Well Hélène and I did see them 07.00 sharp in the morning, 06-08-1993 at Maadi Vaavu Tila in the Felidhoo Atoll, after a 4 hour boot trip from Bathala in the Ari Atol.
They had cautioned us as usual, “They don’t always come up from below. Lots of times we don’t get to see them, etc.” You need to be in the water by about 6 AM or you’ll miss ‘em! This is one of the only dives in the Maldives where you swim away from the reef out into the blue water, the fluorescent plankton in the pre dawn gloom looking like millions of stars, no torches or camera flashes are allowed as these will scare the creatures off.
You need to have good air consumption for this dive and you really need to pay even more attention to your depth. If you’re lucky, then after hanging in the open ocean for a while you may just make out a grey mass heading toward you – or is it your eyes playing tricks in this strange half light ?
So we went down to 40m and off into the blue. It took five minutes before the first curious hammerhead, a 9ft-long humongously fat female, came up from the depths below to check us out. She swam a slow arc around all of us and gave us a great view of her bizarre T-shaped head. One more hammerhead followed her up from the darkness below. It was the first hammerhead sighting for many of us and it makes a great dinner-time story for many years to come, like: “Yeah, there I was scuba diving in the Maldives, over a hundred feet down, when this huge hammerhead came up out of the depths below directly at us…!” And what’s more, it’s true!
We also dived at Maaya Tila, in the Rasdhu Atoll 05-08-1983. It is also one of the few places left in the world where you can still find hammerheads. It is called hammerhead point. A big school of approximately 40 sharks still lives there. Two times a week you can visit these beautiful animals. The chance of seeing them is about 90%.
This diving site is outside the atoll and you could also come along with manta rays. A further highlight of these early morning dives are tiny organisms from the opposite end of the size-scale: myriads of luminescent zooplankters, which glow with bright blue light in the morning sea like stardust.
North & South Ari Atoll (Alifu Atoll)
Alifu Atoll is comprised of three geographical atolls – Ari Atoll, one of the largest atolls in the Maldives, measuring 80 kilometres in length and 30 in width, Rasdhoo Atoll and the tiny Thoddoo Atoll. If you visit a resort in Ari, you will be surprised to learn that this is one of the most highly developed tourist areas in the Maldives. This atoll also boasts some exceptionally exciting dive sites; the hammerhead point in Rasdhoo Atoll, Maaya Thila in Northern Ari Atoll which is a protected site and dive sites in the south famous for its sighting of whale sharks are just some of the highlights.
North and South Male’ Atoll (Kaafu Atoll)
Kaafu Atoll consists of four geographical atolls; North and South Male’ Atoll, Gaafaru and Kaashidhoo Atolls. The atoll is located almost in the centre of the Maldives atoll chain. With 80 islands in all, only 12 are inhabited. The atoll is dotted with dive sites, many of them well known in the diving community. Manta points, interesting reef formations, coral gardens and wrecks are all part of the diving experience in these atolls. The Maldives Victory, which sank on Friday the 13th 1981 near the airport island of Hulule, is now an exciting diving attraction.
Vaavu Atoll (Felidhoo Atoll)
Vaavu Atoll is comprised of two geographical atolls; the main Vaavu Atoll and the large circular atoll, 9 kilometres in diameter, Vattaru with just one uninhabited island on it. Vaavu Atoll is a true geographical wonder. It is a boot-shaped atoll and the ‘toe’, Fotteyo Muli is the easternmost point of the Maldives archipelago. In addition to this, the 55 kilometres long unbroken reef that stretches from the ‘toe’ to the ‘heel’ of the ‘boot’ is the longest reef in the Maldives.
Vaavu atoll has been exposed to tourism since 1975 and the atoll has been a great favourite with safari and cruise operators. However it is more isolated and less commercialised than any of the other tourist atolls. Vaavu Atoll hosts some of the best diving in the Maldives. Fotteyo Kandu is considered by many as the best dive site in the country and one of the top five in the world.
The reefs of the eastern side of the atoll are in pristine condition and are wonderful for divers and snorkellers alike. There are many thrilling shark dives in the atoll, where divers may be lucky enough to see hammerhead sharks as well as the more common grey reef sharks.
Hammerhead photo (Author Barry Peter) licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.