Many words can be used to describe the Scalloped Hammerhead Shark. This apex hunter cruses about coastal warm temperate and tropical seas in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans between 46°N and 36°S from the surface to depths of 1,000 meters. It may enter estuaries or be found in the open ocean, in large groups in the Galapagos, Malpelo, Cocos and Revillagigedo Islands and within the Gulf of California. In Hawaii, on the island of Molokai, you can find groups of up to 60 or 70 sharks. However, at Molokai you are more likely to see solitary individuals or perhaps small groups of 4 to 10 sharks.
In March, I was diving with Lahaina Divers on Molokai and had one of the best shark dives ever, interacting with almost 40 sharks over the course of two dives. This dive site, off of Moku Ho’oniki rock on Molokai, is one of my favorite dive sites anywhere in the world. I have made dozens of dives on this site and while I thoroughly recommend it, it is not for the average recreational diver. While on many occasions this site can be reasonably calm (I have seen it where the surface is almost glass) it is one of the most unpredictable dive sites that I know. In fact, I have been waiting to get picked up by the dive boat, at this site, when I am literally looking down on the boat (a two decker by the way) from the top of a wave. The seas here can reach 10 feet in height or more and requires the diver to be experienced, confident, under control and above all willing to adhere to instructions given by the dive master and boat captain. If you are a novice diver, do not attempt to do this dive. I have seen inexperienced divers, break ribs and have extreme difficulty reentering the dive boat. So again, this is not a dive site recommended for anyone other than an advanced diver that has previous experience exiting and entering a dive boat while it is moving.
However, this is an awesome dive site. The drop off location is called Fish Rain, and has a depth of 30 to 40 feet at the entry point and as you descend and look up you will think it is literally raining fish. They are everywhere, the Hawaiian Dascyllus, all kinds of Butterflyfish, Angelfish, Moorish Idols, and many, many more. Dozens of individuals to large schools of schools of many types of fish inhabit this very unique environment. The site is to a depth of about 120 feet. The sharks can be found anywhere from a few feet from the surface to cruising about along the bottom. The site can have severe current, that can cause the inexperienced diver to rapidly consume their air supply. So again, this site is not for inexperienced divers.
When interacting with any shark, the key is patience. The Hammerhead shark in particular, is a fairly shy species and if you swim rapidly toward the shark you will more than likely not see much more than a brief glimpse. I have been on this site several times when an over anxious diver swims rapidly after every shadow they see and the rest of the divers do not see any sharks at all. However, if you are patient and slow in your approach you may be rewarded with a wonderful encounter.
On this particular dive, we entered at Fish Rain, in the “shadow” of Moku Ho’oniki that provides a fairly calm spot to exit the dive boat. As we descend I tend to stay on the outside shoulder of the dive master and about 30 to 50 feet from the nearest diver in the group. I am constantly looking out and down, hunting for the elusive Hammerhead.
In the distance is see several shadows coming in towards me at about 80 feet. I was hovering around 45 feet and dropped down slowly to “intercept” the group. As I was waiting for the group to get in range I looked back to my outside shoulder away from the rest of the divers and got a wonderful shot of this solitary shark coming in to check me out. I can tell this is going to be a wonderful dive. This particular individual swam with me at a distance of 10 to 15 feet from me for about 2 minutes and then gradually disappeared in the distance. I move quickly back up to about 50 feet to conserve my bottom time feeling awesome. We continued to drift with the current, which was really moving at this point, spotting several groups of 3 to 4 individuals and one group of eight sharks. I about 35 minutes into the dive, I saw another individual at about 100 feet and quickly dropped down to see if I could get some interesting shots. The black and white image above is of this shark at about 120 feet and while I was descending through about 100 feet. As I dropped down I kept checking around me and saw that four other individuals had now come fairly close to me from behind. I was able to get a nice shot of the “school” and when I turned back the other way there were six shots directly in front of me and a couple about 10 feet above me. Yahoo, what an awesome experience to encounter these marvelous creatures. I slowly started to ascend, to keep my computer out of deco, and watched as each of these groups faded slowly in the distance. During our two dives we counted well over 50 individual sights and estimate that we saw at least 35 individuals. It was an awesome dive and keeps me wanting to go back for more.
The pool is open.