face with a big hammer, at the Karang Hatta site in the Banda archipelago, at the beginning of the cruise. It appeared in the middle of the blue mud, right in my line of sight, but immediately took off without asking for the rest. There was no time to take his picture... frustrating.

After the dive, Refly, guide on the Waowis a good alternative model. But, how can I put it... It's much less impressive. 😆

One of our guides, Refly, disguised as a hammerhead shark ...: D
One of our guides, Refly, disguised as a hammerhead shark ...
Do you know the sign of divers to report hammers?
Do you know the sign of divers to report hammers?

Several times, during our different dives in the Banda Sea, we will encounter hammers. But we have to move away from the reef and swim in the "blue" to hope to see them... The sharks patrol nearby, in numbers. But weighed down by my bulky cameraI don't swim fast enough, and the top divers are often luckier than I am at seeing a shoal of hammers in the distance.

The most varnished among us manage however to get close enough to them, especially around Kurkap, a small isolated island in the Moluccas, between the Banda Sea and the Seram Sea.

Hammerheads. Kurkap Island, Maluku, Indonesia, October 2015.
Hammerheads. Kurkap Island, Maluku, Indonesia, October 2015.

As for me, the only time I really find myself close to a hammer, at a distance that finally allows me to make a potentially fabulous picture, is... at only 5m from the surface, at the end of the dive, at the landing! Unbelievable...

It was in the Banda archipelago, at the Karang Hatta site again, where we dived several times in a row. A very large shark suddenly appeared in front of us, just when we were least expecting it.

Surprised, I open my eyes behind my mask, understanding that it is indeed a hammer, again: I quickly make out the flattened mouth, I see the left eye staring at me, a massive, powerful body, almost coppery grey, the lateral movement of a long tapering tail... The whole thing scrolls 3-4 meters away from me... Waooooow !!!! 😮

A large shark shark, intimidated, away from divers ... Moluccas, Indonesia, October 2015.
A large shark shark, intimidated, away from divers ... Moluccas, Indonesia, October 2015.

The time to point the camera, to try a focus, to launch the video mode, the beast is already only a vague shadow of a shark in the bluish fog...

But I still marvel at it. This kind of encounter is both impressive and magical. Seeing such an animal evolve so closely, even for a short moment, is worth all the reports of National Geographic ! The hammers really enchanted our first dives.

Return of the divers aboard the Waow. Maluku, Indonesia, October 2015.
Return of the divers aboard the Waow. Maluku, Indonesia, October 2015.

Sharks and men

My non-diving friends don't quite understand the crazy excitement of diving among these animals.

On my return from Indonesia, I have to explain to a colleague, who is a little taken aback by my enthusiasm, that no, it is not dangerous. That sharks are not bloodthirsty animals that throw themselves like angry monkeys at any human being in their vicinity. On the contrary, it is often difficult to get close to them when they are bottle diving, as they are rather frightened by a long line of sharks continuously releasing strings of noisy and sparkling bubbles. I can see that what I am saying surprises him.

→ See: all my articles on sharks

Hammerheads. Kurkap Island, Maluku, Indonesia, October 2015.
Hammerhead sharks near Kurkap. Moluccas, Indonesia, October 2015.

My sister was convinced, in all seriousness, that a shark in front of a man almost inevitably attacks him. And I naively thought that everyone had understood - by then - that Spielberg's film, Jaws (1975), was fiction.

I don't think so. Most people don't know anything about how sharks actually behave. And minds are still scarred by the terrible stories of shark-bitten surfers and swimmers, such as in the meeting or in Australia. These dramas are fortunately very rare and sharks kill much less than mosquitoes, crocodiles, bees or snakes. But the sea is a wilderness, impossible to domesticate. There will always be areas and certain conditions that present some risk for swimmers and surfers.

My green minute

As a result, sharks are not likely to inspire as many good feelings as baby seals, even though they are victims of a hallucinating overfishing - mainly for their fins, allegedly aphrodisiacs, which end up in soup in Asia and are the subject of a lucrative trade.

We don't realize it, earthlings that we are, but these marine super predators are indispensable to the balance of the ocean ecosystem. itself vital to the planet. If they disappear, we're in trouble.

Nala Cat and her shark cap. More than 2.5 million subscribers on Instagram ...
Nala Cat and her shark cap. More than 2.5 million subscribers on Instagram ...

I know that between a shark and a cute cat, people will always prefer a cute cat...

But I prefer the not cute shark, alive and as big as possible, a sign that it has managed to reach a certain maturity that will allow it to reproduce.

One thing is certain, when there are no more sharks in the oceans, it will be the beginning of the end. Beans, cute cats and humans.

Anyway, I'm glad I came across so many sharks during the this cruise aboard the Waow. It comforts. In addition to the hammers, we met classic black tip sharks, one or two fox sharks with their huge whip-tails and, in the Raja Ampat archipelago, a lot of carp sharks or wobbegongs and even a shy "walking" bamboo shark... hopefully.

Bamboo shark "walker".
Bamboo shark "walker".
Wobbegong, or "bearded carpet shark".
Wobbegong, or "bearded carpet shark".

I was a guest of the Waow from 27 October to 8 November 2015, for this diving cruise called "Secrets of Seram". All the opinions expressed here remain 100% mine. 

