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Trip Report - Taiwan Green Island Hammerheads

Discussion in 'Taiwan' started by broadreach, Feb 8, 2011.

  1. broadreach

    broadreach BKK Divers

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: San Joaquin Valley, California
    Just got back from Taiwan's Green Island after encountering some incredible schooling hammerhead sharks.

    This trip was organized by Andy Gray a veteran Taiwan diver and instructor. I have tried to do this trip independently two years ago but could not find a local operator who would take me to do these dives. Andy's planning was instrumental in making this dream trip come true. I would like to use this forum to thank him for putting this trip together.

    A few words about the Green Island (绿&#23707:wink:: This former prison island is reached by ferry (or small plane) from Taitung (台东)on the south-east coast of Taiwan. Winter is the off season for the island, but the trip coincided with the Chinese New Year holiday - a very busy travel period for Taiwan so advanced booking was essential (Andy was instrumental here).
    The island is rocky and mountainous. Its waters have great coral coverage (soft and hard) and a good array of reef fish ranging from tiny pygmy seahorses to scalloped hammerheads (in winter only). There are a number of accommodation options on the island and several Chinese restaurants/shops. It's a small place but you can find most of what you might need.
    There's one ATM machine at the post office bank. However, when I tried to use it I kept getting a communications error. I would recommend bringing enough cash for your needs.

    Accommodation: For this trip I stayed in Mr Yen's Green Island Diving dormatory (绿岛潜&#27700:wink:. The price was very low $NT400 per night but the dorm meant super thin mattresses on a hard floor, up to eight guys per room and shared bathrooms/showers. There are also hotels on the island offering basic private rooms starting at $NT1500.

    Transportation: Green Island is scooter territory. I shared a scooter with a fellow diver for $NT400 per day and it proved very useful for getting around the island.

    Food: There are a number of reasonably priced restaurants on the island. You can get fresh tuna sashimi for $NT100 or an entree for $NT100 to $NT300.

    The Diving: I arrived on the Green Island in the afternoon and was not able to dive on that first day due to lack of available buddies.

    Day 2: I did two shore dives. One at Chaikou on the north part of the island and another at Shilang on the northwest coast. Water temperature was about 25C. Visibility was good (at least 30 meters). Corals seem healthy and abundant, with a good range of reef fish. I didn't spot any pygmies, but I did see a few sea snakes on each dive as well as an octopus, scorpionfish, giant triggerfish, morray eel, moorish idols, nudibranches etc... All together, nice calm dives.
    I used this day to figure out my buoyancy as I was using a new wetsuit and hood for the first time.
    Entering and exiting the water through the braking waves was a bit of a challenge for me, as there were 'holes' in the rock that I didn't see. As I first entered the water I fell into such a hole and struggled to pull myself out of as the waves kept breaking on top of me.

    Day 3: This was our first attempt at viewing the hammerheads and Mr Yen - the shop owner decided to set out for the dive in the afternoon. I was told that there were no real waves and decided against taking sea sickness medication. This was a mistake. After a 30 minute boat ride we reached the dive location in an exposed area where good sized swells were building up. We were instructed to make a quick negative entry as the strong currents would sweep us away and split the group if we took our time on the surface. The group comprised all experienced divers and everyone managed it well.

    The briefing did not clearly explain the u/w terrain however and we failed to understand where to position ourselves to see the sharks and which direction they should come from. The result was that many people and myself included grabbed on to a rock a bit too early then we should have and continued to search for sharks in the wrong direction. A few lucky divers, drifted away from the group and hooked on a rock further down current. They did manage to see a single hammerhead shark.

    The dive was challenging as the current was quite strong and reentering the boat after bobbing in the waves was difficult. Having failed to take anti sea sickness medication, I felt quite sick and managed to lose my breakfast.

    The group voted to do an easier second dive and we headed to an artificial reef in the DaBaiSha area. This was a calm and relaxing dive with lots of gorgeous soft coral that covers large metal cages that were placed in the water as an artificial reef. The site also featured a large puffer and a school of friendly batfish that were quite curious about the divers.

