Dive Advice Travel
dive liveaboard specialists .... the world's finest diving
You'll experience shallows & deep, sheer walls ... corals, channels, pinnacles & some pretty wild currents. This is absolutely not novice diving.
I did my first trip to Cocos Island in 1988 on the Okeanos Aggressor, on her maiden voyage as a dive liveaboard. I was hooked. The marine life is really, honestly, truly everything they tell you it is. The quantities of all of those fish and animals I've just listed ... well, they're staggering. And I have to say, too, that the excitement isn't just in the big predators and clouds of jack fish .... but the moray eels, the strange & exotic red-lipped batfish, the octopus & the turtles & the lobsters are as abundant as all those schools of fish.
I guess you just have to see it to believe it!
There are some terrific liveaboards with regularly scheduled trips from Costa Rica to Cocos Island - two in the Undersea Hunter Group, plus the Okeanos Aggressors I & II and the new Cocos Island Aggressor coming in 2023..
I will vouch for the quality of the dive trips on all of these boats, but admit to having a little bit of a love affair going with the 131-foot Argo, which is the home base for the high-tech Deep See submersible. For an "eye-witness" report, you can read about my last trip to Cocos & Malpelo on the Argo & my adrenaline-rush: Descent in the DeepSee . . .
Check it all out here on our Cocos page and when you're ready to hear more, I'm an email away and will respond to your request with any additional details that you wish. Cheers, Dom
SCUBA DIVING HIGHLIGHTS
NOT a destination for the novice nor the FAINT OF HEART. This is an APEX ENCOUNTER for the experienced & adventurous diver. You'll find sheer PINNACLES, towering walls & deep, RUGGED channels .... upwellings & THERMOCLINES .... changeable & sometimes RAGING CURRENTS. Swarms of SCALLOPED HAMMERHEADS, MANTAS & MOBULAS, tuna & dolphins. Occasionally pilot WHALES, marlin & sailfish. At the other end of the spectrum you get shrimp, eels, frogfish, jacks, turtles & a variety of colorful tropical fish ... all of which are LUNCH FOR THE BIG GUYS !
The island itself, with no human residents, is one of the few remaining untouched paradise islands & it delights visitors with dense rainforests & astounding waterfalls. When conditions permit, most liveaboards offer divers the opportunity to visit this lush, primordial isle. Admittedly, however, your first priority is not a visit to the unique outcropping of land. You're there for the exhilarating diving. Also, you want to be a pretty good sailor if you're going to make the 36-hour boat ride from Costa Rica to Cocos Island!
But, but worry not. On this part of the voyage you'll be well-entertained & well-prepared by the crew for your unforgettable Cocos adventure.
Everywhere you dive at Cocos Island, you'll be surrounded by throbbing throngs of marine life & for most divers, the first trip to Cocos is never the last! The dive sites encircle the island & diving often begins at Manuelita Island, which, on the west, is a fantastic drift dive that features great shark action. The opposite side of the island is protected from the currents and it harbors an incredible array of Pacific reef fish, including pufferfish, parrotfish, snappers, jacks . . . plus turtles & more. This site also functions as a cleaning station.
At Dirty Rock, a favorite for many Cocos veterans, the rock formations themselves are other-worldly. It's at this site where you can usually find the vast groups of scalloped hammerheads .... along with snappers, marbled rays & a variety of sharks. Many divers, on the other hand, feel that the Dos Amigos dive is the most exhilarating, with its (typically) great visibility, its dramatic underwater arch and simply scores of fish & sharks ... and fish & sharks.
With no accommodation on the island, liveaboards are the only way to dive Cocos Island and there are 4 excellent vessels to get you there. There are the two boats in the Undersea Hunter Group: Argo & Sea Hunter and the two Aggressor boats: the Okeanos Aggressor I (which hosted Dom's first trip to Cocos way back in 1988 !) and the Okeanos Aggressor II. While we rate the Undersea Hunter Group (Sea Hunter & Argo) as quite simply two of the world's top liveaboards .... there's no question that you'll have a fabulous trip regardless of the vessel you choose. Both fleets, Undersea Hunter and Aggressor, ensure the highest standards of safety, service and diving ... and richly deserve accolades.
Wondering about the Undersea Hunter? She's joined the Nautilus Explorer and Nautilus Belle Amie and has become the Nautilus Under Sea, exploring Socorro & Guadalupe. You'll find her in Socorro Liveaboards. Also, the Sea Hunter is now exploring new territory part of the year .... hosting trips to swim with humpback whales at the Silver Bank in the Dominican Republic. Read about these trips ....
In additon, Argo is the home base for the high-tech DeepSee submersible. Custom-built for the Undersea Hunter Group, DeepSee takes a pilot & two passengers to a depth of up to 1,000 feet (305 m) for a joy-ride, film-making or scientific research. For an "eye-witness" report, read about Dom's trip to Cocos & Malpelo on the Argo & the DeepSee . . .
