Tek diving gives us access to rare and remote places, places not only inhabited by majestic hammerhead sharks, but that could also yield vital scientific data. Shafraz Naeem investigates (Text & Images by Shafraz Naeem)
RASDHOO MADIVARU is one of the Maldives’ most famous dive sites. Why? For its hammerheads, and for many divers, seeing these extraordinary sharks is their number one priority. I have guided countless divers at Rasdhoo Madivaru, and sometimes we have been lucky, but many times we weren’t, and not seeing them is always hugely disappointing.
Ever since I was a child, I have been interested in marine life, so I started to wonder about the reasons why sometimes the sharks could be found at Rasdhoo Madivaru, and sometimes they could not. I spent long periods of time in the area, diving to see these sharks. I dived the site many times, observing Nature, and comparing the conditions on each different dive. One thing I noticed was consistent in the shark sightings was the temperature; whenever I hit the thermocline, with temperatures between 28 degrees and 25 degrees Celsius, I saw several hammerheads, no matter the depth – from as little as 15 down to 40 metres. I suggested my theory of seeing the hammerhead sharks whenever I hit the cold thermoclines to the scientists working for IUCN Maldives and they said that it might just be right. Since I am a tek diver, capable of doing deep dives, I suggested that I could place some temperature loggers (see box) in the Madivaru Channel. We placed five loggers from five metres to a depth of 60 metres. I was the only one who was able to place the deepest logger at 60 metres, and I really wanted to do it – a friend, my deep diving buddy from Sri Lanka, Dharshana, and I had found a massive, beautiful coral block at 60 metres on one of our dives there. It’s a very unique looking coral block and we named it
“Face of Fajer”. Ever since we found the place I have loved doing deep dives there. Some of the sites I’ve dived are deeper than 40 metres and require proper tek dives. To me, tek diving is really important in the Maldives, especially for research and scientific dives on these kinds of deep coral blocks and pinnacles. There are so many of these deep formations dotted all across the Maldives, places very few divers have seen. On the day I went down to place the logger at 60 metres I saw five hammerhead sharks pass by me! The temperature was 26 degrees down there that day. It was amazing to see these sharks at that depth just swimming past, patrolling their kingdom, a place so inaccessible to so many people. The loggers have now all been placed at different depths to record temperatures and to see how much it changes and how these temperature changes will affect the corals and other wildlife. This year we have had the hottest months ever recorded, probably as a result of El Niño, but possibly because the planet’s climate has been altered by us irreversibly. I go back every week to collect the data from all the loggers. And every time I visit the logger on the “Face of Fajer” at 60 metres, I see the hammerheads. I just hope that despite our world’s rapidly changing changing climate, these beautiful sharks will be there long into the future.