Diving With Hammerhead Sharks In Banda Neira

Submitted by mumunmumun on 20 April 2016   •  Destination

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“When you jump in the water tomorrow, make sure you ask for permission to the spirits,” says Sasa, one of the owners of Banda Seahobbits. Ah man! Are we going to deal with the paranormal? I hate dealing with spirits. They give me the goose bumps. “There will be a ceremony tonight, and it will open the gates to and from the spirit world,” she adds. Shucks! It’s scary enough to chase after sharks with all the currents and all (I hate currents), now this?! Oh the things I have to do to go diving with hammerhead sharks in Banda Neira, Maluku.

Diving with Hammerheads in Banda Neira - title

‘Buka Kampung’ Ceremony

It’s not your everyday ceremony. Heck! It’s hardly a yearly thing. Coincidently during my visit, they had the ceremony because there was a gathering the next day. It’s compulsory to have the ‘buka kampung’ ceremony when the villages in Banda Neira come together, in this case for a dragon boat competition. ‘Buka kampung’ is a ceremony where the people open the gate for the spirits to revisit Banda Neira and bless the happening activities. For me, it’s also a scary as hell situation because you can’t curse, say bad things about Banda Neira, or do bad things during the open gates. Once you do, you just might find yourself in a state of comatose, that could happen underwater. No joke, this is from someone with first hand experience.

Buka kampung ceremony in Banda Neira

Part of the ceremony was building this mini bamboo tower.

Here’s the deal. Sharks love currents. They swim better in them. Currents are not my favorite diving conditions. It’s exhausting to swim in them, especially against them. Once I do, I tend to curse. And I was strongly advised not to, due to the circumstances, with ‘buka kampung’ and all. Lord!

Diving With Hammerhead Sharks

October to November is hammerhead migration season in Banda Neira. Allegedly, the dive guides in Banda Seahobbits have seen a wall of hammerhead sharks at one time. A wall! Even so, there’s no guarantee that anyone will see them. I’ve had a few friends that visited Banda Neira and didn’t see anything because they weren’t looking at the right direction. It’s as simple as that.

When we had to dive in the next morning, it was semi nerve wrecking. Before jumping in, I touched the water and asked for permission as strongly suggested. The boat captain and our guides, seemed like they said a few mantras behind our backs but I dare not ask.

“I have a feeling we’ll be diving with hammerhead sharks today,” both Kiki and Rulan, our Banda Seahobbit dive guides, said just before jumping in the water. Sasa assured me that the ‘hobbits’ at Banda Seahobbits Dive Center have strong instinct when it comes to hammerheads for some strange reason. All we have to do is trust them. With that said, we heard a splash in the distance.

It was a jumping shark. We geared up in a heartbeat.

Once in the water, it was pretty quiet. There were little amounts of creatures to be found. We were in the deep blue, cruising quite far from the vertical wall. We followed Kiki down to 40 meters, as we were all advanced divers. We waited. After about 5 minutes of floating, we finally saw them.

Can you see the hammerhead shark approachingCan you see it approaching?

Then and there, I was in awe by the hammerheads. They’re such graceful sharks. Their movements are elegant, probably enhanced by their wide heads. It was like looking at those snakes that slide through the desert but this was in water and a lot slower. They swim and sway; it was like watching a bride walking down an aisle. I envied their speed of swimming. I felt the same sensation as seeing a manta ray. Peaceful but exciting! The best part was there were very little currents. Awesome! No curses were said. Phew!

We actually saw three hammerhead sharks. We tried to get closer and dived down to about 42 meters, not something to be proud of considering the limit should only be 40 meters. I tried to see them as long as I could without going crazy. I probably got as close as 10 meters to it, before we all had to ascend. They were majestic creatures. On the way up, I thanked the spirits and sea gods and all the sea creatures for the experience, whether they had anything to do with it or not. I was very happy, indeed.

diving with Hammerhead sharks, the creatures that have such weird heads

Coming up, there was nothing else to be talked about. Our encounter with the three hammerhead sharks was everything which continued to the following days we were in Banda Neira. It was definitely the highlight of my trip, and hopefully an experience to be repeated in the future. Oh, hammerheads! Hands down you’re the majestic and graceful, thus you’re officially my favorit shark!

For more information about diving with hammerhead sharks you can contact the Banda Seahobbits on their facebook page or their twitter account. 

More fishes when diving Banda Neira

diving in Banda Neira

Banda Seahobbits

Proud father and son - Banda Neira

It’s an honour, when your son is part of ‘buka kampung’ ceremony.

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4 years ago

Mumun, you are awesome! I went to Ai and learned about many things, from a local man who started an initiative to encourage kids to collect plastic bottles, to sasi on four marine species. A section of the island was off limits to allow the coral reefs to grow and fish to breed. I remember seeing a poster on the island describing the points where divers can expect to see hammerhead sharks. I really felt that Ai was more progressive about the environment compared to other Banda islands.

3 years ago

What an amazing experience !!