    Despite using Nitrox 32% on both dives, the bottom time was quite limited as the late start mandated a shorter surface interval than I would have liked. The shark dive had us reach the depth limit of our Nitrox mix and the cages were also bottomed out around 30 meters with their tops around 15 meters.

    Day 4: Again we were only offered an afternoon attempt at the shark dive. Conditions were about the same as the previous day. Doing the same dive for the second time, everybody felt better about it and we all managed to be in the right position. Nonetheless, we had a very late departure and the sharks were just not around.
    Edit: I have just been told that a few people did see as many as 6 hammerheads during this dive.

    I did take my sea sickness pill and felt great despite the large swells.

    Due to the late hour, we had to take another short surface interval and a shallow second dive. This time we headed to the pinnacles. Again a calm quiet dive among coral and some reef fish. Pleasant but nothing to write home about.

    Day 5: This time we attempted an early start. Dive briefing was at 9 AM and by 9:40 we were in the water. Surface conditions have worsened a bit compared with the previous day but we all managed to get in the water without a problem. Soon after hitting the bottom I saw the local dive master making the famous hammerhead sign (fists in front of head). I got closer and the hammers started making their appearance. I've been waiting for this moment for a long long time and was very happy to finally see these majestic beasts in person.
    All together there were probably about ten individual sharks (scalloped hammerheads), some of which got quite close to the divers. These are the biggest most powerful sharks I have ever seen (other than a whaleshark of course). They were over 3 meters in length and swam effortlessly against the current.

    After this fantastic experience the group decided to have another go at the sharks. It was early enough in the day and we were able to get a good 90 minute surface interval.

    During our surface interval, the wind had picked up and the waves started getting bigger. We expected the skipper to axe the dive, but he determined that it was safe enough for him to get us in and out of the water.

    I thought that it would be difficult to top the first dive, but I was soon proved wrong. As soon as I started my descent, swimming quickly to the bottom so the current doesn't sweep me away, I saw the first hammerhead.

    Down on the bottom more and more sharks came into view. I followed the local dive master and drifted to a prominent rock down current. As I held on to the rock a large school of hammerheads came cruising by right above me. I saw at least 20 large sharks on this unforgettable dive. Grudgingly I had to accept my conservative dive computer's demand and started ascending, brushing against the NDL, as more sharks kept swimming by against the current below me.

    What an amazing experience.

    Last edited: Feb 8, 2011
    stronj1, ScubaMoMo, carry93 and 7 others like this.
  2. YilanDiver

    YilanDiver Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    AWESOME! I can't wait to get a few more dives in, then I'm doing that for sure! AWESOME!
  3. Taiwanate

    Taiwanate Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Kaohsiung, Taiwan
    Great trip report! I had a wonderful diving with everyone and can't wait for the opportunity to dive with any and all of you guys again.
    ambertiger likes this.
  4. Makhno

    Makhno Divemaster

    Yup, great trip report. I really enjoyed meeting you and diving with you and I hope you'll come back to Taiwan sometime so we can dive together again . . . or maybe we'll meet up elsewhere. Sign in and check for a PM from me.

    Here's a bit of amateur video from Saturday's 2nd dive, just in case you didn't read Wantonmien's post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aA3G8HnYCI

