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© copyright by Tamarindo Family Photos www.tamarindofamilyphotos.com
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
Sexual tension was definitely in the air – or more aptly, in the water – this week at Cocos Island. Normally we dive Alcyone looking for hammerhead action, but on day five we found something entirely different. A group of 5 male whitetip reef sharks were biting and holding down a female as they tried to mate with her. Like underwater voyeurs, we watched in fascination as she escaped and they chased after her time and time again. At one point they had the female completely flipped over on her back, which resulted in her entering a state of tonic immobility (when a shark is rendered paralyzed). Soon after she escaped again, and the chase started all over.

Mating season must be contagious, because at Lobster Rock we saw rainbow wrasse spawning like there would be no tomorrow. Then on one of the night dives at Manuelita we observed sea urchins spawning. While sea urchin sex isn’t as wild or exciting to watch as shark sex, it’s still pretty interesting. Both males and females squirt a liquid substance out into the water containing either sperm or eggs, and the soup floats around in the ocean until it finds a suitable match. According to Wikipedia, “Males generally choose elevated and exposed locations, so their milt can be broadcast by sea currents. Females generally choose low-lying locations in sea bottom crevices, presumably so the tiny larvae can have better protection from predators.”

The best hammerhead action of the trip was at Dirty Rock, and the photographers on board went crazy taking pictures of the barberfish jumping all over the hammerheads to eat their parasites. Thanks to a drop in water temperature, we were seeing hammerheads pretty much all over the place, including Manuelita. Punta Maria was packed with schools of fish, and we spotted black tip and tiger sharks throughout the week at Manuelita Channel.

Our favorite macro life this trip was the funny-looking juvenile rockmover wrasse and the gorgeous sea horse we saw on an afternoon dive at Pajara Island (both very rare sights!). The trip ended with a bang as we saw a pod of dolphins upon arriving at Alcyone – followed by a gigantic school of hammerheads at our second dive that day at Dirty Rock. Everyone spent the entire crossing back grinning from ear to ear and replaying their videos for newly-made friends.




Dive Conditions
Currents  
mild
strong
Visibility   51 ft / 16 m
Water Temp.   83°F / 28°C
Weather
Climate  
sunny
rainy
Sea  
calm
choppy
Crossings
to Cocos Island  
calm
choppy
to Puntarenas  
calm
choppy
© copyright by Roy Kimhi
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Roy Kimhi
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
Everyone was very late to dinner one night in the middle of the trip – and with good reason. Outside it sounded as if a hard rain was falling, but the air was completely dry. We peered overboard to see what was up. The water surrounding the boat was suddenly overcome with a rippling wave of undulating red, as hundreds of thousands (if not MILLIONS) of red and purple pelagic crabs scurried around us.

And these were no ordinary crustaceans. These creatures were equipped with a set of small fins that allowed them to actually swim. They were everywhere. Crabs quite literally swarmed as far as the eye could see, completely covering the surface of the water. They stacked several feet thick as they scrambled over one another vying to get to the top of the pile. No one on board could identify what species this might be.

The bravest (or perhaps dumbest) divers among us jumped into the water with them, and the crabs pinched at our skin – not quite hard enough to leave a mark. Everyone laughed and screamed simultaneously, like a bunch of little kids. The smarter swimmers threw on their wetsuits before entering the water, and the crabs were unable to squeeze through the material.

By breakfast the next morning, the crustaceans had all disappeared without a trace – save for a trail of dead crab carcasses littering the island’s shores.

Some of our dive guides said they'd seen this behavior at Cocos once before – about 5 years ago. However, they are unsure of why or how this mass exodus occurs. Is this some sort of mating behavior? No one knows. Because most of the specimens were adults, it’s unlikely this was a spawning. The Undersea Hunter’s team of curious researchers is investigating and emailing all of our favorite marine biologists, so stay tuned for more info. We may have discovered an entirely new species.

This “flight of the crabs” was just one of the many highlights of our last trip to Cocos Island on the Argo, where we consistently saw hammerheads in schools of up to 15+. The two busiest hotspots this time around were Alcyone and Dirty Rock. Rather strong sea conditions the first few days at the island meant visibility suffered a bit in the beginning. However, this was altogether a good thing as the fresh currents brought cool waters and the big pelagic creatures that come with them: like hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, marbled rays and even a giant manta.

