Jonathan Bird Cinematographer & Producer/President of the Oceanic Research Group
There is no question that the Argo is one of the best live aboard boats in the world, certainly the best that visits Cocos Island. But what makes this boat really stand out is the amazing staff and divemasters. They are so great on many levels—fun, competent and entertaining. The diving this week was excellent. It was amazing to me that visibility can change so much with a bunch of rain turning the water cloudy and then the currents sweep it away in a few hours. My favorite site was Alcyone, which, if you hit it when the current is running, has more hammerheads than you can count. The night dive with the Whitetip reef sharks was awesome fun that you can only have in Cocos, and the sub was a one of a kind experience that is not to be missed. Cocos is a world class destination and the Argo is the best way to do it. Period!
Dr. Odalisca Breedy University of Costa Rica School of Biology
Aquaumbra klapferi, Discovered by the University thanks to DeepSee
The DeepSee submersible as a tool for scientific research has been very successful, every time we have the opportunity to go all the way down to 350m for observation and collecting specimens, a new record or a new specie is found.
The observation and study of the deep water environments provide insights about processes and relationships about pelagic and deep water systems, how they interact and affect their ecology and biodiversity.
Apart from the scientific knowledge that is acquired from the deep water dives, the experience of going down and seeing a very different marine environment, normally unobserved for most, is amazing and unique for every one. People can see long lived species as the deep water black corals that could register climate change, sponges, assemblages of cup corals, hydro-corals, worms, large pelagic fishes going deep to feed on the bottom epee-fauna, and conspicuous deep water species of fish.
Specializing in Octocoral Taxonomy and Bio-geography, Eastern Pacific and Caribbean
Marty Snyderman Emmy Award Winning Cinematographer and Still Photographer
Marty in the DeepSee with Founder Avi Klapfer
What a ride!
A couple of weeks ago on a trip to Cocos I was able to take a ride down to just over 1,000 feet on DeepSee. It was a wonderful experience. Magical. Better than magical. I was excited like a little kid on Christmas Eve before the excursion. That doesn’t happen very often as one gets older, but that is exactly how I felt. As it turned out DeepSee justified my excitement. I scored big!
Being a San Diegan and a friend of Steve Drogin, the man who had the submarine commissioned, I had followed DeepSee’s progress since its design. I went to the “sub yard” to see the sub while it was being built, and was a topside cheerleader on the sub’s first dive. So, for several years now I have wanted to be able to enjoy a dive in DeepSee.
My DeepSee ride was definitely a dream come true. The magic in the experience was not about me, the passenger, but about all of the events and technologies that came together in my life so that I was able to get a glimpse into a part of the ocean that was so inaccessible to sport divers only a few years ago. There is so much going on below sport diving depths, and we got to take a look first-hand. That’s a tough experience to top.
We saw several large gatherings of crabs, a bunch of big grouper, and a lot of colorful, crazy looking fish along with a pair of mobula rays that swam above us as we were beginning our drop over the wall at 600 feet. Just below 1,000 feet Avi dimmed the lights and we just hovered off this absolutely sheer wall that went to.... Who knows? Maybe, China. Certainly into the abyss. We just sat in silence for a few minutes and thought about where we were and how we got there. Crazy!
DeepSee is very comfortable. Only thing that hurt was my jaws. But that was from a 2.5 hour grin. I couldn’t stop grinning the whole time.
To anyone that sees these comments, I highly recommend taking a ride in DeepSee. It is a mind-boggling experience. I hope it is not once in a lifetime for me, but if it is, I sure am grateful for that opportunity.
Ph.D. Jorge Cortés Núñez Scientist CIMAR, University of Costa Rica - Specialty: Coral reefs, Marine Biodiversity
The Oceanographic Expedition to the Exclusive Economic Zone of Costa Rica, from 6 to 14 July, 2012, was extremely successful. The help we received from the Crew of the Undersea Hunter was fundamental for the accomplishment of our scientific objectives.
Jorge Cortés Núñez
Brian Skerry National Geographic Premier Photographer
I cannot praise you enough! Every member of the crew is first rate and the attention to detail truly shows. I cannot imagine taking on a project this complex with anyone else and despite the technical challenges and setbacks due to equipment problems you folks made the experience pleasurable!