    ambertiger likes this.
  5. ambertiger

    ambertiger Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives:
    Location: Taiwan
    Hi everyone, here is a clip of the dives we made on the hammerheads on the last of the 3 days of diving. YouTube - Green Island (Taiwan) Scalloped Hammerheads. Chinese New Year 2011 This clip was shot by my Taiwanese buddy who came along on all the dives. I really appreciate him offering it to me to show you. I have another clip of the Mantas we saw that I have put up on my Facebook page, this was also taken by one of the Taiwanese divers on our boat, but he has not put this up on You Tube. All in all we had 3 incredible days of diving when everything came together, including the weather, the sea state, the divers and the sharks, all at the same time for a few brief moments. Sixteen divers signed up for the trip and we dived on the sharks four times. The first dive was a bit difficult for most of the divers as the 'washing machine' current in the gullies at the beginning of the dive caught most of the divers by surprise. No matter how often I told the guys that it was a 'whipping current' everyone has a different idea of what 'whipping' really is :wink: Lesson? Don't fight the current, go with it. Only two lucky divers saw 2 hammerheads and brought back photographic evidence, much to the chagrin of all the others on board. We followed this rather stressful dive with a chilled out one on the 'iron pyramid' and underwater structure built as an experiment to attract fish and coral growth. Everyone enjoyed this dive. The next day we took another shot at the hammerheads, this time everyone was ready for the current and the washer effect and got straight down on to the plateau. The group got rather spread out and only some of the divers saw the hammerheads. I saw a few pairs and a slightly larger group of perhaps six but they hung rather warily on the edge of visible range and did not decide to investigate the noisy divers. This dive was more satisfying for most on board as at least some of us had seen the sharks and we now knew that they were definitely there. We followed this dive with another on the Pinnacles just offshore from White beach and although by this time it was late in the afternoon with most of the light gone, so that the colours of the reef did not 'pop', most of us enjoyed the dive, especially if they enjoyed the smaller reef creatures. On the third day we decided to try for a morning dive, as the weather had improved over the past two days giving way to sunny mornings instead of the cloudy, dull and showery conditions we had been having on the previous mornings. By this time everyone was comfortable with the current. When we dropped down to 25M I and another diver immediately saw two large Manta rays winging their way ahead of a pack of 6 large scalloped hammerheads about 20 meters in front of me! This was followed by a few singles, pairs & trios of sharks and then another group of about 10 that moved around us in a largish circle. Unfortunately one of the divers started after the sharks and a large pack that was moving towards us moved quickly out of range. Lesson? Don't chase the hammerheads let them come to you... The vis was great at about 30m but what with the colour of the water and the colour of the sharks the sharks seemed to move in and out of visibility, disappear for a few seconds and then come barrelling back towards us, their massive bodies rippling with muscle rather like the Arnold Schwarzeneggers of the ocean. Everyone hit the surface exhilarated by the dive and quickly decided to dive on them again after the surface interval. What followed was pretty amazing, as soon as we descended a hammerhead appeared and headed straight towards my buddy, I pointed for him to look behind and as he turned the shark swept past him to his left. We all moved slowly forwards and allowed the slight current to move us out onto the plateau, here we were treated to a fantastic event as a large group of 15 hammerheads moved towards us, this was followed by singles and pairs and other slightly larger groups that seemed quite curious and completely unafraid of the divers as they moved through and around our group on every level, above, below, in front and behind. Some seemed almost close enough to touch. I turned 360 degrees and rapidly counted about 30 sharks before I grew confused as to which one was which. These awesome animals are very beautiful and masters of their environment. I think everyone on the trip had amazing dives with these animals and will remember them for the rest of their lives, such was their impact on us all that day. Thanks for coming and helping make this such a dynamite trip, I look forward to diving with all of you again.

    I would like to take the opportunity here to ask everyone reading this to sign petitions against shark finning if they come your way, and to talk to your friends who may take medicinal products containing shark cartilage, or be offered shark fin soup at a restaurant or banquet to refrain from consuming sharks in any form. These wonderful creatures deserve not only our respect but our protection. Thank you. :D
    currier, clgsamson and xariatay like this.
  6. Arizona

    Arizona PADI Pro

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Phoenix, AZ

    Thanks for the trip report and pics. Are you planning on going next year? It would be great to dive with you again and this sounds really interesting. The water temp wont scare off the BKK Divers :)
  7. Wantonmien

    Wantonmien Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Philippines (Ex Taiwan & Oz)
    Is it really almost a week since I enjoyed those excellent dives ?

