The Hammerhead Triangle is an imaginary geometric formation formed by Cocos Island, the Galapagos Islands and Malpelo. All three of these destinations are well-known in the scuba community for their population of hammerhead sharks and the ease with which you can see them while diving.
Within this triangle and most importantly at its corners, you can swim with shark schools of 200 to 300 individuals. The conditions are challenging, but without the raging currents or cooler temperatures, these epic diving areas wouldn’t exist.
Situated off the Pacific coast of Central and South America, all the islands in the Hammerhead Triangle are at least 310 miles (500 kilometers) from the mainland. Therefore, you’ll most likely need to travel by liveaboard to experience the best hammerhead diving in the world.
Thanks to their unique shape, hammerhead sharks are probably the easiest shark to identify. In addition to having a hammer-shaped head, they can grow up to 20 feet (6 meters) in length and weigh up to 1270 lbs (580 kg).
This shark’s unique head shape places its eyes at either end of the “hammer” and allows it to see almost 360°. Plus, hammerheads have a specialized detector of electric and magnetic fields, which allows them to move through the blue water of the ocean without any reference points yet remain perfectly oriented. This unique ability also makes them unbelievably skilled hunters.
Among sharks, hammerheads are not only unique in terms of their shape. They have a peculiar habit of hunting solitarily at night and swimming in large schools during the day, creating a spectacle for lucky scuba divers.
Furthermore, there are nine known species of hammerhead shark. Several of these are endangered or threatened due to shark finning, take-all fishing practices and a decrease in habitat. Because of this, these elusive and graceful sharks can sometimes be hard to find, but that’s not usually the case in the Hammerhead Triangle.
Malpelo Island, Colombia
310 miles (500 kilometers) west of Buenaventura, Colombia in the Pacific Ocean, Malpelo Island may look like a lonely rock, but the island’s true treasures lie beneath the waves. This liveaboard-only destination attracts shark-enthusiasts and scientists alike with some of the best shark diving in the world.
On any given dive, you can swim with 200 to 300 hammerhead sharks. In addition, whale sharks, eagle rays, tuna, sailfish and even humpback and blue whales occasionally visit this underwater ridge. However, if you’re most interested in the sharks, be sure your vacation plan includes the Freezer, Castaway and Monster Face dive sites.
For the best conditions, plan your liveaboard trip between July and August or January and March.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands of Ecuador are a naturalist’s dream. In fact, these faraway islands were instrumental to Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. They also fall squarely within the Hammerhead Triangle and are one of the best places in the world to dive with sharks.
While you can reach the Galapagos Islands by plane, you’ll most likely want to hop on a liveaboard once you get there. This is because the popular diving destinations of Wolf and Darwin Islands are not reachable on a day trip. It’s here that you can spot the largest numbers (100 to 200) of hammerhead sharks gliding through the deep.
If liveaboards aren’t your thing, you can also swim with up to 50 hammerheads at Gordon Rocks. In fact, this dive site, which is located off Santa Cruz Island, is one of the best shark diving sites in the world.
Hammerheads visit the Galapagos year-round, but many believe the best action falls between January and May.
Cocos Island, Costa Rica
Featuring an amazing amount of pelagic action that’s not confined to hammerhead sharks, Cocos Island is located a whopping 341 miles (550 kilometers) off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This remote island sits at a convergence of nutrient-rich currents. It’s only natural that the bountiful waters attract large schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks as well as whitetip reef, Galapagos, silky, blacktip, tiger, guitar and silvertip sharks.
Dive sites like Bajo Alcyone, Dirty Rock and Punta Maria are some of the best areas for hammerhead action. And it’s these locations that will last long in your memory.
Challenging in terms of strong currents and location, Cocos Island is only reachable by liveaboard, but it is considered one of the best liveaboard destinations in the world, especially for advanced divers. Book your trip from June to December for the best shark show.
Ready to dive into the Hammerhead Triangle? Locate a PADI dive shop and book your bucket list vacation.