TAMATAROA 1 – The Great Hammerhead Shark Survey

TAMATAROA 1 – Laurent Ballesta’s latest mission: to conserve the Gt Hammerhead Shark in French Polynesia…



Following  on from the now famous Gombessa Expeditions I-VI (2013-2022) – marine biologist Laurent Ballesta and his team of Inspiration divers, film-makers and biologists have completed yet another successful mission to French Polynesia.

Dubbed TAMATAROA 1 –  the programme was designed to study and conserve the great hammerhead shark in French Polynesia. It ran from December 2022 to March 2023.

AP Diving are proud to have been involved and provide our support for this expedition which included AP’s MD Martin Parker joining the dive team towards the end of the study. (see photos below)

The full interim report can be read here:

TAMATAROA 1 Interim Mission Report




Project Manager Antonin Guilbert outlines the TAMATAROA expedition’s aims and summarises its successes in a thank you email to AP on May 31st:


“Hi AP Diving

A year ago, we asked for your support in launching a programme to study and conserve the great hammerhead shark in French Polynesia: the TAMATAROA project.

This project, which follows in the tradition of the Gombessa Expeditions, was intended to be ambitious, innovative and even unprecedented. A great project on paper, a real challenge on the field.

The first TAMATAROA 1 mission, which ran from December 2022 to March 2023, was a real success. The project’s many human, technical and scientific challenges were met and even surpassed.

A thousand hours spent underwater, 140 sharks identified, 60 acoustic receivers deployed, 13 animals tagged, 7 tissue samples taken, 300 ha of marine habitat mapped and more than 100 users actively participating in the project through participatory science are just some of the figures that illustrate the non-exhaustive results of the scientific campaign.

The awareness-raising and communication aspects of the project are not to be outdone: information panels, events, conferences, school talks, science aperitifs and simple informal exchanges, have reached a very wide audience at local and regional level.

Filming of the documentary film “Gombessa” has begun, and a twelve-minute communication film retracing this first expedition is currently being produced for national and international broadcast in September.

This first mission, promising unprecedented results, confirms the unique nature of this region of the world for the preservation of the great hammerhead shark.

Thanks to your support, we have been able to launch one of the most ambitious research programmes on the great hammerhead shark.

After several months of data processing and preparing the next stages, a second mission will be launched in December this year, with the pursuit of the protocols and the extension of the great hammerhead shark monitoring network to other Polynesian atolls. The doctoral thesis project overseeing the scientific aspect of the TAMATAROA programme will be launched at the same time, under the coordination of the University of French Polynesia, the Flinder University of Adelaide in Australia and Florida International University in the USA.

The interim report on this first mission is attached.

A warm thanks to you and your team, without whom this beautiful project on paper would never have become a concrete action on the ground in the preservation of marine biodiversity.”

Best regards

Antonin Guilbert



Martin Parker (AP Diving) with Laurent Ballesta (centre) and the TAMATAROA 1 team

Diving with Laurent in the Tiputa pass, Rangiroa Atoll 









Gombessa Expedition leader Laurent Ballesta – following his record breaking 24 hour dive in 2014.




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