Diving With Hammerheads
You will see individual sharks, groups of 4-5 sharks, large schools numbering 100 or more sharks – and during Manta Season you can even see the sharks form a solid wall of hammerheads.
But, hammerhead sharks are a bit skittish – and while you’ll have no problem getting close enough to see them clearly – getting a good shot or video clip can be challenging.
What’s the secret(s) to getting close to hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos?
1. Never Swim Directly at The Sharks – It’s a waste of effort – and you won’t get any closer to the sharks! Remain as motionless as possible unless you simply want to see how fast they are underwater (and they are very, very fast). Moving directly towards the sharks only spooks them away.
2. Stay Close to the Reef: The reefs in Galapagos are essentially composed of hard volcanic rock and boulder substrate – but are encrusted with thriving live corals. But there’s plenty of places to “hide” without ever coming into contact with the reef! The hammerheads nearly always swim from one direction, so once you’ve seen a couple of them at the beginning of the dive, you will surely see more following from the same direction. Stay hidden behind some boulders, peek out from time to time, and have your camera ready You’ll get the shot with patience.
3. If you Have to Swim, Swim Parallel to the Sharks: Moving parallel to the sharks doesn’t seem to affect them as much as swimming directly at them. But SCUBA bubbles do seem to affect the hammerheads – and they typically will move out of range.
4. Remember to look Up/Left/Right: While you’ll see literally hundreds or thousands of hammerheads during your stay at Wolf and Darwin Islands, you only need to get real close a couple of times to bring home a fantastic shot or clip. Be patient -
5. Respect the Environment: The currents and underwater topography found in Galapagos make diving with gloves a must. But – please use care when coming into ANY contact with the reef. We do recommend that divers not come in contact with the reef with their hands or fins unless absolutely necessary. Please dive with an ocean mind.
In addition to basic photo and video tips which apply to most u/w encounters, here are a couple that will help you capture the perfect hammerhead shot:
1. Don’t Use Autofocus – While it’s convenient for many common u/w shots, you probably won’t have time to allow your camera to automatically acquire the right focus with hammerheads. While hammerheads are always around you in Wolf and Darwin – very close encounters happen quickly. Manually pre-set your camera focus to 3 – 5 feet – and take the shot when the hammerhead swims into view.
2. Choose the Best Angle of Approach - You can sometimes get very lucky and have a hammerhead approach you head-on (the position of their eyes creates a small “blind spot” in front of them (also why they undulate when they swim). If this happens to you – just relax and let it happen. Approaching them from the side or even from below also works much better than swimming directly at them.
3. Maintain Camera Position: Quick movements to re-align your camera will also cause the hammers to move away. So you want to move your camera in “slow motion”. It is difficult to remember this one when you’ve got the opportunity for the perfect shot – but in order to get it you will have to move slow.
Patience does win the day when taking pics and video of hammerheads. The very best pictures will be taken from the 3 – 5 ft. range. And, while you’re diving with hammerheads in Galapagos, always remember there’s always another hammerhead on the way! Good Luck and please share any great pics or clips with us.