    Can't really add a lot to the trip reports above except to say that as the guy with least logged dives on the boat, and without my normal buddy - I was probably the most apprehensive on the boat having been advised of the strong current, contemplated the negative entry, seen and feeling queazy from the boat rolling in the swell - and before first dive was wondering if it was really such a good idea !

    I was then slightly underweighted on first entry - so didn't make the target descent point and found myself disappearing in the current from the main group and so hooked on at the rocks at about 20 metres seeing the majority a long way off down around 30 metres - ever felt slightly alone :confused:

    25 mins or so later, seeing three other other divers making ascent and heading my way in the current - I unhooked and began a slow ascent - before sighting that first single 2.5 m awesome first shark cruising along perhaps 15 metres away at my depth -- wow, most on that first dive had no views, and just the 4 of us in 'the wrong' location saw that first perfect creature - awesome !

    The second surprise at that depth was quick to arise .. as my octopus was shall we say 'rather urgently' needed before the last 10 bar disappeared from a new buddy's tank !!!:satisfied:

    The second day - first dive excellent, but second dive absolutely amazing - first hammerhead came in to view during the descent, the current had dropped, found a perfect place to hook on at 30 m, and within a minute 1, 2, 3, 4 ..... 10 ..... 15 .... so many beautiful, powerful, awesome, free, hammerheads, to my left, right, above - all around. Amazing.

    A couple more pics below, and I've uploaded a few more together with other Green Island views to here ScubaBoard Gallery - Green Island, Taiwan, Hammerheads & more Feb 2011



  8. ScubaSam

    ScubaSam Sister of Shenanigans ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Cave Country
    Great report, Broadreach.

    My friends in Taipei are always trying to get me to visit them and head over to dive Green Island but have never succeeded.

    How much did they pay you to post your report and pics cause I'm convinced that I should dive Green Island. :D

    Thanks for sharing.
  9. Wantonmien

    Wantonmien Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Philippines (Ex Taiwan & Oz)
    I think the fee to Broadreach was 1 seasick pill, and a cup of ginger tea to wash it down with :rofl3:
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2011
    ScubaSam likes this.
  10. nihaopaul

    nihaopaul Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives:
    Diving Taiwan​

    Taiwan, not a place that makes it onto most peoples list of places to dive in the world or expect any sane minded person to believe the possibility that there could be any reasonable diving around this small breakaway island sitting just a stone throw away from mainland china.

    Given the need to travel, Etsuko and myself barely just escaped the world wars that were about to launch in our country of residence known as Shanghai, I would not wish the annoyance of constant sound and smoke on my good neighbor, yes this time of year is known as Lรจ Chinese new year.

    With careful meticulous planning we thought we’d join Lukas on a trip to Green Island at the south east side of Taiwan. We had been in contact with Andy Grey a fellow diving instructor and Taiwan diving legend via email and facebook taking in terns to squeeze all the information we could out of him for this trip we were joining. Now we’ve been to some remote places and with the lack of information available for Green Island in English we had absolutely no idea what we had gotten ourselves into, either way it was what we wanted, an adventure that wasn’t going to break our diving bank.

    Even with the most careful of planning and all our flights confirmed and secured before the trip, My Work Permit and Visa had a hiccup in Shanghai causing a day delay on departure which no HongBao, Xiao Fei, sturdy demand could fix, but it wasn’t until the last 6 days before the trip that it became apparent. Given that this was Chinese New Year, we had no expectations of being able to rebook interior flights in Taiwan. Those not familiar with Traveling during CNY this is comparable to North Korea and South Korea sitting down at a Tea Party with the Queen of England.

    We had no option at this stage other than to just cancel and pay what we owed for backing out of our spots – full payment, until Andy put us in contact with Peter G who was driving from Taipei to Taitung to take the ferry, an active diver and a man in the trenches fighting for Taiwan’s independence from China on Scubaboard.

    Luckily with Peters gracious help. For whom we are indebted to. We were finally on our way to Green Island and were able to make the trip after all, just a few days shorter than we had hoped.