Not to mention the huge pod of dolphins that once swam by us, pausing briefly out of curiosity before continuing along their way. At one of the safety stops at Manuelita Outside we even saw a gigantic marlin, which got extremely close.

On the second to last day, we ventured onto the island for a hike. The wild pigs roaming the terrain impressed every last one of us, as we imagined in vivid detail the pirates that must have brought them there so many years ago. The crossing back to Puntarenas was smooth, and everyone was full of good cheer. We were all so thankful that Cocos Island never fails to amaze and surprise.

Dive Conditions
Currents  
mild
strong
Visibility   39 ft / 12 m
Water Temp.   82°F / 28°C
Weather
Climate  
sunny
rainy
Sea  
calm
choppy
Crossings
to Cocos Island  
calm
choppy
to Puntarenas  
calm
choppy
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Martin Kappes
As we boarded the skiff on our last dive at Big Dos Amigos, a flurry of activity appeared just below the surface. It was our last day at Cocos Island, and a spinning mass of thousands of mackerel began to tunnel upward toward the sky. We watched in awe, mesmerized that nature could create such a gigantic cloud of fish.

But that was nothing compared to what came next.

Out of nowhere a huge school of bottlenose dolphins appeared, including a mother and two babies. The babies swam in tandem with their mama, staying close to her side and almost touching her at all times. As the trio wove in and out of the mackerel, it became clear that the mom was teaching its offspring how to hunt by example.

As if the dolphins weren’t enough, a bunch of Galapagos sharks suddenly appeared even farther below. Then came layers of silky sharks, blacktips, jacks and yellowfin tuna all coming to partake in the feast. The fish darted this way and that simultaneously, as one immense unit, in a futile attempt to avoid becoming a larger creature’s meal.

One of the filmmakers in our group had a GoPro on a very long monopod. He expanded the stick to its maximum length and stuck it under the water to film the action. Back at the boat we put it on the big screen and watched the mackeral cling together and scatter in starbursts as they were chased. There were truly too many apex predators to count. What a way to end the trip!

But I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s start at the beginning.

This voyage we had a big group from PRETOMA on board, who made it their mission to tag turtles and sharks in an effort to study their behaviors and protect these gorgeous animals. Day 1 we spent diving Manuelita and getting our bearings, and Day 2 and 3 we ventured out to Dirty Rock. There, the current was flowing in different directions at different depths, which was rather strange. At Punta Maria, the current was more mild and we saw a large school of colorful creole fish at the pinnacle.

Day 4 and 5 we dove Alcyone and then the southern end of the island, at Dos Amigos. Currents were a big stronger there, and we saw large spotted eagle rays and lots hungry bluefin trevallies attacking a school of snapper. Day 6, Shark Fin Rock and Submerged Rock teemed with life and color as a huge school of blue and gold snapper, mullet snapper and bigeye trevally inhabited the dive sites.

The highlight of the trip was of course the baitball on the very last day. The crossing back to mainland was relatively calm, with occasional heavy rains and wind. Thanks to this incredible Cocos Island experience we hardly noticed the bouts of rough weather, and we floated on cloud nine the entire way back to Puntarenas.



Dive Conditions
Currents  
mild
strong
Visibility   57 ft / 17 m
Water Temp.   84°F / 29°C
Weather
Climate  
sunny
rainy
Sea  
calm
choppy
Crossings
to Cocos Island  
calm
choppy
to Puntarenas  
calm
choppy
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group

© copyright by Martin Kappes
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter
We had a multinational group aboard the Argo this trip, with divers from Brazil, England, Egypt, Mexico and the USA. The crossing was smooth, with lots of sunshine and hardly any choppy waters.

Our first day at Cocos Island, Chatham Bay and Manuelita were bursting with life. Visibility was excellent, and among the normal colorful fish at the reef we also spotted a handful of hammerheads and eagle rays.

