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Nick dives with hammerheads

December 3, 2010

Gordon Rocks, Galapagos: It only takes an hour to get to Gordon Rocks from Santa Cruz island, and as we suit up for the check dive I am both excited and slightly nervous. This site is one of the best places to see many different sharks, including Tiger sharks and Bull sharks, but most famously for Hammerheads.

Gordon Rocks

After a quick check of equipment in the shallows, we head out to the dive site and everyone falls silent as we prepare for the plunge. Only the rasping of regulators and the countdown remain, and then with a backwards roll we are in the chilly water and beginning our descent. All fears of the strong currents this site is famous for evaporate as we drop to 20 metres and find the water calm and clear.

Backroll into the water

Almost immediately we see a turtle and many different types of fish, before settling on the rocks to see if today we will be lucky. I had dived the same site a week earlier and seen no sharks at all.

Turtles glide past

As everyone is adjusting their positions, we hear the rattle of the device the dive master uses to attract our attention, and sure enough we are in luck, two beautiful Hammerhead sharks cruise past about 10 meters away.

Two hammerheads swim past

I count myself as extremely fortunate to have seen them and can’t help whooping through my regulator. They gradually and gracefully disappear into the plankton rich water and I check my air and computer to keep an eye on the progress of the dive.

Very okay!

Then just as I look up, I see movement in the murk, and it’s everywhere I look. My heart rate climbs and I stare in awe as 30 or 40 Hammerheads cruise into view, heading straight for us.

Tens of hammerhead sharks swim by

It is a truly awesome sight and one I will remember for the rest of my life. As they get closer they turn slightly to avoid us, but one peels off to approach more closely, and i get a really good look at its amazing head. It must be one of the world’s most bizarre animal adaptations. Another rolls its body to show its white underside – this is a sign to the cleaner fish nearby that it wants the parasites removed from its body. They move in a sinuous and mesmerising way, independently yet as one, a school of these fish is a captivating sight.

A school of barracuda

As they too disappear into the murk we move off in search of another sighting, or to see something else. We are rewarded with a second group of Hammerheads, numbering 20 to 30 individuals and catching sight of two huge Blacktip sharks.

Pausing to look around

Just as we think the show is over, a young female sea lion joins us at 19m and it plays in our bubbles and moves in a way that makes us look clumsy and awkward, spinning and twisting around us.

Watching a sea lion dance above me

These animals move with balletic grace in the water, in stark contrast to their attempts on land, it is both hypnotic and beautiful to watch, and i’m sad when it leaves us to continue its fishing foray, yet grateful it chose to spend some of its precious energy and air playing with us.

We see many more animals on this dive and quite a few turtles, but the sharks were the unmistakeable highlight.

A marble ray

There are few places where you can see these majestic animals in big numbers, but this must be one of the best. Thanks to Scuba Iguana for a great dive, and to the unique and amazing Galapagos Islands.

Small stuff is great too: a nudibranch

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2010 5:30 am

    Wow! I’ve seen a few black-tips in Asia but nothing like those shoals of hammerheads. You lucky things.

    (I’m stuck in Koh Lanta while Maja does her scuba instructor course, so we’ll be in the dive world a lot from now on. And I’ve got into freediving too. Isn’t water cool?)

    • Gaia permalink*
      December 3, 2010 2:46 pm

      Wow, freediving! Like the Big Blue film? Well, there’s some great diving over in Belize we hear, so if you fancy heading to Central America let me know, Dan…

  2. December 3, 2010 11:27 am

    Just a quick wave from a close follower of the blog – another wonderful post and I loved the video! Looking forward, as ever, to the next instalment.

    • Gaia permalink*
      December 3, 2010 2:47 pm

      Thanks Andrew – all Nick’s work this time.

  3. December 3, 2010 11:38 am

    Terrific! Thanks for a great post.

    • Gaia permalink*
      December 3, 2010 2:47 pm

      Thanks Clare, it was Nick’s debut!

  4. attila permalink
    December 3, 2010 7:57 pm

    This is so wonderful, I am now for first time thinking maybe to dive. You are very lucky but you also are deserving your luck because of real love for the Nature.

  5. Martin permalink
    December 7, 2010 1:07 am

    Congratulations on your writing debut Nick. It was nice to see the photos again. We really enjoyed our time with you two in the Galapagos. Buenos Aires is not a patch on the natural beauty of those isles. As I had my head up my rear when we left the plane I was disappointed when Katie told me you two were heading onwards on the flight. Anyhow I look forward to reading more of your adventures and as we said before Glasgow has an open door for the three of you if happen upon it. Martin and Katie

    • Gaia permalink*
      December 7, 2010 1:22 pm

      Hey Martin, great to hear from you. Hope you and Katie are enjoying the malbec in BA – yummy. We’ll definitely be visiting you and make sure you come to see us too xx

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