Home > Dive Discovery Trip Reports

Cocos Island - UnderSea Hunter
March 28-April 7 2010 Trip Report

Dive Discovery Trip Report: Cocos Island, March 28-April 7 2010 - UnderSea Hunter

Hooray off we go after a lovely night at the Grano De Oro in San Jose Costa Rica, meeting our really fun group after a lovely dinner the night before.

We board Undersea Hunter in the morning for our 36 hr steam to the enchanting island of schooling HammerHead sharks and the fabled buried treasure!

Undersea Hunter - Cocos Island LiveaboardsA lovely steam to our beautiful Cocos Island, I love this place. However El Nino surprised us, we knew El Nino has been meddling again, the west coast of the USA received huge amounts of rain this winter, Florida freezing, the east coast pounded with snow.

The water temps were very warm, average 84 to 86 depending on different dive computers. Normally it is 82 with thermoclines in the mid 70's. The Hammerheads were there only deeper and so were the thermoclines. Manuelita never fails as a great dive site, just off Chatam Bay where the ranger station is, the Parque Nacional Isla Del Coco with volunteers helping to keep our dive sites and reefs free from illegal fishing. We do our safety stop here to sort out weight belts and try out cameras. A lovely surprise here, a BIG orange Frog fish, endemic orange/yellow lipped damsel fish, they are sooooo adorable, their lips glow! Endemic goat fish and blue striped French grunts, they always call to you for a snap shot, they are a lovely bright yellow moving ribbon of fish.

The back of Manuelita offers 2 dives sites, The Channel & Outside. Both are fantastic, for some time now there are 2 resident TIGER sharks in the Channel, 1 medium size and the other GINORMOUS!! The size of a Sherman Tank, it is shocking the size of this thing. Looks to me like a GREAT White shark with stripes. Very exciting to go on the hunt to find these boys (girls? Never got close enough to look), they seem to really like it there as they hang out there and no place else!

Manuelita Outside offers up a variety of exciting opportunities, our first dive there we had schools of mating Black Jacks, Blue Tail Jacks and Big Eye Jacks, a very fishy area there.

Next morning DIRTY ROCK, this received a 5 star rating from me! Our first jump was into crystal clear water, hammerheads right away, approx 20 to 30 staying deeper!!! However they come up the sides of the rock face so we can see them and attempt to photograph them! Even I managed some good shots with my crappy snappy. Also lest me not forget to advise, the white tip sharks are prevalent and by the truck loads, every size you can imagine and several pregnant females. They sort of remind me of Impala in Africa, I call them Rocks, they are everywhere….

Dive Discovery Trip Report: Cocos Island, March 28-April 7 2010 - UnderSea Hunter

Another 5 star rated site, PUNTA MARIA, down the rope to 80ft, right away there were several VERY LARGE Galapagos Sharks, they were about 10 to 12 ft long we decided! Wow I never remembered them being so BIG and so many of them. Great stuff here, 2 hammers showed up but the thrill of seeing these Galapagos Sharks was fantastic! They are a little shy though, they do not come up and pose for pics like we hoped.

Dos Amigos was not happening so we stayed with the same dive sites that produced for us, although we did see an eagle ray and several Silky sharks at the surface! Not sure why they like to hang out at the surface.

Some odd notes, most of the time the hammerheads were deep where you would expect them to be in hot water, often times we would head in the blue for safety stops to see what we would find, always something fun and special after a while. It is the damnest thing, there would be a small school of 6 hammerheads hanging out in 60ft or shallower where it was hot? I do not understand this.

We did several night dives at Manuelita Coral Gardens where the famous roving, hunting white tip sharks by the hundreds, try their luck at feeding. Come to find out they are not very good hunters, they need other fish to injure a fish so it hides under the rock, and that is when the white tips are seen exploding into and out of the rock trying to get this fish! It is pretty wild to see so many sharks roving the bottom at a very fast moving pace! The excitement is when they find a precious morsel and they all fight for this one fish!

Off to Alcyone, the other HOT dive site for Hammerheads. Our fist dive here did not have the thermocline needed for the sharks, however they were there! Most were too far off for a good picture, however they also come up the rocks for a surprise hello. Eagle rays were a normal sighting on this trip, from 1 to 2 at a time up to 9 we counted on our last dive, a squadron of Eagle Rays nothing so beautiful as this ray!

Silverado is one of those ON or OFF dive sites, this is where you sit on the bottom in a semi circle staring at this rock in shallow water off the island, the Silver Tip sharks come in to be cleaned by the barber fish, the same fish that the Hammer Heads use for cleaning and there are certain cleaning stations all over this island. So we waited and waited and I guess they all got cleaned earlier in the day. We build pyramids and I built a temple with the rocks in the area, very amusing. So off we go and bam there is a RED LIPPED BATFISH! The coolest wackiest creature at Cocos! How lucky are we???? It is adorable and hugs the ground, looks like a BIG sea moth with hands and feet and wings with red lips, a very cool creature! It gave me a work out, I managed to keep him near us and he posed face on for everyone but me, I only got side shots, it was fun and good exercise anyhow.

