Since quite some time we loved to see once hammerheads. There are only a few places in the world where you have a reasonable chance to dive with hammerheads. But even on these spots, you will never have the guarantee to see them. Since our childhood, we were both fascinated by their head, a flat hammer with eyes at the ends. In April and May there is mostly a big group of hammerheads swimming around Layang Layang, a small island in the South Chinese sea. No guarantees, but we decided to make an attempt. After 4 days of diving, 3 times a day we started to get a little impatient, we were almost at the half of our Layang Layang holiday and we had still not seen a hammerhead. The week before also no hammerheads were spotted by divers. Each dive, we first swum into the deep blue, away from the reef, at a depth of about 30 meters, where you saw no reef, no bottom. It was here about 2000 meters deep, so you have to watch your depth meter as you have no reference, otherwise you easily go deeper with all the dangers that comes with it. If the hammerheads would show up, we would stay there, if not, we would return to the reef. At the last dive of the 4th day, we swum again away from the reef and all of a sudden a hammerhead at about 40 meters deep. Terrific! First we were completely focussed at this hammerhead, then we thought, maybe it is a scout and are there more hammerheads around. And indeed, at a depth of 60 meters or a little more, we saw several other hammerheads. Really terrific! But to that deep we could not go, but all of a sudden they came up and we were swimming in the middle of tens of hammerheads. They were even more impressive and splendid as we had expected, really breathtaking. Everywhere were you were looking just hammerheads! To see just one hammerhead is already fabulous, but to see 50-60 hammerheads, there are no words for. Although these sharks are normally quite bashful, they sometimes get quite close to you. It turned out it was a group of 120-130 hammerheads, but as they did not swim that close to one other, between 20 and 120 meters deep, you only saw a part of the group. The following days we saw them a couple of times. A few times for about 15 minutes, other times just for a few minutes. Each time it was again the same fabulous experience. We were amazed that some came so close to us, normally they are afraid of divers, afraid of the bubbles we breathe. The most sharks were between the 2 and 3 meters long. Every time we first saw some ‘scouts’, followed by the group. It was quite difficult to take good pictures or filming. At a depth of 30-40 meters, it is all blue around you and the silver grey hammerheads also look blue and the camera had difficulties in focussing, due to too little contrast. We have more than 20 minutes film, but only about 2 minutes a bit reasonable, not really good, but good enough to get an impression of this terrific experience.
Layang Layang is an island in the South-Chinese Sea, 300 km Northwest of Sabah, Malaysia. Until 1991 it was just a small atoll, but the marine let sand of the seabottom pumped up, brought cultivated sand by ship and then there was a small island, 2 km long and about 100 m wide. Next to a landing strip, a resort and a small marine base, there is really nothing, except for another small atoll, breeding ground for thousands and thousands seaswallows and some other seabirds. Layang Layang is no tropical paradise with beautifully white sandy beaches with palmtrees or tropical rainforests, you only can sleep, eat and DIVE here. And how! Above you already could read about the hammerheads, but Layang Layang is also called the crown jewel of the Borneo Banks. It has spectacular drop-offs, steep walls till immense depth, stretched breathtaking coral reefs and coral gardens, many rare coral and an abundance of fish. Besides of Palau, we seldom saw such a great coral gardens. The location of this atoll is very attractive for big hunters like hammerheads, grey reef sharks, tune, barracuda’s and manta’s.
Slideshow Layang Layang
Before we went to Layang Layang, we first visited for 9 days Sipadan. Sipadan is a small island at the Northeast coast of Sabah. Sipadan is actually an underwater mountain, rising up to a 1000 m from the seabottom. It has an average of a few hundred meters, with great with sandy beaches and tropical rainforest. For divers Sipadan is already known for many years, it is one of the dream destinations in South-east Asia, but the rest of the world just heard in 2000 of Sipadan, as a Filipine extremist muslimorganisation took 21 diving-tourists hostage.
As Sipadan is a very favourite diving destination, Malaysia decided some years ago, to make a protected Marine Park of Sipadan. The hotel with cabins was pull down, except for a few buildings, where a small group of soldiers stay, to protect the island.
As we could not stay anymore at Sipadan, we had chosen Mabul (Sipadan-Mabul Resort) as base, an island located just 15 minutes by boat from Sipadan. Every morning we went to Sipadan for 2 dives, between the dives we visited Sipadan, to picnic and to search for the monitor lizard. Afterwards we returned to Mabul for lunch an in the afternoon we had a 3rd dive around Mabul and Kapalai.
Sipadan is indeed a great diving destination, it is also called turtle island. In one turn I counted 22 turtles around me. You also see here many sharks, every dive you see tens of whitetips, some blacktips and some grey reefsharks, especially around Southpoint. Really great was the enormous shoal of barracuda’s, you almost always saw them at Barracuda Point, mostly circling by thousands around you, often it became even dim for a while. You also saw many shoals of jacks. We also saw often leaffishes and ghostpipefishes, we still find them very special, an enormous variety of gobi’s and some very ugly frogfishes, they are that ugly that they actually are beautiful. We even saw mating octopuses, what a tangle of legs! Sipadan is a perfect and relaxing diving destination.