Bluewater Travel's Cocos Island Trip Recap

Bluewater Travel's Cocos Island Trip Recap


COCOS ISLAND GROUP TRIP

with Bluewater Travel 

By Tim Yeo

Palau's walls are covered in healthy colorful soft corals. 

 

We hopped on the shuttle in San Jose and headed out towards the port town of Puntarenas. Traffic was bad due to the long weekend, but we arrived at the boat in great spirits. Our driver was a ornithologist and gave us lectures along the drive about the flora and fauna of Costa Rica. We boarded the Okeanos Aggressor I and motored out of port right away.

The Okeanos Aggressor I is a large vessel with three decks for guests to hang out on when not in their cabins. Some of us chose the top deck to watch the gorgeous sunset lighting the clouds pink as the boat pulled away from mainland Costa Rica. After dinner, we watched the movie Vanilla Sky and called it a night.

The second day started out lazily. Some of us set up our scuba gear and some of us worked on putting our camera setups together, but we spent most of our time getting to know the other guests on board. We had divers from the U.S., Europe, Israel, and Costa Rica, but the most represented country on the trip was Canada.

 


 

Left: Our home for the next 10 days, the Okeanos Aggressor I            Right: Boat briefing in the TV lounge

 

We woke up on the third day on a boat that was no longer rocking. We had reached Cocos Island. We did our checkout dive at Chatham Bay. It was an easy reef dive maxing out at 50 feet, which allowed all divers to check their weighting and divers who had not dived in years the chance to find their fins again.


 

 

 Pangas 1 & 2 excited to go out for our first dives!


After the ranger’s briefing, we headed out to Manuelita Island—a short 3-minute ride via “panga” (a dinghy boat like a zodiac). It was a little choppy on the surface and a little surgy underwater, but everyone was focused on the shark show in front of our eyes. Dozens of hammerheads and two tiger sharks made multiple appearances. The largest of the tiger sharks was about 15 feet in length and the largest school of hammerheads that swam by was at least 50 strong. What a way to start a dive trip! We returned to the Okeanos Aggessor with huge smiles on our faces, with another 6 more days of phenomenal diving to come.

The third dive of the day was again at the cleaning stations at Manuelita. No tigers or massive schools of hammerheads this time, but everyone still saw hammerhead sharks, some as large as 12 feet long. Dinner was a scrumptious filet mignon and after watching the documentary Racing Extinction we headed into our cabins for some much needed shut eye.


 

 Left: The first big shark we saw was a 15 foot tiger shark          Right: Awsome hammerhead action right on Day 1

 

Day 4 started out at Punta Maria, a good site for Galapagos sharks, and it certainly did not disappoint. There was a constant flow of hammerheads at the cleaning station and when the numbers thinned out, a Galapagos shark made an appearance. Dive 2 was at Dirty Rock where we descended down through a large school of Jacks to the cleaning station, where hammerheads came in close to check us out.


 


After lunch, we boarded a panga and headed to land to visit the ranger station. Despite the fact that fishing is illegal within a 12-mile perimeter around the island, the rangers showed us a garage filled with a year’s worth of nylon fishing line and hooks they had confiscated. With additional commandeered fishing line and buoys, the rangers built a hanging bridge over the river. On the other side of the bridge was a rope hanging from a tree that we swung off of and into the river for a dip. While walking over to the living quarters, we spotted some deer that were introduced to the island by humans about 100 years ago. 

 

 

 Left: Getting ready to step foot on land after a few days on the boat           Right: Group photo at the ranger station

 

 

 Left: Suspension bridge made out of confiscated fishing line and buoys           Right: Rope swing into a river

 

Dive 3 was at Paraja Island, a pinnacle that slightly juts out of the water and drops down to 100 feet. That night we did the first of 3 night dives, heading to Manuelita shallows. When we hit the bottom at 45 feet, the blackjacks started their hunt for supper by the beams of our dive lights. Hunting with them was a pack of 50 whitetips. Then suddenly the whitetips practically disappeared and out of the shadows came a 10-foot Galapagos shark, who swam with us for the rest of the dive—making many passes and coming extremely close to all the divers.  