The night dives this week were downright incredible. In addition to the “usual” swarm of ravenous white tip reef sharks collectively combing the reef in search of their next meal, a huge 2.3-meter Galapagos shark also turned up for supper. It circled the group for several tense laps before disappearing into the darkness. Galapagos sightings have been more and more frequent on evening dives at the Manuelita Coral Gardens, which is great for night divers brave enough to face them.

Even more mesmerizing to watch than the Galapagos, however, was the quantity of juvenile white tips practicing how to hunt. Watching them learn from trial and error was nothing short of fascinating, and our group was glued as they pursued a panicked parrotfish before finally closing in for the kill. All the while, enormous black jacks darted in and out of the mix, trying to swipe the prey for themselves and creating even more tension in this life or death scene.

Alcyone was fairly slow this trip in terms of hammerhead action, but we did see some large schools of jacks there (including jacks mating) – which is always an awesome spectacle to watch. At Dos Amigos Grande we spotted a tiger shark at the safety stop, and Submerged Rock overflowed with schooling blue and gold snappers.

Our last day at the island, several hammerheads swam in close to say goodbye at Manuelita Outside. The crossing back to Puntarenas was smooth, with the Argo full of happy divers.

Dive Conditions
Currents  
mild
strong
Visibility   49 ft / 15 m
Water Temp.   86°F / 30°C
Weather
Climate  
sunny
rainy
Sea  
calm
choppy
Crossings
to Cocos Island  
calm
choppy
to Puntarenas  
calm
choppy
© copyright by Photo by: Martin Kappes

© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
Galapagos and tiger sharks were the definitive stars of our last voyage to Cocos Island. We saw enormous Galapagos sharks diving Punta Maria, which circled us CLOSE UP each and every time we went. Everyone worked together flawlessly to increase the probability of these close encounters – it’s extremely important for divers stay on the fringe of this cleaning station’s plateau (rather than right on top of it), or else the sharks might get spooked.

On one of our most unforgettable Punta Maria dives, a manta ray came by at the safety stop and spent several minutes swimming laps and playing with our bubbles. The shark action here reached its peak on the 6th day of the trip, when saw at least 6 different Galapagos sharks at once – plus 2 black tips thrown into the mix.

Even the Cocos Island night dives were packed with an extra jolt of adrenaline. In addition to the usual white tip feeding frenzy along the coral gardens, a huge Galapagos shark came along one night to join the hunt. It tried to nab several white tips for dinner, but failed with each attempt (which was rather fortunate for the white tips).

Although we were an international group of divers, we all became fast friends and at night everyone hung out in the common area sharing photos, videos and crazy stories. The barbeque night was super fun, with everyone dressing up in outlandish wigs and laughing their brains out. On the second to last day we hiked the island from Wafer to Chatham Bay, stopping to bathe in the cool waterfalls and to admire the adorable baby piglets.

Tiger sharks were abundant all week – they just couldn’t get enough of us, and we spotted them on 5 days. Most of the sightings occurred around Manuelita Island and in the Channel, their preferred territory; however the best encounter of all happened at Punta Maria of all places (this was very unexpected, as we don’t typically see tigers at this dive site).

On this unforgettable dive, a massive 4-meter PREGNANT female tiger approached us in a display of sheer curiosity. She gently swam around us, checking everyone out, for roughly 3 minutes before returning to the deep to dwell in the dark awaiting its next meal.

To top off such a spectacular adventure, on the way back to mainland Costa Rica we came across a gorgeous pod of bottle nosed dolphins. This was unquestionably a wonderful trip, and hopefully a sneak peek of what the rest of the season holds in store for divers at Cocos Island.


Dive Conditions
Currents  
mild
strong
Visibility   67 ft / 20 m
Water Temp.   80°F / 27°C
Weather
Climate  
sunny
rainy
Sea  
calm
choppy
Crossings
to Cocos Island  
calm
choppy
to Puntarenas  
calm
choppy

© copyright by Photo by: Kristi Cunningham
© copyright by Photo by: Kristi Cunningham
© copyright by Photo by: Kristi Cunningham
© copyright by Photo by: Kristi Cunningham
Day one started off with a bang for both groups. The blue team was particularly lucky; spotting a 10-foot tiger shark followed by a curious manta ray that circled everyone during the safety stop. The yellow team saw a group of adult blacktip sharks out in the blue.