  Indonesia: Banda + Raja Ampat - Oct-Nov 2015

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  1. Hello Corinne
    As Claude François said:
    "If I had a hammer
    I'll take a picture of it ... "
    Too bad you couldn't bring back any shots of this fascinating animal . You must be very disappointed 😡 ...
    Like you, I share a passion for these animals, and I am always amazed at the reaction that provokes when we tell our dives. To hear our entourage, we are limited good for asylum ...
    So thank you for your article. Hopefully it will help to rehabilitate a bit these magnificent animals still too often victims of foul play. There are 100 million sharks killed every year worldwide 🙁

    1. @Gilles: no, I'm not disappointed, it was not my primary goal to photograph hammers during this cruise in Indonesia, I know that at sea nothing is ever guaranteed, and am already amazed to have crossed under the water ... If I want to make interesting and somewhat spectacular hammer photos, it will probably not be in Indonesian waters, I will have to dive rather on these famous sites that I evoke in the article, where it is easy to approach them very closely, in ideal conditions of light and visibility ...

      Indeed, it's not easy to be ecstatic about sharks and to defend the cause of sharks, without looking like an ocean baba-cool, an underwater illuminated... 😆 Yet, overfishing (and not only of sharks) is a reality, very worrying. We're emptying the seas of their fish, it's not a figment of the imagination... I figure that this modest blog post will maybe manage to raise some awareness despite everything.

  2. Hi Corinne,

    I'm leaving for the R4 in March but not on a cruise. Just on an island (pulau gam I think).
    Do you know if there are hammer spots nearby?

    1. @Remi: at sea, nothing is ever predictable or guaranteed, as far as encounters with wild animals are concerned ... There are no famous "hammer" spots to my knowledge near Gam or the surrounding islands, but imagine that it has already happened to lucky divers to see in the waters of Raja Ampat, occasionally ... In the area, it is however quite common to observe large ocean mantas.

  3. Hello Corinne,
    Always so much pleasure to read you and admire your photos.
    Totally agree with you.
    Seeing a shark is always a fascinating moment.
    Moreover when they approach us it is simply that they are curious to see these funny fish with large eyes prominent and in addition make bubbles ... .. !!! Ah, look exchange ... .. !!!
    Never had a hint of fear, just wonder.
    We are on our way to Raja Ampat where we will spend 15 days.
    Sharks we will see.
    Sighting a hammer would also be an unforgettable moment just like the ocean mantas we have never seen before.
    You made us dream with your mantas festival in video of the beginning of the year.
    Thank you for your good advice
    Alain & Yolande

    1. @Alain & Yolande: Thank you for your message and your shared wonder... I'm crossing my fingers that you'll come across hammerheads and mantas. In Raja Ampat, it seems that the latter are now rarer on the (too famous, too famous and now too crowded) spot of Manta Sandy... But with a bit of luck (and if you are in a small committee underwater), you sometimes see them coming out on other sites (as it was my case in early 2015 at Blue Magic). Magical and unforgettable, yes... Good bubbles !!!! 🙄

  4. Hammerhead sharks continue to be exploited outrageously for their fins in Indonesia, as shown in a recent article by Andrianus Sembiring in Fisheries Research.

    It is beautiful to see this carelessness to do tourism in the Moluccas, knowing that this region was in the years 1999-2002 the theater of massacres organized by the Indonesian army and its Islamist militias, the "Laskar Jihad". There were thousands of deaths and mourning of the Moluccans persists to this day. In 2016, there are dozens of Moluquois political prisoners languishing in the infamous jails of the Indonesian Islamic-fascist regime.

    1. @Silvio: altogether, sharks (and not only hammers) unfortunately continue to be heavily fished for their fins in Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia ... And, yes, the recent (and ancient) history of the Moluccas is bloody. The sinister reputation of the Indonesian army is well established, it has committed many massacres, Maluku as in other regions (Papua, Timor ...) and continues to repress, imprison, kill. A violence that contrasts with the carelessness of this blog dedicated to travel and scuba diving.

    2. Correct, Corinne. Among the most researched species for fins, there are several species of guitar rays (Rhynchobatus spp.
      least an endemic to the Coral Triangle and whose extinction is imminent. The countries of the Coral Triangle have a special responsibility for the conservation of endemic species in the region. It is in this capacity that they have received significant aid from donor countries under the Coral Triangle Initiative or CTI. In Indonesia, this money is diverted to build "research centers" without any researcher and to finance unnecessary meetings in luxury hotels. No measures are taken for the protection of species, that the generation of our children will have no chance to see in diving. They will have the photos, as well as some dry or formal specimens in dusty old museums.

    1. @Alimata: it's nice to find a little message from you !!! Yes, you think I saw her ... Thank you for posting it here. He makes images of madness, this Nu Parnupong, a Thai who works as a videographer on cruises White / Black / Blue Manta ... (I am regularly on the networks, since my first cruise at R4 in 2012 with the Black Manta.)
      Do you dream of diving there in the Banda Sea, then?

    2. Yes, this year we went back to Sipadan, but we were a bit disappointed by the absence of the "Massive school of barrucudaes" and the presence of a "Massive school of chinese" 😀
      NB: The turtles are still there 8)

  5. @Alimata: yes, during my last visit to Sipadan, I too had noticed the massive increase in the presence of these tourists... and spotted however a school (not so massive) of barracudas... 😳