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Cocos Trip Report, Aug/Sept 2014

Cocos Trip Report, Aug/Sept 2014
Cocos is a spectacular island that has inspired some of the world’s most famous stories, from Robinson Crusoe to Jurassic Park! Still now stories abound of buried treasure from pirates long gone and whist many have tried and failed to find these treasures this just works to deepen the myths and mysteries that make this one of the most special places you will ever visit. Cocos Island itself is incredibly lush covered in tropical forest with over 200 waterfalls cascading over its steep cliffs. It is home to a huge number of birds but of course for divers Cocos Island’s real treasures lies in its sounding waters. For it is here that Cocos gets it’s others name – The Island of Sharks!

To reach Cocos you first fly to San Jose in Costa Rica after which you are taken to Puntarenas to meet your waiting liveaboard. For our group trip we selected Undersea Hunter fleet’s flagship liveaboard – Argo. As always we were joined by an international mix of divers, with people coming from the UK, US, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Switzerland and Germany to sample the underwater delights of Cocos! After a quick check of our equipment, some welcome drinks and general introductions it was time to set sail! Not long after we had had reached the open ocean we had our first big animal encounter – a Humpback Whale! This was a very promising sign of what the coming days would hold for us but now it was time to get some rest – the sail to Cocos takes 36 hours giving you plenty of time to faff with your camera gear.

Time to start diving!
After an interesting crossing (apparently medium on the calm/rough scale) we arrived at Cocos at around 2am. A few hours later people were already up enjoying a morning coffee on a beautiful Cocos morning with clear blue sky and a boat that was now perfectly still in one of Cocos Island’s calm bays. After a hearty breakfast and thorough dive briefing we were ready to dive! Our mothership Argo would move very little during our time at Cocos and would become a sublime floating hotel. Argo’s excellent skiffs would be used to ferry us to Cocos Island’s various dive sites never more than 15 minutes away. Over the first four days we would dive the different sides of Cocos Island – North, South, East and West and then for the final three days we would dive the sites that were providing the best ‘Big Fish’ action again and again!

We would start in the North at Manuelita a veritable Tiger Shark hot spot! Our first day of diving showed us exactly why people travel to Cocos, we had close encounters with Tiger Sharks, huge Wahoo, Galapagos Sharks, Marble Rays, Whitetips, Milkfish, Yellowfin Tuna and of course – Hammerheads! Day 2 would see us head to Dirty Rock at the West side of Cocos for more Hammerheads, Tuna, Galapagos Sharks, free swimming Moray Eels, huge schools of Jacks, lots of Whitetips, Tunas and Blacktip Sharks.

Manuelita Night Dive!
In the evening it was time for our first Cocos night dive at Manuelita. This site is famous for its hunting Black Jacks and Whitetip Sharks that have featured in many documentaries and it did not disappoint, with hundreds of Sharks and Jacks going into a feeding frenzy on the ocean floor it was truly an amazing sight! And if the Whitetips were not enough to get peoples heart racing the night-time appearance of a large Galapagos Shark certainly did!

Baitballs & Big Fish!
For day 3 and 4 we would head to Bajo Alcyone and Submerged Rock in East Cocos and Dos Amigos in South Cocos. The Submerged Rock dive site has a spectacular swim through shrouded with Yellow Snapper and for those of us more used to diving Asia we couldn’t help but have flash backs of Raja Ampat! The East side of Cocos also gave us our first Giant Pacific Manta as well as some Mobula Rays! The highlight however had to be the baitball we found on the South side of Cocos! A piece of drift wood with birds circling overhead and Dolphins breaking the surface was sign enough something exciting was happening beneath the waves and with no hesitation our skiff headed straight for the action! Dropping into the water cameras in hand we could immediately see the action unfolding before our eyes, Silky Sharks, Blacktip Sharks, Dolphins and birds we all attacking the baitball! Some of the Silkies became a little too interested in one of our group and she was definitely grateful to our strong skiff diver who plucked her from the water.

Following the excitement of the baitball we decided we would head to Manuelita for our afternoon dive – we wanted more Tiger Sharks! Manuelita did not disappoint and an early encounter with a Tiger Shark was followed quickly by our first Cocos Whale Shark! The most exciting part of the dive, however, was as we moved into the blue preparing from our safely stop, for moving towards us was what we thought was a Whale Shark but turned out to be an enormous Tiger Shark! And this Tiger Shark was curious heading vertically to the surface to meet one of our group – professional to the end though he got a great movie! Whilst we were having fun with Whale Sharks and Tiger Sharks our other group returned from Dirty Rock with stories of Silvertip Sharks! Silvertips used to be common at Cocos but had not been seen for some time so this was exciting news!

The Deeper Side of Cocos!
The Argo is a special ship in that it carries a submersible named DeepSee able to take a pilot and two passengers to over 300 metres deep way beyond the realms of scuba diving. Our day to go on the DeepSee had finally arrived and following a short safely briefing we were on our way to discover what lay deep, deep beneath the waves. As we descended we were met by a Mobula Rays swimming overhead at 275 metres – who would have thought they dived that deep! But the real treat appeared as we crossed the 300m mark – a rarely seen deep water shark species – the Prickly Shark! Here in the depths surrounded by darkness you can also find lots of Jellynose fish – a creature that looks half fish, half eel. Then as you ascend to depths of 200-150m much more life starts to appear with giant Spider Crabs, hunting Frogfish and Moray Eels and large Grouper. Further into our ascent we were greeted by schooling Mobulas and then the icing on the cake a Giant Pacific Manta. Our journey on the DeepSee was a truly amazing experience we will never forget!

Dives you will never forget!
For our final three days at Cocos we decided to concentrate on the sites that had been providing the best big fish action on our trip – Dirty Rock, Bajo Alcyone and Manuelita. After a few dives it was clear that the winner on our trip would be Bajo Alcyone! On a single dive at this site we were treated to Dolphins chasing Jacks, multiple encounters with two circling Whale Sharks and the sight we had all been waiting for a wallpaper of schooling Hammerheads swimming overhead! During these last three days the Whale Shark encounters continued as did the Tiger Shark encounters when we went back to Manuelita. At Alcyone out in the blue there were huge schools of Jacks and Mullet Snapper literally filling the ocean with life. These fish occupy so much ocean space they can literally drag you with them as they move through the ocean – especially when they all swim downwards! Back at Manuelita were found groups of Hammerheads combing the ocean floor trying to detect the smallest movement of would be prey and large curious Galapagos Sharks. On the final day we were even treated to mating eagle rays at Alcyone! And of course we had more night dives with the Whitetip Sharks with a suspected sighting of a Tiger Shark on a night dive!

A smooth sail home!
With our trip finished it was time for a very smooth crossing back to the mainland with plenty of time to dry our gear and say good byes to fellow guests and crew. We would like to thank all of the Argo and DeepSee crew for the faultless service we received and the amazing underwater experiences they gave us during our trip with them! We will come back to Cocos soon – Pura Vida!

Trip extension to Arenal Volcano & Hot Springs
We highly recommend combining your trip to Cocos with an add-on to Arenal Volcano & Hot Springs! You can go for a few days or simply on a day tour and you are guaranteed some amazing views and some serious rest and relaxation!