 

 

We were lucky to be accompanied by a large Galapagos shark out hunting during our night dive

 

Day 5 was another four dive day. We started off with a dive at Alcyon, which had a strong current that brought out a yellowfin tuna zipping near the underwater pinnacle. The next dive at Submerged Rock also presented strong current, so we spent most of the dive at an underwater arch where a school of snappers were hanging out. We also sighted whitetips sleeping in a crevice and three large marbled rays gliding around. As we made our way up to the safety stop at the end of the dive, we encountered a school of over 200 bigeye jacks.


 

Lots of marbled rays at Submerged Rock

 

 

Left: Hammerhead shark stretches out long       Right: Massive school of bigeye jacks


After lunch, we went back to Manuelita Shallows for a third dive. For the fourth dive, we went to Chatham Bay. There were no large sharks, so this time we assisted hundreds of whitetips on their nightly hunt for food. We witnessed a couple of feeding frenzies—one of which ended with fish scale particles everywhere in the water.

After another long day of diving, we packed into the TV area and watched The Navigator, a 45-minute documentary about an amazing journey replicating an ancient journey the Hawaiians made to Tahiti via canoe, navigating only by the stars.  

 

 

 Very easy to get close to whitetip reef sharks during nght dives at Cocos Island 

 

Day 6 started off with a bang. Because of bad weather conditions, we dove Dirty Rock and Manuelita again, the two pangas separating and diving at different dive sites. The team at Dirty Rock saw hammerhead sharks, an eagle ray, a large Galapagos shark, and a large school of over 100 hammerheads pass by. The team at Manuelita experienced the best dive of the trip so far with a giant oceanic manta and dolphins hunting a school of jacks. The panga teams switched for the second dive, and both teams were excited to go on the dive right away.


 

 A large oceanic manta and a pod of dolphins at Manuelita

 


Dive 2 for me was at Manuelita. We dropped down 80 feet to the cleaning station and were treated to a continuous show of hammerhead sharks coming so close that one of them bumped into a camera. We had a school of over 60 hammerheads come right by us at the cleaning station.

 

 

 We were often treated to dozens of hammerheads sharks coming close to the reef to get cleaned 

 

Since we all had such an amazing dive at Manuelita that morning, we all decided to return there after lunch. When we dropped in, visibility had dropped to 20 feet. We saw 6 hammerhead sharks and a couple marbled rays instead of the hundreds of sharks spotted during the morning dives. The dive was saved when the two teams passed each other and hugs and kisses ensued underwater.

The last night dive of the trip was done with great anticipation and apprehension. The night dives so far had all been really good … but cold! Those that pushed through were rewarded with sharks galore. Hundreds of white tip sharks swarmed in a feeding frenzy for most of the dive, and we ascended after 45 minutes with our mouths wide open.


 

 Hundreds of whitetip reef sharks out hunting at night 


 

 Scary faces after a "scary" night dive 


After a wonderful dinner and a drinking game, most of us called it a night while the rest of us headed up to the top deck to watch the moon rise over the horizon.  

 

 

 Nightlife on the boat was always a blast

 

Dive 1 of Day 7 started at Manuelita, where the ocean gifted us with a large school of 50 hammerheads cruising the sandy bottom at 110 feet. After a quick rinse off, we headed into Chatham Bay’s ranger station. Some of the group went for a hike to the top of the mountain, where friendly pigs allowed some of us to hand feed them. The rest of us joined in a traditional Okeanos Aggressor vs. Cocos Island Rangers soccer game. The 45-minute game was played out on the sand at low tide and our team (Okeanos Aggressor) won 5-1!