Dive Discovery Trip Report: Cocos Island, March 28-April 7 2010 - UnderSea Hunter

Another 5 star dive at DIRTY ROCK, big Galapagos sharks there, hammerheads, a giant beautiful school of jacks, it was huge and kept going on forever and stayed with us and moved around us making beautiful patterns, such fun and hypnotizing to be eye ball to eye ball with thousands of these amazing fish. A Mobula Manta came by to say hello and as we are out in the blue slowing off gassing, there is a school of hammers, a very rewarding dive! Never disappoints.

However next dive to Punta Maria and whoooo hoooooooo, went deep to see who was lurking there and yes those BIG Galapagos sharks were. They are so amazing, we have to go up and they followed us up to 60ft with several of them crossing back and forth in front of us, wonderful and we could get good pictures and actually see them for the first time up close and personal, they are so sleek, buff and really beautiful sharks! They were swimming in a school of fish all swarming around as well as another lovely Eagle Ray,,,, fantastic dive again here!

Easter Morning, the Easter Bunny came for a visit ;-} we dove at submerged rock, a very small site with a swim thru and lovely fish all over it. Another very active and free forming school of jacks; they were making very interesting patterns in the blue, ending the dive with another Mobula Manta.

ALCYONE rocking and rolling, supery dupery dive with close up hammerheads and deeper we saw 2 schools in the blue. That great sound you hear, squeaking and squealing, yes a bottle nose dolphin, a female all alone, how odd to me. She came in right to us with her sonar and clicking, but did not stay around to play. A lovely site with amazing audio! Oh yes we also had a very unique black tip shark, very different than the common reef shark, this has unusual striations on the sides of muscles all lined up, this one worked out at the gym quite regularly!

Dive Discovery Trip Report: Cocos Island, March 28-April 7 2010 - UnderSea Hunter

Manulelita Outside gave us a 5 star journey here with tons of giant marbled rays, we see them nearly every dive, however there were many of them and it looked as though they were at a mating convention, interesting! 2 more eagle rays together, hammerheads in the blue and several green sea turtles, not a bad dive!

Now sadly our last day, Dirty Rock was great for me, I followed a BIG Eagle ray and he escorted me to his friends and maybe family of a squadron of 9 EAGLE RAYS in formation, I was able to swim next to them and keep up, I wish I had a wide angle lens on! This was soooooo beautiful to swim even with 9 gorgeous rays,,,,ahhhhh life is sweet. At the beginning of this dive I went pretty deep and found a very big school of Hammerheads, they were at approx 160 ft. This is a good time to take a ride in the Sea Sub they have, it goes deep where all the hammerheads are now!

We also had quite a bit of rain for being in the dry season, we hope this El Nino will be quickly on his way so the sharks resume normal safe diving levels for us humans ;-}. It's a good thing I am good on air!

Gabi from the ranger station is still there, her contract is up so now she is working for free. She was there 2 years ago when I was there, some of us in our group gave quite a bit of money to the foundation that works ONLY at Cocos to raise funds for patrol boats, these boats are the only way they can even try to stop the illegal fishing that goes on, the sanctuary is 12 miles around the island, it is next to impossible to patrol this with 2 small boats, so finally with funding from divers visiting the island, the big patrol boat recently arrived and she was so happy to show me and I was thrilled to know our money is being used for ONLY Cocos and to stop the illegal fishing that is taking our sharks and fish.

Thank you everyone who has been to Cocos and helped contribute to this very important cause!!! You will be happy to know it is working, yahoooo!

Some of us went for a hike to the waterfalls, it is so very beautiful through the rainforest, it was a bit slippery due to the rain we kept having, all worth it when you reach the pool with the boulders and the stunning waterfall, so fun to dive in this cool pond and have the power of the waterfall pound on your head and shoulders, fantastic!

In spite of Mr El Nino visiting us we had great diving and all the characters of the play were there. The only thing missing were the big schools of hammerheads in your face and in your view finder, they were below instead of above, but they were there and we could see them. The crew of Undersea Hunter were fantastic as always, and I thank them for working so hard for us.

I will continue to go back to Cocos Island, it is a very special place, full of magic and sea life you cannot see in a lot of places in the world. We need to make others aware of what is happening to our beloved oceans, we need to help where help is needed. Stop illegal fishing and shark finning, we are so blessed to be able to see these gifts of the sea, let's keep it that way.

-- Cindi LaRaia

Dive Discovery Trip Report: Cocos Island, March 28-April 7 2010 - UnderSea Hunter