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Deep-dive safari: where to meet magnificent marine creatures

Deep-dive safari: where to meet magnificent marine creatures

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Hammerhead shark

Galapagos Islands

Forget the African savannah – the world’s oceans have a “big five” of their very own. Risa Merl reveals how to track down the most magnificent underwater creatures

With its alien-looking oblong head, this magnificent shark is mind- bending to see up close. The spectacle is especially potent when they congregate in a gam (a group of sharks) of up to 100, as they do off the isolated Galápagos Islands.

“The best places to dive with hammerheads are Wolf and Darwin islands, which involve long travel to the northernmost islands,” says Jack Nelson, of Scuba Iguana in the Galápagos. Gordon Rocks, North Seymour Island and Kicker Rock are all options closer to the main islands – and, as it’s the Galápagos, diving is restricted to designated sites. The calmest weather is between February and June, but there are more “big wildlife” sightings from August to November when the sea is cooler.

Once you’re in the water with the sharks, Nelson sensibly recommends a subtle approach. “Control your breathing so you are slowly inhaling as the hammerheads approach. Bubbles tend to repel them,” he explains.

Getting to the northernmost islands would normally require staying on a local dive boat, but superyachts can apply for cruising permits and take along a dive guide licensed by the national park. “That is a very involved and expensive option, requiring an agent and lots of lead time,” says Nelson. But it’s worth it for a private diving experience with those distinctive hammerheads.

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