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 are a fantasy for diving enthusiasts. These sharks are really impressive. I met them (again) during a fabulous cruise in Indonesia.

The year of the hammers

In July 2015, I had spotted them - stealthily - 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 meet hammerhead sharks again, in Indonesia (again), during a diving cruise on board the Waow, in the east of the archipelago, in the Banda Sea. This time, the show is less stealthy!

This year 2015 is definitely the year of the hammers, in my little diving life...

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.

Updated February 2018. The Waow, this magnificent cruise-diving boat that used to sail the waters of the Indonesian archipelago, and on board of which I had the chance to embark in 2015, does not exist anymore... 😢 It unfortunately burned and sank, in the bay of Cenderawasih, in Indonesia, in the night of January 31 to February 1, 2018. I refer you to the message published on their Facebook page and on their site.

That said, as far as underwater photos are concerned, I am not spoiled: on each of our "hammer" outings, from the Banda archipelago to Kurkap Island, the vision is rather rotten and my autofocus is not able to focus in this water...

The Waow itinerary for this cruise, from Ambon to Sorong.
Waow's itinerary for this cruise, from Ambon to Sorong.

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

As a result, I didn't manage to take a single hammerhead shark picture... I must admit that Indonesian waters are probably not the most favorable to photograph these beasts - and I was told promising names like Galapagos, Cocos Island, Bahamas... So many destinations to put on my "bucket list" of diver!

In short, the only images I have to offer you are actually screenshots, from the movie made by 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 have fond memories of my first real face-to-face encounter with a big hammerhead, at the Karang Hatta site, in the Banda archipelago, at the beginning of the cruise. He appeared in the middle of the blue mud, right in my line of sight, but left immediately without asking for help. No time to take his picture... Frustrating.

After the dive, Refly, guide on the WaowIt is a good alternative model. But, how to put it... It's much less impressive. 😆

One of our guides, Refly, dressed as a hammerhead shark... :D
One of our guides, Refly, dressed 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 meet hammerheads. But you have to move away from the reef and swim in the "blue" to hope to see them... Sharks are patrolling nearby, in numbers. But weighted with my bulky cameraI don't fin fast enough and the divers at the head of the group are often luckier than me when it comes to seeing a school of hammerheads in the distance.

The most varnished among us manage 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 found myself close to a hammer, at a distance that finally allowed me to make a potentially fabulous picture, was... only 5 meters from the surface, at the end of the dive, at the stop! Incredible...

It was in the Banda archipelago, at Karang Hatta again, where we dived several times in a row. A very big shark suddenly appeared in front of us, really when we least expected it.

Surprised, I widen my eyes behind my mask by understanding that it is indeed a hammer, again: I quickly distinguish the flattened mouth, I see the left eye leering at me, a massive, powerful body, almost copper gray, the lateral movement of a long tapered tail... The whole thing scrolls 3-4 meters from me... Waooooow!!! 😮

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

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

But I am still amazed. This kind of encounter is both impressive and magical. To see such an animal evolve so closely, even for a short time, 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 really understand the crazy excitement I get at the idea of diving among these beasts.

When I came back from Indonesia, I had to explain to a colleague, who was a bit taken aback by my enthusiasm, that no, it is not dangerous. That sharks are not bloodthirsty animals that throw themselves like angry dogs on any human being near them. That, on the contrary, in bottle diving, it is often difficult to get close to them, because they are rather frightened by a group of divers 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 colleague was convinced, in all seriousness, that a shark facing a man would almost inevitably attack him. And I thought, naively, that everyone had understood - by now - 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 much good feeling as baby seals, even though they are victims of a hallucinating overfishing - mainly for their fins, allegedly aphrodisiac, which end up in soup in Asia and are the subject of a lucrative trade.

We do not realize it, earthlings that we are, but these marine superpredators are essential to the balance of the oceanic ecosystem. This ecosystem is vital for the planet. If they disappear, we are in trouble.

Nala Cat and her shaggy hat. Over 2.5 million followers on Instagram...
Nala Cat and her shaggy hat. Over 2.5 million followers on Instagram...

