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Published: September 19th 2018
Here we are, finally back to some world class diving...Cocos, reaching easily my top 5!
Coming to dive Costa Rica and not diving Cocos, is a little like...missing what is the jewel of the country when it comes to diving. But I have to admit, this is not cheap at all, and it requests some serious advance planning and booking! But here I am, I've now dived Socorro, Galapagos as well as Cocos...I'm one of those very few fortunate ones!
Let's not mention the price of a 10 days trip, 7 of them diving on the Okeanos I from Aggressor Fleet. I'm not a big fan of Aggressor, but put it simply, they are way cheaper that the two other boats going to Cocos, I name the UnderSea Hunter and the Argo. So I did it, I booked 9 months in advance a berth in the quadruple cabin. You read it well, this is sharing 10 nights in a small cabin with three other guys I've never met before!
I first spent two nights at the Aloft in the outskirts of San Jose. This is my second time in San Jose. First
time was 16 years ago...did a day stop to play golf here...in between San Francisco and Lima! I didn't see much of the city back then. I have to admit, I didn't see much either this time. San Jose doesn't have the best reputation as a gorgeous city! I was going to be 10 days with zero internet connection...and the plan was to kill as much work as I could do before getting cut from the outside world for 10 days. On top of it, Aloft took truly special care of me...may be a basic hotel, but they knew how to make me feel super welcome!
First was the meeting point, than the 90 minutes drive to reach Puntarenas to board the Okeanos I. The boat is full with 22 divers. There are 7 Koreans, 6 Irish, 3 Americans, 2 Germans, 1 Argentinian, 1 Dutch, 1 French and me. Put it simply, I think I may have exchange details with 3 people...tell you a little about the connections with the other divers.
I'm sharing the cabin with a Korean, a young (36) Dutch doctor...and my new dive buddy, a fun Frenchman some nearly 15
years older than me...he has 1600 dives and instructor level...perfect!
The Korean have between them at least 80,000usd worth of underwater filming/camera equipment...so we do manage to avoid their panga ( diving zodiac) and group with the Irish who are way lighter on camera equipment!
The crossing is a smooth 32 hours ride to Cocos. Yes, you read well, 32 hours! This is just 550km right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. No kidding the place is so remote. The island is around 5sqmiles, and they have a ranger station on it with rangers staying on average a month. The liveaboards are actually in charge of ferrying the rangers and other volunteers. During the week, we would end up twice venturing on the wet island. Bear in mind, you may remember the start of the movie Jurassic Park. You know, when the helicopters came in. Well, this is it, it is Cocos Island. Green as green can be...a former pirate hide-out, full of waterfalls. To put it in perspective, 40% of the time it was raining, 40% of the time it was overcast, and yes, we had some sun! Wouldn't bother us much
This place is today easily in my top 5...and we did 21 dives to make sure I got a good taste of it. This place is to compare with Socorro, Galapagos, the Tuamutus (French Polynesia) or even Palau. But wait...there is more fun. Why would I cross the world to dive with hammerheads and tiger sharks, I got them at home in my garden.
Well, it's easy, here the water is 27 degrees, and visibility is between 20 meters to a good 35 meters. At home we dive in the "blue"...therefore we have to go after the "big stuff"...here, you hide by the rocks, and they come to you...very very close sometime.
We encountered tones of marble rays, few eagle rays and four mantas. Plus there was the two frog fishes and a short dolphin encounter! On top of that, there are the millions of jacks, the thousands of mullet snappers as well as some tens of wahoos. Then come the sharks. Not a single dive without a solid number of hammerheads. We had few galapagos and silky sharks, even the occasional oceanic black tip. I've stopped counting the
white tips sleeping on the sea bed...at least 20 of them per dive. Than there was the tigers...and that special tiger female.
I realize that the next few lines are going to either scare some, surprise others and could be used in the future by others for further investigation. Let put it simply, we did 21 dives. But back before November 2017, they had 24 dives on the program, this would include 3 night dives. But here it is, back in the end of November 2017, a huge female tiger shark attacked a American lady diver and her dive master. He was bitten solid on the leg, and she ended being beaten twice on the main body and died soon after the attack. This all happened on Manuelita.
Following the attack, the rangers closed that dive area for 3 months and prohibited further night dives. The tiger shark can be territorial. On Manuelita island, or rather around it, this tiger female is feeding herself on young bobbies bird learning to fly and who end up in the water...easy preys and great snack for her!
This is what I heard on the
boat from our dive briefing. We were a group of 11 divers on our second dive in Cocos, the first in Manuelita. The two dive masters with us were both equipped with long sticks to "poke" the shark in case she decided to be curious.
What I found out after the dive is....end of April 2018, another German experienced diver got attacked again. He was away from the main group. The shark bite his tank and he just released his BCD and tank to rush to the surface and climbed the rocks waiting for the boat pick up. He was lucky! The month before our trip, a group on the UnderSea Hunter experienced what we had, and here is the story!
Our dive went smoothly till minute 44. We had few sharks and rays and some lovely current on "the Deep". We were already back to 15 meters when she suddenly appeared. Bear in mind, I dive with a lot of sharks everyday when I'm at home, so I know this guys! She came around above us...this is fine...than she approached the zodiac close to the surface. I thought to myself...that one is way
too curious....keep your eyes open! Suddenly she dipped down...and than reappeared few second later from the deep...right on us.
If you look closer to her eyes, you will see them white. This is when she "closes" her eyes to protect them .I had never seen this before...and it is a clear sign that the next step...is an open shark mouth! Do note, there are less than 5 causalities per year on divers around the world. It is mainly accidents due to issues with feeding. Rarely you can say...that shark is the one that kills that person....and by the way...he is right there coming at us...coming at me!
The top pic is the one where you see the DM with his stick. Well, the tiger shark had just passed him after being "poked"...I was next in line, without a stick. So I did what makes sense...I went straight down...and click for the picture. Telling in the process to myself...don't worry, it's just a killer...you know your sharks, just don't do anything stupid. Oh yes, and a shark can feel if you are scared, like a dog...and there were enough panicked Irish around me!
That tiger came back 4 or 5 times...we skipped the safety stop and went all solid properly grouped back to the boat. I have to admit, we are lucky because none of the divers made a big mistake. The rule is NEVER turn your back to a shark like this...keep looking in his/her eyes...do a lot of bubbles (that was easy)...and you have to stay together. We all did it properly, but I saw some terrified eyes down there. Not everybody dive with sharks everyday before breakfast! Trust me, that tiger shark will attack and kill again, i'm sure of it...
We did dive the same site again. Not all Irish decided to join us. We saw that same tiger shark again...but this time, she was at 10 meters while we were down at 25 meters...she didn't care about us. Trust me, that was one of those experience. I was supposed to do on this trip my 1000th dive. Would not happen due to the night dives being cancelled. So yes, I finished my trip with 998 dives! I had the time to do one more dive two weeks ago at home...and I'm writing this on
my way to my 1000th...coming soon....writing in the lounge in Addis!
I believe most of the pictures speak for themselves! I will come back to Cocos at some stage....I'm still young! But next August, it's back to the Tuamutus first...Rangiroa and Fakarava, I miss you...than before diving again Cocos, I have to go back to Socorro. If you ask me, I found Socorro a lot more fun. It's maybe simply that's I'm too spoiled with sharks on my own house reef!
Enjoy the pictures, that was a trip!
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