Dirty Rock was the star divesite of this trip – there we consistently saw dozens of hammerheads milling about. We encountered a few Galapagos sharks at the cleaning station at Punta Maria, but they were rather shy and didn’t venture terribly close to us until Day 5 (when we could practically reach out and touch them). The first night dives of the voyage were spectacular as always, with countless white tips maniacally feeding on the reef.

Day 3 we explored the east side of Cocos Island. Schools of blue and gold snappers, grunts, goat fish and bluefin trevallies flitted about at Submerged Rock. Jumping in at Alcyone, we fell right on top of a massive school of jacks, which enveloped us inside their tornado as we descended. Watching them swirl and spin around us was downright magical. On the way back to the Argo, a pod of playful dolphins followed the boat, racing and jumping in pure dolphin joy.

On the very last day, Cocos gave us the most incredible surprise as we drifted out into the blue at Dirty Rock: an immense CLOUD of hammerheads appeared before our very eyes. Looking skyward, we could see their unmistakable silhouettes squiggling by.

It’s no shock that Cocos is known for attracting schools of hammerheads, but it’s been awhile since we’ve seen a school quite this big. They kept coming and coming and coming... it seemed like the school would never end. This is why we come to Cocos. This is shark diving at its best, and the perfect farewell to the Island.


Dive Conditions
Currents  
mild
strong
Visibility   55 ft / 17 m
Water Temp.   79°F / 26°C
Weather
Climate  
sunny
rainy
Sea  
calm
choppy
Crossings
to Cocos Island  
calm
choppy
to Puntarenas  
calm
choppy
© copyright by Photo by: Edwar Herreño

© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Photo by Martin Kappes
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter
Manuelita was hot right off the bat this trip – on Day 1 we were lucky enough to see a huge school of 50+ hammerheads out in the blue. Day 2 we awoke to heavy rain (perhaps nothing on the planet is more refreshing than a good Cocos Island downpour). Diving Punta Maria and Dirty Rock, we saw lots of blacktips and Galapagos sharks at these cleaning stations. To everyone’s delight, upon backrolling in at Dirty Rock we pretty much descended right on top of a giant school of hammerheads. The school was easily as large as yesterday’s – but today we got to see them up close and personal.

The waters were warm this voyage, with almost no current – meaning the apex predators mostly swam at depths of at least 30 meters. The best cleaning station action we found was at Small Dos Amigos, where a steady stream of hammerheads filed in to be cleansed of parasites by king angelfish and barberfish. This string of hammerheads was interrupted only by a pair of blacktips and a lonely Galapagos that came by for a bath.

The second-to-last night dive was as spectacular as always, but this time we were graced with the presence of a HUGE female Galapagos shark. It was at least 3 meters long and swam directly at the divemaster. The group froze, waiting to see what would happen, but the shark turned at the last minute and swam on. The shark circled the group at least 3 more times during the dive – an experience that turns out to be exponentially more thrilling at night than it is during the day.

Those of us on the Blue Team had the honor of witnessing the highlight of the trip – a bait ball. We were diving near Punta Maria, and some debris had drifted towards us. The debris had attracted a ball of small pelagic fish, which in turn attracted a mixture of 50+ silky and Galapagos sharks to feast upon them (not to mention the countless hunting brown boobies diving into the action from the surface). We watched the massacre for a full half hour. When it was all over, after boarding the skiff, we gazed in wonder as a mother dolphin and her tiny baby scouted the area for the sharks’ leftovers. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime experience.




Dive Conditions
Currents  
mild
strong
Visibility   46 ft / 14 m
Water Temp.   80°F / 27°C
Weather
Climate  
sunny
rainy
Sea  
calm
choppy
Crossings
to Cocos Island  
calm
choppy
to Puntarenas  
calm
choppy
© copyright by Photo by: Edwar Herreño

© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Edwar Herreño
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Edwar Herreño
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
This special expedition was as clearly defined by Cocos Island’s epic marine life as it was by the honorable ocean conservationists on board.

