Shark School Hammerhead Expedition

We embarked on a shark hunt this morning, seeking an elusive school of Hammerheads seen just a few times here. Seems that shark school has all the stops pulled out on the diving schedule, not many guests want to get up early and head out for deep current dive in the dark.

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Hammerheads have been seen in Yap in one location under the right conditions. This isn’t a dive done often and it requires an adventurous group of divers. The two conditions are sunrise and incoming tide, natural cycles that don’t always coincide, however today was spot on.

IMG_0437About ten minutes by boat from the hotel is a deep reef that’s not part of the Pacific side barrier.

It’s a separate seamount shaped like a crescent and it’s called Crescent Reef, of all things.

During the last hour of a big incoming high tide we rolled into 20 meters of water in between the two reefs and kicked against the current out into the dark blue with over a hundred feet of visibility.

The dive plan was to find the western tip of the deep reef and kick out into the blue and hold approximately 30 meters of depth. This sounded much better on the dive dock, after being there with over a hundred feet of water above us and another hundred or so to the floor below us was a rich experience as the sun rose over the Pacific.

IMG_0446Most of us pulled down half a tank by the time we got to the area we were looking for, but we were on a shark hunt which requires a different stroke.

We didn’t see Hammerheads today and the dive turned out to be the equivalent of an uphill hike, but that’s nature.

At mid dive, the good news was that all we had to do was nothing and the incoming tide would carry us back to the island.

Today is a three tank day for shark schoolers, after this we went back to the dock and warmed up with coffee and breakfast and met the rest of the guests coming downstairs on their schedule. The return drift was done at recreational depths and it was a 30 minute ride back to the main reef. White tip sharks and  a giant marble ray were seen on the sand bottom below along with fish schools and we saw a 3-foot dogface puffer fish.

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The last class lecture talked about circumstances, environments and how to sum up a shark situation around shorelines, river mouths and in murky water.

Another big topic was about  uncovering natural shark disposition with human beings. Some of Dr. Erics videos demonstrated high shark intelligence with examples of unaggressive behavior. Some of the content showed Bull sharks being hand-fed, which illustrates behavior and disposition characteristics for a predator of that size. That would be like feeding polar bears pinguins wearing only a glove.

There’s a lot of learning going on and guests are impressed with how much knowledge is being passed each day and the divers have been satisfied with the proximity, consistency and numbers of shark encounters here on Yap. Asking around at the breakfast table it seems that some European feedback was the Red Sea, Maldives and other popular exotic dive destinations show a decreasing number of sharks while diving. In Yap you still see impressive numbers of large mature animals of multiple species, as well as baby and adolescents on almost every dive demonstrating a healthy population.

This afternoon the school is going to Vertigo with bait for a shark dive where you can rub elbows with Black Tips and Grey reef sharks over the reef in the Philippine Sea. We also had another group come in on the last plane which doubled the class size, there’s still several days to go, more classes and another 10 or so dives before the week concludes.

Fingers are crossed to get the group a 10+ foot pelagic, we’re still hoping to pull up a Sivertip from the deep down at the southern tip before this party ends.

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