    One thing I must point out, the ferry to Green island is probably one of the most sickening experiences those who are queasy with a fast gag reflex could ever endure, the ferry is forever in my mind. This is just a short ride but one that was about to prove itself worth while.

    Peter and Andy were planning on doing a shore dive almost right away, doing my little run around I was able to make it with them on that shore dive, not knowing what to expect, I setup and scootered my equipment to the dive site. A very nice thing they do in Taiwan is build little pathways out over the rocks and into the water! This makes easy entrance and should make a great exit too, however I never got to test out the exit.

    A word of warning, it really hurts if you use full foot fins in Green Island and fancy a shore dive. note to self, take open heal fins next time.


    The first plunge into Taiwanese waters, what will I see!? Beautiful, I wish I took my camera, Hard and Soft Corals lined the bottom like a flower rack, colours of reds, blues, oranges, with anemones, gorgonians, barrel sponges, encrusting coral, coral colonies that looked as if they were getting on so well that were in the United Nations, boulders, hills, bommies, everywhere you look, it’s just covered in a jungle of corals so thick it would put your mums best custard to shame. The bad news is I had spotted several very nice nudibranchs and that I hadn’t taken a camera with me, during the dive I kept asking myself why is Taiwan not a known diving spot, then oogling at the reef with its beauty.


    Now on for a shark dive by boat, the briefing for the dive was short, jump, get wet, go down, swim swim swim, hook.. ok not quite like that, but in reality it is.

    This dive site is not for the faint hearted or the inexperienced, you jump into a washing machine on a full spin and go straight to the rocks, either that or you’re swimming to the Philippines. now one thing that should be mentioned is “DO NOT FIGHT THE CURRENT” I hope that’s clear, go with the flow, be the water and keep your wits about you, oh and stay a hand grab away from your buddy. Basically you need to get out onto the plateau and hook on to a ROCK anywhere there, preferably east of where you are dropped at 30-33meters and wait.

    With enough waiting and remaining in your limits of the NDL and 1.4 partial pressure if diving on Nitrox you should have several gentle giants swimming a noodle length away from you being inquisitive and eyeing up the fat one for dinner, yes these are scalloped hammerheads, the same ones you can see in Okinawa traveling between the two regions in the warm waters, magnificent 3.5-4meter long. Our first day only one was spotted but the following day we had a school of around 15 of them at a time circling around different groups of divers. Not to mention some other people had spotted 2 mantas at the same site, this dive had almost zero current and 30+ meters of visibility proving the myth wrong of “if it’s cold and a strong current, swim into it for sharks”.

    video here


    Blown away by the underwater scenery we had started to explore the island on our own, a picturesque landscape formed by a volcano pouring hot lava straight into the ocean covered in a frosting of lush greenery. Other things to do on topside while not diving and will keep you entertained for 2 days is sight seeing, a drive down to the local prison where you can wave from the fences to the political prisoners who have been doing hard labour building the infrastructure on this magnificent gem of an island. Or drive further down and see where they use to live. Plenty of marked tourist places to stop off like the caves and coves, also drive up the interior of the island where you’ll be greeted by two signs “NO ENTRY” and “MILITARY ZONE” good job they wrote them in English.

    A must do on the island is the hot springs, this is only 1 of 3 places in the world where you can experience the hot salt water springs, luckily they were so kind to actually build a nice area around the hot springs compared to the free ones they use to have on the beach. The water in the hottest tub will cook an egg you’ll find this out as you scour away from the water quickly heading towards a cooler tub as your red feet light the way so take it slow.

    If Green island is only a sampler of what the rest of Taiwan has to offer then I’m already sold, I’m happy that it’s not as touristy as Thailand or the Philippines where diving could be compared to swimming inside a teabag with all the other tea leafs. But one thing I cannot understand is why no one actually knows about diving in Taiwan.

    To Andy and Peter, thank you again.

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    Last edited: Feb 15, 2011
    currier, clgsamson, xariatay and 4 others like this.

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