Led by world-famous marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle, the MV Argo departed for Cocos Island filled with dedicated environmentalists, all with one priority in mind: to save the world’s oceans from overfishing and destruction.

Filmographers and creative talents from Mission Blue, which just aired a film on Netflix, were eager to make movie history. Dr. Jorge Cortes of the University of Costa Rica was geared up to continue his crucial ongoing research. Actor and star of HBO’s Entourage Adrian Grenier was pumped to use his celebrity to draw attention to the cause. Record-holding freediver Hanli Prinsloo came along to represent her conservation organization, I AM WATER, as did model/marine biologist/free diver Ocean Ramsey for her group Water Inspired. Not to namedrop or anything – but Shark Angel Julie Andersen, producer Nicolas Ibarguen, Shari Sant Plummer and Bloomberg's Stephanie Ruhle were a few other star personalities on board.

The crossing was calm, and a pod of curious dolphins came to greet the Argo as we approached Cocos Island. After a tranquil check-out dive we were granted our first glimpses of tiger sharks and hammerheads at Manuelita, and the night dive at the coral garden was packed with white tip hunting action. Diving the west side of the island, we had run-ins with more hammerheads and some huge Galapagos sharks. Hanli Prinsloo free dove through the famous arch at Dos Amigos Grande – 70 feet at the top and 110 feet at its sandy bottom.

The most unforgettable dives, however, were the bait balls. Yes, that’s baitball with an “s.” As in plural baitballs. Huge quantities of apex predators like silky sharks, black tips and Galapagos sharks swam alongside yellowfin tuna (and the occasional dolphin passersby) – all of which materialized before us on several ascents. These skilled hunters deftly attacked the bait ball made of small unfortunate fish in an uncontrollable feeding frenzy, boldly claiming their stakes in the feast.

However this journey wasn’t only about the world-class diving and incredible marine beauty typical to Cocos Island. It was also about saving the ocean, and bringing news of this pristine volcanic seamount to the media. We took lots of time to visit the national park rangers, interviewing them about illegal fishing and the island’s precious resources. We even went along for an island patrol.

The crossing back to Costa Rica’s mainland was smooth. We took advantage of the downtime to enjoy presentations by Dr. Sylvia Earle, as well as to watch several documentaries featuring her incredible work and contributions to ocean science. The perfect way to end a perfect trip.





Dive Conditions
Currents  
mild
strong
Visibility   80 ft / 24 m
Water Temp.   54°F / 12°C
Weather
Climate  
sunny
rainy
Sea  
calm
choppy
Crossings
to Cocos Island  
calm
choppy
to Puntarenas  
calm
choppy
© copyright by Photo by: Edwar Herreño

© copyright by Photo by: Edwar Herreño
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Photo by: Edwar Herreño
After a quiet crossing, we arrived to favorable weather and surface conditions at Cocos Island. We dove with some impressive Galapagos sharks at Punta Maria, and saw some hammerheads at Dirty Rock – but they were deep and the diving was slow for the first few dives of the trip. Visibility and currents were changing quickly from minute to minute and hour to hour, always keeping us on our toes. In the beginning it was difficult to find the action – but when we found it, boy did we find it.

Near Alcyone, our dive guide spotted what looked like some decent shark action. We called the other team to join us, and lo and behold the moment we jumped in a baitball materialized before our very eyes.

And this wasn’t just any old baitball. This was the mother lode of all baitballs. An unimaginably intense baitball with ENORMOUS Galapagos sharks that swam extremely close to us – too close for comfort for some of the divers’ liking. Black tip sharks darted in and out of the swarming ball of fish, alongside yellowfin tunas and even a few silky sharks competing for a piece of the suspense. However, what made this baitball truly unbelievable was the grand finale – when a whale shark passed directly in the middle of it, mouth agape! At first some of us thought it seemed it had come to feed, but we quickly remembered that whale sharks only eat phytoplankton, algae, krill and other small critters. It was passing by to nab a remora or two for a good scrub down.

