Our colleague John Butland recently enjoyed an exciting Cocos Island liveaboard trip aboard Okeanos Aggressor II. The uninhabited Cocos Island lies around 340 miles south west of Costa Rica. It’s only a small dot of land in the vast Pacific, but is a beacon for larger ocean creatures and therefore for divers.
Here John shares some of the many highlights from his recent Cocos Island liveaboard trip aboard Okeanos Aggressor II:
All Good Things…
There's a saying that goes along the lines of good things coming to those who wait, and patience is the key when it comes to diving Cocos. It's nothing like the Red Sea, where you fly out one day and are in the water by 10am the next. Cocos involves a flight across to the Atlantic and at least one overnight in San Jose, Costa Rica, followed by a two hour bus ride to the coast.
The boat (in this case Okeanos Aggressor II) then departs from the port of Puntaranas, That's when the waiting really starts, as it's then a 36 hour sail out to the island that's 340 miles out into the Pacific Ocean. You arrive at night, so it's up to 46 hours before you get in the water.
So, is it worth the wait I hear you ask? You bet it is! In a documentary made a few years ago, Cocos was named 'The Island of the Sharks' and for good reason, as we found out over the next 7 days diving. In fact we started to get an idea of how ‘sharky’ things were going to be on the check dive. Of course they are normally nice easy dives and never usually the most exciting locations.
The briefing had informed us that we would roll off the RIB into 5 metres of water and max out at about 16 metres. Doesn't sound that exciting does it? But that soon changed when the first two guys hit the water, they bobbed straight back up shouting 'Tiger Shark - right under the boat!' So we all entered the water as quickly as possible, but of course with all the commotion, it had disappeared. Not to worry as there would be more later in the week. We saw loads of Whitetips and even a few Hammerheads - not bad for a check dive!
It may surprise you to know that we only dived eight different sites during our week at the island and there are a lot of similarities between them, but we never got bored. All our dives were spent looking for sharks, which wasn't hard, as they found us. Out of 24 dives we saw loads of Whitetips on every single dive. The other RIB divers were even lucky enough to witness some mating, not many people have that in their logbook! We did three night dives and the Whitetips attracted by the lights of our torches, like moths around a flame. Things certainly got a bit frenzied, as they used the light to help them hunt.
Mostly the diving involves descending down with the wall of one of the smaller islands to your back, or to the top of a sea mount and find the cleaner fish at the numerous cleaning stations. Here the sharks come in to be cleaned and by holding onto the rocks and keeping very still, they come nice and close. There are some reasonable currents, but they are not too much bother, as you very rarely swim against them. It pays to keep your eyes darting in all directions though, as a few times lovely Whale Sharks would swim above you, a sleek Galapagos Shark would check you out, or a curious Tiger Shark would pass quite close. I suppose I should mention that my buddy had a Tiger Shark pass by within a few feet and I didn't see it as I was looking the other way, not my greatest moment in diving.
But there is one undoubted star of the show at Cocos, and that's the Hammerheads. Hundreds and hundreds of Scalloped Hammerheads. Occasionally in bigger schools, but always about, either singly or in groups of 15 or 20. All hanging around to come in to the cleaning stations and that's where you get your chance to see them up close and personal. They come in until they are in just the right spot, then tip their bodies back and hover in the current as the cleaner fish rush in. When done they often swim really close. Having one after the other swim within a few feet of you is certainly worth the effort to get to Cocos. Impressively, we saw Hammerheads on every one of the 21 day dives.
Watching the different behaviours of the various shark species is what keeps you enthralled for the whole week. Going back to the same dive sites a few times was not an issue, as every time something different would happen and even when we did have a chance to go around to the south of the island, most people decided to stay and dive Manuelita or Dirty Rock again. If you do want to see some smaller critters, there were some very friendly Frogfish that posed quite nicely for the photographers. But even when we were looking for them, we had to make a quick change of plan when a huge Whale Shark circled us twice.
Eventually of course, we had to turn for home and the forest covered island with the sun setting behind certainly made a great sight, as it slowly shrank from view. On the return journey there was plenty of time to discuss the week with our companions and start the editing of the numerous photos and hours of video. The Okeanos Aggressor II and its crew looked after us very well. The dive guides were great, the crew very attentive and we were well looked after with some excellent food.
So finally, the question as to whether Cocos should be on your dive wish list, it's most definitely a 'yes' to that one!
To find out more, call our friendly team on 01353 659999 or visit Okeanos Aggressor II