malpelo hammerhead sharks

globe th CopyMalpelo, a giant in terms of the marine world, is just a tiny island lying in the East Pacific Ocean, located roughly 500 kilometers (310 miles) west of Colombia. It’s the only peak which extends above the waterline from an ancient volcanic ridge and is uninhabited except for a small military post.   The Malpelo Nature Reserve, a plant and wildlife sanctuary, surrounds the island and on July 12, 2006, Malpelo was declared by UNESCO as a natural World Heritage Site.  Malpelo is home of a unique shark population, with swarms of up to 500 hammerheads and hundreds of silky sharks.

Majestic Malpelo

Malpelo from the sea shutterstock 527070805 opt

Malpelo diving  ... the essentials

  • the topography includes pinnacles, vertical walls, tunnels, caves, swim-throughs, sandy bottoms
  • countless Galapagos sharks, throngs of silky sharks & hammerhead sharks
  • playful dolphins ready to engage with divers
  • breathtaking pacific mantas and innumerable eagle rays doing fly-bys
  • enormous whale sharks
  • when conditions are right, massive baitballs attract all the predators
  • jumbo-sized schools of snappers, jacks, tuna and barracuda surround divers
  • the occasional sailfish can be seen as well as the rare small-tooth sandtiger shark
  • green moray eels are ubiquitous & the endemic red-lipped batfish is an ever-present curiosity
  • finally, coral life attracts surgeonfish, angelfish, damselfish, Moorish idols, trumpet fish

Malpelo Destination Page Vertical Insert 2 opt

Wild and spectacular

This is a wild and spectacular marine environment, renowned for its abundance and quantity of schooling shark and big marine animal encounters. 

The island itself, is forbidding ... standing strong against the formidable elements in the eastern Pacific.

When Malpelo diving is at its best, only Cocos & Galapagos can roughly compare with the numbers of sharks and big fish in the water. 

You have schools of hammerheads (up to 300 animals in one school) and silky sharks, plus a variety of other shark species, such as the Galapagos shark, whale shark and white-tip shark, together with huge schools of other big fish species - giant schools of angelfish, Creole fish, jacks, tuna, and occasionally a sailfish. 

Passing pelagics & rare inhabitants

You often find a passing whale shark and even humpback whales and blue whales. The rare, deep water ragged-tooth shark also can be encountered in the colder depths

Malpelo is located at a site of convergence of different major currents in the Pacific Ocean: the cold Humboldt current (south-north), the warm North-Equatorial (west-east) counter-current, and from January to March, the cold cyclonic Panama current (north-south).  It is these conflicting cold currents and warm equatorial currents which create conditions ripe for a sea rich in nutrients and therefore also rich in marine species.

Liveaboard - the only option

Clearly the only diving option at Malpelo is a liveaboard ... and currently only one liveaboard is still sailing to Malpelo from Panama.  Due to changes in government regulations, Inula has already stopped operating and Yemaya has permits at Malpelo only through 2017.

We don't know if any other liveaboards will take their place.  If they do, they will sail from Colombia instead of Panama. We are hoping for news of future liveaboards sailing from Colombia but this is unlikely in the near future.  We will keep you posted if or when we have news.

Malpelo Hammerhead School Yemaya 190Malpelo diving
This area has one of the biggest hammerhead shark populations in the world, in addition to silkies, white tips, whale sharks, plus countless schools of fish, several ray species , and the giant manta ... read more ...

There are approximately 20 dive spots at Malpelo and it's a paradise for shark lovers!  Coiba dive sites offer additional opportunities to dive with these marine treasures.

You'll find plenty of other amazing wildlife: hundreds of morays swimming in open water near the walls, schools of barracuda, turtles, dolphins, schools of mantas and spotted eagle rays, whale sharks, white-tip sharks, bull sharks, schools of silky sharks, galapagos sharks, amberjacks, tunas, snappers, groupers and huge schools of jack fish.

But still, what makes Malpelo unique in the world is the incredible concentration of hammerheads.  They swim in schools of hundreds are usually visible between 10 and 30 meters deep.

Swimming peacefully from morning to night, they seem indifferent to what happens around them.  Diving with them is a once in a lifetime experience!

CoibaNationalPark Aerial 190Coiba diving
Coiba, like Cocos, boasts encounters with large schools of big fish and opportunity to observe healthy coral reefs, several species of shark, giant mantas, schooling rays, whales and dolphins ... read more ...

Coiba National Park, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of Panama's most beautiful natural wildlife preserves. With over 1,700 hectares of coral reefs, some more than 5,000 years old, Coiba and its surrounding 38 islands are home to over 760 species of fish, 33 species of sharks and rays plus over 20 species of marine mammals.

Coiba Island is the keystone of marine reproduction for this Pacific marine corridor, is blessed with a great diversity of habitat and is home to an array of marine species.

Known as The Devils Island of Central America, Coiba is home to many endemic species, both land and marine species, and is covered in a carpet of lush primary tropical rain forest, mangroves and dotted with deserted beaches.