Everyone on the boat glowed from this experience for the rest of the trip. Scratch that. We’ll all be glowing from this experience for the rest of our LIVES. Perhaps our cruise director Edwar Herreño (who has worked as a dive guide with the Undersea Hunter for 10+ years) said it best: “Just when you think you’ve seen everything at Cocos Island, the island gives you something brand new that you could never imagine. This is the magic of this place.”

Video coming soon!

Dive Conditions
Currents  
mild
strong
Visibility   76 ft / 23 m
Water Temp.   78°F / 26°C
Weather
Climate  
sunny
rainy
Sea  
calm
choppy
Crossings
to Cocos Island  
calm
choppy
to Puntarenas  
calm
choppy
After a smooth and uneventful crossing, we were greeted by surprisingly strong currents at Cocos Island. Nevertheless, we were thrilled to encounter not one, but TWO tiger sharks on our very first day diving Manuelita.

By Day 2 the current had calmed down, and we saw lots of good shark action near the pinnacle at Punta Maria. The first night dive was charged with excitement, as an extraordinary number of white tip reef sharks scoured the coral gardens looking for dinner.

Exploring the east side of the island on Day 3 was gorgeous, as always. Submerged Rock was especially vibrant as it overflowed with blue and gold snapper, goat fish and bluefin trevallies. The deep waters of Alcyone were rather quiet on our first dive there, but a curious green sea turtle circling around us (along with an immense school of jacks) kept everyone intrigued.

By Day 4, conditions became even more calm – and they stayed that way for the rest of the journey. The hammerhead action at Dirty Rock really started to pick up, and then we saw a stunning formation of about 30 hammerheads at Manuelita Outside as we drifted into the blue. On our last day of diving, the island said “adios” by treating us to an awesome school of hammerheads at Alcyone followed by two unforgettable encounters with tiger sharks in the channel.
© copyright by Photo by Martin Kappes
Whitetips hunting by Martin Kappes
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
Cocos bursting with life by Avi Klapfer

© copyright by Photo by Martin Kappes
Galapagos shark by Martin Kappes


Dive Conditions
Currents  
mild
strong
Visibility   60 ft / 18 m
Water Temp.   82°F / 28°C
Weather
Climate  
sunny
rainy
Sea  
calm
choppy
Crossings
to Cocos Island  
calm
choppy
to Puntarenas  
calm
choppy
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
Seven days of hardcore diving – interspersed with shark and turtle tagging for research and marine conservation groups – sounds like a good time for any ocean lover. But nobody does Cocos Island like this fun-loving group from PRETOMA and the Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Six languages were spoken on the Argo last week, as the ship was filled with international researchers from the US, Costa Rica, Lebanon, France, Germany and Italy. The crossing was smooth and sunny, and conditions were gorgeous when we arrived to the island.

Our very first dives at Manuelita were unforgettable – mostly thanks to several close-up encounters with curious tiger sharks. The second day at the island, a swell brought some big waves and fresh life to the area. We explored the west side of Cocos Island and the huge schools of bluefin trevallies and jacks at Punta Maria and Dirty Rock.

The next day, we observed some hammerheads at Dirty Rock along with a gorgeous black tip, eagle rays and several species of cleaner fish. Submerged Rock was bursting with color and packed with biodiversity, as usual, and Dos Amigos proved to be a gathering place for Galapagos sharks and a giant playful manta.

Day 5 was another manta-filled day, as we spotted another enormous specimen at Shark Fin. The manta was super curious, and approached the group several times to check us out. We tore ourselves away from the action to explore the island in the afternoon, and luckily the sunny weather held out for our hike.

Perhaps the most memorable dive was when 5 gorgeous adult silvertip sharks decided to circle us at about 15 feet. Talk about an exhilarating safety stop.

I'll close this trip report with an update straight from Todd Steiner, executive director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network:

"We captured and replaced a satellite transmitter on “Georgina,” a hawksbill turtle we first tagged 4 years ago. We are collecting important information on growth rates for this species, which are generally unknown. We also placed an acoustic tag on a Galapagos shark.

We retrieved information from our 7 acoustic receivers located around the island. In the past two months, we received 8009 detections that included evidence that four green turtles, 2 hammerheads, 1 tiger shark and 1 Galapagos shark that we had previously tagged were still at Cocos.

