Cocos Island - Dive Wild
Cocos Island is one of the most exclusive and remote dive locations in the world. 32 hours by boat from Costa Rica it is a hard to reach marine park, famous for being one of the sharkiest places in the world.
Simon and the Insider Divers met up in San Jose, the capital of the Central American country. Those who arrived early spent an entertaining day in the Carara National Park.
Aboard a river safari boat we cruised along the Tarcoles river and saw a wide variety of exotic birds. But the highlight surely was were the American Crocodiles that can be found sunning themselves on banks or lurking in the muddy water. In one instance the boat came within a meter of a 5m long one eyed American Crocodile “Rocky” so close we could see his teeth shining in the sun.
On a guided jungle walk we were lucky to encounter Spider and Capuchin Monkeys, poisonous frogs, huge butterflies and one of the most poisonous snakes of the Americas - a fortunately very inactive Fer-De-Lance.
The next day we set out to sea aboard the famous Undersea Hunter, one of the best dive vessels in the world. The 32 hour ride was broken up by talks by Simon about Costa Rica's nature, shark biology and shark photography. We also watched the famous “Sharkwater” movie that was shot by late Rob Stewart in Costa Rica and changed the world awareness with regards to Shark Fin trade.
When we finally arrived at the Isla de Coco it’s raw beauty hit us all immediately. Although its an urban myth that Jurassic Park was filmed here, it certainly looks the part. The first days were marked by heavy rains and low hanging clouds giving it the vibe of King Kong's Skull Island. It was in fact, for 200 years, the home base for various pirate crews and is famed to still have immense treasures buried somewhere. Check out this video with aerials of this cray island.
We were after underwater treasures - namely sharks. All dive spots around the island all feature sharks of various kinds. White Tip reef sharks are littering the dive sites - the most white tips we have ever encountered anywhere. Marbled stingrays are also extremely numerous as well as reef fish such as yellow bannerfish and angelfish. These fish are the cleaner fish that attract Scalloped Hammerheads that live in the surrounding water in giant schools.
Our boat Undersea Hunter is perfectly set up for offshore diving - the level organization is impressive. Everything has been thought of - ranging from the stabilizers for the ship all the way to the bullet-loaded shark poles that the guides carry in case of potentially hairy Tiger Shark encounters. Below you can see Cruise Director and guide Sergio Gonzalez with one of those shark-poles.
The diving off the steel side boats (“pangas”) is as comfortable as it gets - yet the motto of the Undersea Hunter Group #DiveWild is accurate. The ocean is mostly rough, the currents strong and thermoclines well up and down. Every dive is started with military style negative entry and hard finning to get to the site. Staying in place requires holding on to rock and braving the currents that tug on us. All dives are ended by drifting up to 2km in the blue, surrounded by more sharks like silvertips and silkies. Cocos is not a location for sunshine divers but for true aficionados of the dive sport. And those divers are rewarded!
After some days of mainly hammerhead, white tip and marble ray interactions we finally encountered our first Tiger Shark. A visit to the island by a pod of Orca in the previous week had scared these fierce predators away and they were not seen until mid week (Orca are the only known predators of Tiger Sharks). Galapagos sharks were also somewhat shy at first but we managed to see several throughout the week of diving. But we got lucky on many dives with the Tiger Sharks.
The conditions during our stay can only be described as intense. We chose the wildest time of the year where most hammerhead sharks circle the rocky islands. Galapagos sharks and Tiger sharks come here only during this time of the year. While the weather improved after a few days of rain, the currents only got stronger. Some dive sites had to be skipped several times although the crew managed to get us to all sites eventually we didnt have the most of luck with underwater visibility and therefore shark sightings. This is how mother nature is sometimes - sometimes she gives and sometimes she gives less.
Regardless the Insider Divers crew got to see most of the famous residents and we are keen to visit Cocos again soon to get more of the same!
Pura Vida and Dive Wild!