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

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

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

In short, I am very happy to have met so many sharks during my this cruise aboard the Waow. It is comforting. In addition to the hammerheads, we met the classic blacktip sharks, one or two thresher sharks with their huge whiptail and, in the Raja Ampat archipelago, many carp sharks or wobbegongs and even a shy bamboo shark "walker"... What to hope for.

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

I was the guest of the Waow from October 27 to November 8, 2015, for this dive-cruise named "Secrets of Seram". All opinions expressed here remain 100% my own. 

  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 his picture..."
    Too bad you couldn't bring us any shots of this fascinating animal . You must be very disappointed 😡 ...
    Like you, I share a passion for these beasts, and I'm always amazed at the reaction we get when we talk about our dives. To hear those around us tell it, we're pretty much ready for the asylum...
    So thank you for your article. Let's hope it helps to rehabilitate a little these magnificent animals still too often victims of misdemeanors. There are 100 million sharks killed every year worldwide 🙁

    1. @Gilles: No, I'm not disappointed, it wasn't my primary objective to photograph hammerheads on this Indonesian cruise, I know that nothing is ever guaranteed at sea, and I'm already quite amazed to have come across them underwater... If I want to take interesting and somewhat spectacular photos of hammerheads, it's unlikely to be in Indonesian waters, and I'll have to go diving instead at those famous sites I mentioned in the article, where it's easy to get very, very close to them, in ideal light and visibility conditions...

      Indeed, it's not easy to rave about sharks and defend the shark cause, without coming across as an ocean baba-cool, an underwater lunatic... 😆 Yet overfishing (and not just of sharks) is a very worrying reality. We're emptying the seas of their fish, it's not a figment of the imagination... I figure this modest blog post might manage to raise a few people's awareness in spite of 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: When it comes to encounters with wild animals, nothing at sea is ever predictable or guaranteed... To my knowledge, there are no reputed "hammerhead" spots in the vicinity of Gam or the surrounding islands, but I imagine that some lucky divers have spotted them in Raja Ampat's waters from time to time... In the area, on the other hand, it's not uncommon to observe large oceanic 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 for sharing your wonder... I'm keeping my fingers crossed that you'll come across hammerheads and mantas. In Raja Ampat, it seems that the latter are now becoming rarer on the (too well-known, too famous and now too crowded) spot of Manta Sandy... But with a bit of luck (and if you're in a small group underwater), you can sometimes see them pop up on other sites (as 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 by a recent article by Andrianus Sembiring in Fisheries Research.

    It's wonderful to see such carefree tourism in the Moluccas, given that in the years 1999-2002 the region was the scene of massacres organized by the Indonesian army and its Islamist militia, the "Laskar Jihad". Thousands died, and Moluccans continue to mourn to this day. In 2016, dozens of Moluccans remain political prisoners languishing in the infamous jails of Indonesia's Islamo-fascist regime.

    1. @Silvio: Unfortunately, sharks (and not only hammerheads) continue to be massively 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 known, it has committed many massacres, in the Moluccas as well as in other regions (Papua, Timor...) and continues to repress, to imprison, to kill. A violence that contrasts with the carefree nature 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.
      At least one species endemic to the Coral Triangle and facing imminent extinction. Coral Triangle countries have a special responsibility for the conservation of the region's endemic species. It is for this reason that they have received substantial funding from donor countries as part of the Coral Triangle Initiative or CTI. In Indonesia, this money is being diverted to build "research centers" without any researchers, and to finance useless meetings in luxury hotels. No measures are taken to protect the species, which our children's generation will have no chance of seeing while diving. They'll be left with photos, and a few dried or formalized specimens in dusty old museums.

    1. @Alimata: it's so nice to find a little message from you!!! Yes, you'd think I'd seen it... Thanks for posting it here. He makes some crazy images, this Nu Parnupong, a Thai who works as a videographer on the White / Black / Blue Manta cruises... (I follow them regularly on the networks, since my first cruise to 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 noted the massive increase in the presence of these tourists... and spotted a school (not so massive) of barracudas... 😳