As always, the Undersea Hunter Group crew were fabulous at taking care of our diving and research needs, assuring our safety and keeping us well fed."

Dive Conditions
Currents  
mild
strong
Visibility   55 ft / 17 m
Water Temp.   81°F / 27°C
Weather
Climate  
sunny
rainy
Sea  
calm
choppy
Crossings
to Cocos Island  
calm
choppy
to Puntarenas  
calm
choppy
© copyright by Tamarindo Family Photos www.tamarindofamilyphotos.com
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Tamarindo Family Photos
© copyright by Tamarindo Family Photos
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
The 4-meter tiger shark came so close that I was certain it was going to bump into me. All I could do was hold my breath and wait, trying not to let my heart beat out of my chest. Time seemed to stop, and all that was left in the universe was me and that tiger. Yes, this is what I came here for: sharks. I guess I just didn’t expect to find such an extreme brush with one of the most aggressive predators on the planet on my very first dive of the trip.

Welcome to Cocos Island.

But let’s start from the beginning: the crossing. The crossing was smooth, with several visits from both bottlenose and spinner dolphins. I finally understand what people mean when they say “spinner dolphins.” The dolphins spin sideways in more of a roll than a spin (they should really call them rolling pin dolphins). Thanks to the bright moon we watched them jump and play and dance and best of all – spin – alongside the bow of the ship. We cheered when one would jump, which prompted the next one to leap. They squeaked and chirped in response to our encouragement. What a perfect way to start our journey to Cocos Island.


After that first close encounter with the tiger shark at Manuelita, Punta Maria was the next hottest dive site this trip. The enormous Galapagos sharks there were anything but shy. About 3 minutes after we hit the bottom, the Galapagos started circling us from both in front and behind – some coming EXTREMELY CLOSE. This delighted the many photographers on our team, who came from Germany for an underwater photo safari. Four, five, then six Galapagos all crisscrossed paths underwater as we watched, took pictures and video. Fine spotted moray eels swam out in the open, like fish.

Day 5, we tried to visit Submerged Rock on the east side of the island, but there was too much current so we headed back to Manuelita Outside. The current there was very strong with waves slamming against the rocks, and the captain was hesitant to drop us there. But Edwar, with 10 years of experience on the island, knew the current would be OK once we descended to the bottom. Just in case, we sent Giovanni (the dive guide in training) ahead as the guinea pig.

After scoping out the conditions and assuring they were safe, we dropped down on top of a couple of hammerheads at the bottom. A sting ray, a couple of big tunas, and HUGE Tiger shark passed by – so big that at first I thought it was a whale shark by the way it slowly ambled through the water.

As we ascended to about 60 feet, I saw a school of what I thought were jacks glittering out in the distance. I adore jacks, so I swam closer. All of the sudden I realized they weren’t jacks at all – this was a wall of hundreds and hundreds of hammerhead sharks. I simply can’t believe fish that big school in numbers so large. They just kept coming, and coming and coming…in droves. They’d disappear for 30 seconds and then return again. The wall was so thick I couldn’t see through it to the other side. If you’ve never seen a wall of hammerheads, breathtaking is the only word to describe it.

Dirty Rock also proved to have some good shark action. My favorite dive there started when we heard dolphins squeaking in the distance. A tuna darted in and out of a big school of jacks, so we knew we were in for a show. All of the sudden I saw a big playful dolphin swim right past me, immediately followed by a muscular black tip reef shark, and then a huge Galapagos with several black jacks in tow. Back at the surface, a gorgeous rainbow awaited us just before dinner.

The night dives at Manuelita were spectacular, as usual, with a bit of a surprise visit one night from an enormous Galapagos shark. Usually white tips have the run of the reef at night, but on this occasion the Galapagos arrived about halfway through the dive and tried to nab itself a white tip for dinner. Luckily for the white tip, the Galapagos missed its target – however the bigger shark’s presence spooked pretty much all of the smaller white tips. The Galapagos spent the rest of the dive swimming circles around us, looking for white tip prey. We felt lucky to witness such unusual shark behavior.