Cocos Island is also home to at least 27 endemic fish species including the exotic rosy-lipped batfish.
Macro photographers don't despair. While this is largely a wide-angle paradise, you'll find some spectacular corals teeming with wonderful critters ... including some of those endemic species !
We've tried to say it in the article above ... but let's put it into the plainest of language. This is simply one of a small handful of must-do destinations for experienced and adventurous divers. The experiences of diving with ocean giants at Cocos, Malpelo and in the Galapagos are unparalleled. And once you've been here the first time, your heart will ache to return again and again. Be prepared to become a Cocos addict !
But let’s start from the beginning: the crossing. The crossing was smooth, with several visits from both bottlenose and spinner dolphins. I finally understand what people mean when they say “spinner dolphins.” The dolphins spin sideways in more of a roll than a spin (they should really call them rolling pin dolphins). Thanks to the bright moon we watched them jump and play and dance and best of all – spin – alongside the bow of the ship. We cheered when one would jump, which prompted the next one to leap. They squeaked and chirped in response to our encouragement. What a perfect way to start our journey to Cocos Island.
After that first close encounter with the tiger shark at Manuelita, Punta Maria was the next hottest dive site this trip. The enormous Galapagos sharks there were anything but shy. About 3 minutes after we hit the bottom, the Galapagos started circling us from both in front and behind – some coming EXTREMELY CLOSE. This delighted the many photographers on our team, who came from Germany for an underwater photo safari. Four, five, then six Galapagos all crisscrossed paths underwater as we watched, took pictures and video. Fine spotted moray eels swam out in the open, like fish.
Day 5, we tried to visit Submerged Rock on the east side of the island, but there was too much current so we headed back to Manuelita Outside. The current there was very strong with waves slamming against the rocks, and the captain was hesitant to drop us there. But Edwar, with 10 years of experience on the island, knew the current would be OK once we descended to the bottom. Just in case, we sent Giovanni (the dive guide in training) ahead as the guinea pig.
After scoping out the conditions and assuring they were safe, we dropped down on top of a couple of hammerheads at the bottom. A sting ray, a couple of big tunas, and HUGE Tiger shark passed by – so big that at first I thought it was a whale shark by the way it slowly ambled through the water.
As we ascended to about 60 feet, I saw a school of what I thought were jacks glittering out in the distance. I adore jacks, so I swam closer. All of the sudden I realized they weren’t jacks at all – this was a wall of hundreds and hundreds of hammerhead sharks. I simply can’t believe fish that big school in numbers so large. They just kept coming, and coming and coming…in droves. They’d disappear for 30 seconds and then return again. The wall was so thick I couldn’t see through it to the other side. If you’ve never seen a wall of hammerheads, breathtaking is the only word to describe it.
Dirty Rock also proved to have some good shark action. My favorite dive there started when we heard dolphins squeaking in the distance. A tuna darted in and out of a big school of jacks, so we knew we were in for a show. All of the sudden I saw a big playful dolphin swim right past me, immediately followed by a muscular black tip reef shark, and then a huge Galapagos with several black jacks in tow. Back at the surface, a gorgeous rainbow awaited us just before dinner.
The night dives at Manuelita were spectacular, as usual, with a bit of a surprise visit one night from an enormous Galapagos shark. Usually white tips have the run of the reef at night, but on this occasion the Galapagos arrived about halfway through the dive and tried to nab itself a white tip for dinner. Luckily for the white tip, the Galapagos missed its target – however the bigger shark’s presence spooked pretty much all of the smaller white tips. The Galapagos spent the rest of the dive swimming circles around us, looking for white tip prey. We felt lucky to witness such unusual shark behavior.
The last day, the sun was shining so we kayaked from the Sea Hunter ship to Chatham bay – which took about 7 minutes of leisurely paddling. Gliding over the reef, the water was so clear we could see at least 100 feet down to the bottom. We drifted ashore and visited a waterfall, then we climbed over rocks etched with historical names – like the infamous pirate Captain Morgan and revered underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau. My favorite part of the island jaunt was watching the adorable little baby black tip sharks surfing the teeny tiny shallow-water waves in the bay.
The crossing on the way home was easy, with water so smooth it seemed unreal – the ocean undulated like a vat of poured oil. Since we were running ahead of schedule, we stopped on the way home for a quick swim in the clean, crystal-clear sea: a truly perfect end to a perfect trip
The incomparable Cocos Island (Isla del Coco) is located in a remote part of the eastern Pacific Ocean, approximately 550 kilometers (342 miles) off the shore of Costa Rica. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has no inhabitants other than Costa Rican Park Rangers. The island, only 24 square kilometers (9 square miles), is surrounded by deep waters with converging currents. It is the only island in the eastern Pacific with a tropical rainforest. The mountainous terrain has numerous rivers and streams & some truly spectacular waterfalls.