Diving With Hammerhead Sharks

Diving With Hammerhead Sharks

Diving With Hammerhead Sharks on Jackson Reef

As a kid if you’d asked me what I’d want to see most in the world my answer would have been part common, and part not so.

“A dinosaur, definitely a T-REX.”

“And a Hammerhead Shark.”

Fast forward many years and I find myself standing on the rear deck of a dive boat in the Red Sea. Our group has been lucky enough to be assigned a boat captain who isn’t afraid of the large swells pushing us relentlessly towards the top of Jackson Reef in the Gulf of Aqaba, Egypt. He has the skills and experience to cope. Others weren’t so skilled or experienced and the skeleton of a past wreck marooned on this outcrop show testament.

We leap into the swells as a group and immediately descend away from the chaos of the churning waves and into the still, silent indigo-blue of the ocean.

Jackson Reef

This part of the diving world is globally renowned as a place to see plenty of sharks, especially now in July when the currents run hard in the depths and up into the reef dive sites that we visit. They bring with them a host of marine life from the smallest to the midsized predators, followed all the way up to the apex, Oceanic White Tips, Black Tips, Silkies and the subject of today’s descent – Hammerheads.  With fingers (and fins) crossed we level off 30 metres down in the middle of the ocean and we wait.

And we wait.

A Thresher Shark, its long whipped tail a unique and faint silhouette in the murky depths below cruises past. Incredible, but not what we are here for.

We keep waiting. Anxiously looking at our rapidly depleting air supplies. Still nothing. Just an endless view of the surrounding blue.

Then, all of a sudden they appear.

From the edge of visibility below us they drift up from the deep. Curious, sinuous, agile and totally unmistakable. This is something very rare, very special, this is a surprisingly big group of Hammerhead Sharks – around forty in number. The largest move in towards us first, dorsal fins angled slightly towards us in a communication style that is obvious to read… you just stay there, we are in charge here and this is on our terms. We happily accept the rules, staying in a tight group, no sudden movements.

We stay and we watch. 

Diving With Hammerhead Sharks

They circle us a few times, keeping their distance as they work out what we are. Are we a threat? Are we lunch? We are neither. What we are, is incredibly lucky to be here right now.

Then without any discernable change in body language they seem to decide that we are safe and not on the menu and move in to make us part of their school.

When underwater our eyes become a huge part of communicating with each other, as we cannot talk. I look around at my dive buddy to see her eyes as wide as saucers as a 2.5 metre grey bulk effortlessly glides between us, within touching distance for us both. 

We just stare at one another and I’m sure I hear a yelp of delight from her regulator!

They stay for just minutes, or maybe it was only seconds. It’s impossible to tell as all time stands still and becomes irrelevant when life moments like this are happening. 

As suddenly as they arrived, they leave and drift out further into the blue. Then they are gone, but leaving us a memory that will stay with us for the rest of our collective lives.

Back on the dive boat there is a hushed silence within the group with faces of complete disbelief and then awe of what just happened. That was it. That was why I wanted to become a scuba diver – but I never in my wildest dreams thought it would be that up close and personal.

Hammerhead Sharks

At the end of each day we log the details of our dives – depth, kit, visibility and any sightings or moments worth recording. This was a unique log in my many dive books… nothing else was needed. One statement said it all. 

“Beyond our wildest dreams can come true.”