The last day, the sun was shining so we kayaked from the Sea Hunter ship to Chatham bay – which took about 7 minutes of leisurely paddling. Gliding over the reef, the water was so clear we could see at least 100 feet down to the bottom. We drifted ashore and visited a waterfall, then we climbed over rocks etched with historical names – like the infamous pirate Captain Morgan and revered underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau. My favorite part of the island jaunt was watching the adorable little baby black tip sharks surfing the teeny tiny shallow-water waves in the bay.

The crossing on the way home was easy, with water so smooth it seemed unreal – the ocean undulated like a vat of poured oil. Since we were running ahead of schedule, we stopped on the way home for a quick swim in the clean, crystal-clear sea: a truly perfect end to a perfect trip.

Video trip report by Mau:







Dive Conditions
Currents  
mild
strong
Visibility   78 ft / 24 m
Water Temp.   78°F / 26°C
Weather
Climate  
sunny
rainy
Sea  
calm
choppy
Crossings
to Cocos Island  
calm
choppy
to Puntarenas  
calm
choppy
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
Bait balls are basically the holy grail of scuba diving. Jacks and other schooling fish swarm together in a doomed attempt to fool larger predators into thinking they are collectively bigger and more dangerous than everything else in the ocean. Who wouldn’t want to witness that kind of turbocharged underwater activity?

The impressive bait ball we stumbled upon on day 5 was definitely the highlight of this trip. We stared, dumbstruck, as dolphins, Galapagos sharks, white tips, black tips, tigers and massive tuna darted in and out of a huge sphere of schooling fish that had suddenly materialized before our very eyes. Turtles, marbled rays, eagle rays and mobulas turned up to add to the show.

Visibility was incredible pretty much the entire voyage, and we saw 6 different species of shark. Although we came across tiger sharks on multiple dives, each encounter was just as exciting as the next. The 3-meter long adult silvertip we glimpsed on one of the night dives was particularly special, as we have not seen an adult of this species at Cocos Island for quite some time.

Currents were unusually strong for most of the trip, but it only added to the excitement and adventure (not to mention that strong currents equal happy sharks and other pelagic predators). One of the more rough days we took a break from the current to hike the island all the way from Wafer to Chatham Bay. The views were gorgeous, and we saw curious pigs, deer and rats en route (all of which were originally brought to the island centuries ago by pirates). All in all, it was an unforgettable voyage.

Dive Conditions
Currents  
mild
strong
Visibility   58 ft / 18 m
Water Temp.   80°F / 27°C
Weather
Climate  
sunny
rainy
Sea  
calm
choppy
Crossings
to Cocos Island  
calm
choppy
to Puntarenas  
calm
choppy
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
This very first trip of 2015 on the Sea Hunter set an excellent precedent for the rest of the year. The Manuelita Coral Gardens and Dirty Rock were by far the hottest dive sites this time around; we spotted tiger sharks at the coral gardens and in the channel, plus huge schools of hammerheads and big-eye jacks out in the blue at Roca Sucia. The night dives were turbocharged, with hundreds of whitetips swarming the rocks and competing with each other over the same unfortunate prey.

On the hike from Wafer Bay to Chatham, we marveled at several unforgettable views of the island from the lookout points at the highest sections of the trail. Our group got up close and personal with some curious island pigs that stopped by to inspect us. These friendly pigs were brought here centuries ago by pirates that used Cocos as a place to regroup after pillaging -- and also as an ideal spot to hide their stolen booty. They wanted a relatively quick meat source that would be easy to hunt down and cook when they tired of eating fish (who wouldn’t get sick of eating fish when you live on the ocean 24-7?). The only other viable sustenance on the island were brown booby birds, which are comparatively difficult to catch and don’t make for very good eating.

The crossings both there and back were smooth and uneventful, and everyone enjoyed the downtime to relax and watch movies about Cocos Island. On the way home, we all compared stories, photos and underwater footage.

Dive Conditions
Currents  
mild
strong
Visibility   47 ft / 14 m
Water Temp.   84°F / 29°C
Weather
Climate  
sunny
rainy
Sea  
calm
choppy
Crossings
to Cocos Island  
calm
choppy
to Puntarenas  
calm
choppy
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