By: Sandro Lonardi
Cocos Island in Costa Rica is a scuba diving wonderland. In addition to being one of the best shark diving destinations in the world, it’s also a haven for all sorts of pelagic species. But this remote island has even more to offer.
This paradise is located 342 miles (550 km) from the Costa Rican mainland. The island itself is only 10 square miles, so diving at Cocos is only possible from a liveaboard. Cocos Island live aboards depart from Puntarenas and take approximately 36 hours to reach their destination. Generally, itineraries range from 8 to 10 nights.
Scuba diving in Cocos Island is a far cry from most tropical destinations. You won’t find bountiful coral reefs in the region. In fact, the underwater landscape of this remote island is mostly made up of dramatic pinnacles with arches and drop-offs. These seem to descend to the bottom of the Earth, but in essence you’re floating atop a submerged mountain range complete with peaks and valleys.
The best time to dive at Cocos Island is from June to December. During this season, large plankton blooms attract a number of pelagic predators. On the other hand, the weather isn’t great during these months. Surface conditions are often rocky and visibility is less than ideal.
It’s also important to note that diving conditions at Cocos Island can be challenging. Surge and current are often present, and emergency, life-saving procedures are a lot different 350 miles from the mainland. Therefore, this scuba diving destination is for experienced divers only.
Still not convinced that you should head to Cocos Island for your next scuba diving holiday? Here are 5 reasons you should definitely add this liveaboard-only destination to your bucket list.
Cocos Island is famous for its hammerhead sharks. This remote island sits at a convergence of nutrient-rich currents. This precise positioning makes the island the perfect place to swim amongst shoals of Scalloped Hammerheads. The most sharks are present from June to December, and some divers report swimming with several dozen during a single dive.
In addition to hammerhead sharks, divers might also spot whitetip reef, Galapagos, silky, tiger, blacktip, silvertip, and guitar sharks.
2. Mantas and Whale Sharks
While hammerheads may be the main attraction, divers still love to see manta rays and whale sharks. Thanks to heavy plankton blooms during the rainy season, the chance of seeing these two pelagic species around Cocos Island is quite high. Eagle rays and mobula rays show up from time to time, too.
Can you imagine a dive that starts with dozens of hammerheads gliding overhead followed by interaction with a playful whale shark and ending with a manta fly by? That’s Cocos Island.
3. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Cocos Island National Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. This is partly because the island represents the only island with a tropical rain-forest in the eastern Pacific. It’s also the first point of contact with the northern equatorial counter-current resulting in unique interactions between land and the marine ecosystem. This creates a natural laboratory for biological studies and a major population center for threatened sharks. In addition, Eco-tourism has added value to this World Heritage Site. Scuba divers come from all over the world to view the Cocos Island sharks, rays, dolphins, and tuna.
4. Explore an Uninhabited, Tropical Island
Only a handful of national park rangers live on Cocos Island. Otherwise, it is uninhabited. However, if your live aboard has the proper permits, you will be able to enjoy shore excursions. For many, this is as close to an untouched environment as they will ever visit. Trek through the rain-forest to gorgeous waterfalls for a refreshing dip. Or walk along pristine beaches. There’s just as much adventure to be had on land as there is under the water.
5. Cross Riding in a Submarine off Your Bucket List
One liveaboard in Cocos Island boasts a unique excursion – the opportunity to ride to extreme depths in the DeepSee Submersible. This will allow you to go beyond recreational limits to become a true aquanaut.
The small submarine can dive down to 1,000 feet (305 meters), allowing you to explore the mammoth seamount called Everest. Here you’ll see marine life and landscapes that recreational divers and landlubbers will never lay their eyes on. This is a rare opportunity to go beyond normal adventure into the extreme.
Diving at Cocos Island can be the highlight of any scuba diving career. Whether you love hammerhead sharks or are just up for an adventure, dive into this remote, tropical paradise on your next liveaboard holiday.
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