 

 Manuelita had a constant flow of hammerheads coming in to get cleaned 


 

 Left: Hike up to the peak with great vistas and local wildlife     Right: Bi-weekly soccer game between the Okeanos Aggressor and the Rangers 


We were supposed to dive Alcyon on the second dive of Day 7, but the current was too strong so we opted to head back to Manuelita. What a choice it turned out to be. We first descended upon a massive school of over 100 bigeye jacks. Since we had great luck at the sandy bottom earlier in the morning, we headed there again and as if on cue, the large school of hammerheads appeared and swam around in circles on the sand, occasionally swimming up the reef and above our heads.

As our bottom time dwindled, we ascended to the cleaning station at 65 feet and we were treated to a line of hammerheads waiting to be cleaned by barberfish. One by one, the hammerheads swam within a few feet of us, stopped momentarily to be cleaned of parasites by the barberfish, and swam off so the next hammerhead in line could get its turn. This went on for about 15 minutes and we didn’t want to leave, but when we reached our safety stop, a massive school of about 100 striped bonito surrounded us.


 

 Left: Hanging on to a rock during strong surge even down at 110ft      Right: Hammerheads will often roll onto their side to invite the cleaners over


 

 Left: A hammerhead's turn to swim up the reef to get cleaned     Right: Large school of striped bonito during the safety stop


Dive 3 of Day 7 was a dusk dive. The bell rang at 4 p.m. and we were in the water at 4:45 p.m. We dove Dirty Rock with limited visibility and light, and saw a few hammerheads, a large school of Jacks, and an octopus. Sushi was served after everyone showered, followed by kabobs and a birthday cake for one of the guests.

It was a quiet night for us all with guests chatting on the top and middle decks, and some watching the movie The Great Gatsby in the TV lounge.


 

Outdoor dining: Sushi and kabobs night


Happy birthday!


Day 8 started off early at 7 a.m. so we could do 4 dives that day, two the next day, and start making our way back to Puntarenas to catch the high tide. Panga 2 went to Big Dos Amigos, where the main attraction was a large underwater arch that was about 30 feet wide at the bottom (85 feet deep); the top of the arch began at 50 feet. Panga 1 went to Small Dos Amigos and they saw hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, and silvertip sharks.


 

Galapagos sharks of all sizes


Both pangas switched dive sites for the second and third dives. We went to Dirty Rock where the ocean was like an aquarium filled with marine life in a varying cacophony of colors. Yellow striped snappers, red creolefish, silver bigeye Jacks, and Bluefin trevally each occupied a section of the metaphorical fish tank we were diving in.

For the fourth dive of the day, we went back to our favorite dive site—Manuelita. Apart from the usual suspects of hammerhead and Galapagos sharks, we saw the largest yellowfin tuna that we had ever seen. It was about 8 feet long and 4 feet wide. It made the hammerhead sharks look small in comparison. It was a long day, so after dinner most of us called it a night.

 

 

Left: Coming in for a closer look      Right: Moorish idols in formation


Our last day of diving ended with a bang! Those of us in the Panga 1 team went to Dirty Rock for the first dive and saw the largest school of Jacks we have ever seen. The school numbered in the thousands and surrounded us at the top, bottom, and on all sides. A school of hammerheads in the hundreds swam by in the distance. We ended the last dive at Manuelita with 50-foot visibility, and were again treated to another hammerhead show at the cleaning stations. On the way back up, a large yellowfin tuna kept zipping by us.


 

Left: A large yellowfin tuna darts by the group      Right: A hammerhead getting stalked by barberfish


Panga 1 ended the dive trip at Dirty Rock and had a whale shark swim by at 90 feet, making its way up to the surface. What a way to end the dive trip!


 

All-in-all it was an unforgettable trip filled with fun, friendly times and momentous memories.   

 

 

HOW TO BOOK A TRIP TO Cocos Island

Bluewater Travel can book you on a liveaboard in Cocos Island for the same cost or less than booking any other way. We know the diving, accommodation and when to go better than anyone else!

 

Email us at info@bluewaterdivetravel.com and tell us that you read this article to get a special price for your next dive trip.

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