Thanks to everyone on board performing beautifully I could focus on just my work, which is critical for success. The dives in DeepSee were amazing; I saw incredible new sights that will remain with me forever. Exploring in the Deep See submersible is like no other way to see the ocean. Passengers remain dry and comfortable while cruising over alien seascapes and quietly approaching exotic wildlife.
In the hands of her skilled pilots, she hovers in place offering a view into worlds rarely if ever seen before. Like something from the dreams of DaVinci or Verne, Deep See is a machine unlike any other.
Dr. Larry Madin Executive VP and Dir. of Research at Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst.
This was my second trip on Argo and I hope there will be more. I have been on more than 50 research cruises on academic ships, but none combined a professional dive and submersible operation (and ROV operation on this trip) with the amenities of a quality live-aboard as well as Argo. This is a top-class operation with technical and practical details perfected.
I don’t know of any comparable small-submersible operation anywhere. The crew is superbly competent and makes difficult objectives seem easy. On the hospitality side, they are attentive the way good friends would be, not servants.
The dedication to marine research and conservation is obvious in all that they do, and elevates the Undersea Hunter Group well above the normal dive operator. Avi and his crew are the equals in professionalism of any other ships I have seen, and better than most.
One World One Ocean and MacGillivray Freeman Films
Greg MacGillivray - Director/Cinematographer
The filming trip on the Argo was the finest I have ever experienced – great crew, great, food, exceptional diving vacations A++++
D.J. Roller - Cinematographer
Having worked from many live-aboards boats around the world for filming, the Undersea Hunter and Argo are by far one of the best. The ship, crew, support... down to every last detail is thought out.The DeepSee sub is one of the finest subs in the world. Its ability to be piloted by its experienced team of pilots operating within “inches” in the water column make it a perfect filming platform
Shaun MacGillivray - Producer/Director
There are few boat crews where you feel like they know how to help a film crew, but with the Argo’s they are A+. Avi comes from a film making background and knows what film crews want and how to get the right shot. So for our IMAX crew it means we can get better footage in a faster period of time. They are top notch!
Dr. Sylvia Earle Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society
Avi Klapfer, the Captain and the crew of the Undersea Hunter provide an experience that is unparalleled in the world, a rare combination of competence, professionalism, and sheer underwater poetry that will haunt anyone who comes aboard for the rest of their lives. I look forward to returning to explore with beautiful new submersibles depths beyond where divers can now venture . . . and to the realization of the dream of expanded protection for the Seascape that embraces Cocos, Galapagos, Malpelo, Coiba, and Gorgona – the realm that turtles, tuna, dolphins, whalesharks and other high seas creatures know as home.
Ernest H. Brooks II Award Winning Photographer, Adventurer, Diver and Educator
Thank you & thanks to the Undersea Hunter Group for sending me your newest newsletter Shark Times. It was on my birthday 1990 that I first met you and ventured to Cocos, three images from that first trip are now in the Ansel Adams exhibit "Fragile Waters" about to tour the World! They also are in the archives of 50 Fathoms First edition from Blancpain 50 Fathoms 2008 limited edition that toured Tokyo, Dubai, Paris, all because of our memories aboard your Undersea Hunter. In 2012 at Beneath the Sea I will be the last person to receive "Legend of the sea" - 10 total carved in Granite by Viktor and on display at Google Headquarters. It was diving with you offshore Cocos that broadened my view of the Oceans, because your trip was my very first outside of the Channel Islands Avi!
So there you have it. Today I have a grand following in Black and White, from China to Dubai...the U.S. to Antarctica. I will be looking at 2013 for a Global Encounter to revisit your Island and present a voyage to witness Cocos with AVI and ERNIE BROOKS..... I will look forward to planning this event with photographers who afford the Quality you have presented....
Howard and Michele Hall World Renowned Filmmakers
During the last decade, Michele and I have accumulated over one year of charter time on the Undersea Hunter. There is a reason we keep coming back. Our film projects have grown in scope and complexity from relatively simple 16mm television shows diving open circuit to major IMAX features diving trimix rebreathers to over 350 feet. One of the most important ingredients for making these films successfully and safely has been the logistical support provided by Undersea Hunter. The boat, her equipment, management and crew have been 100% reliable.
Undersea Hunter's management has been totally committed to creating a logistical operation that supports our underwater film projects in the most efficient and comfortable manner. Over the years, Avi and Yosy have added many features to the boat and her skiffs that make underwater film production easier. In my many years of making underwater films, I have never dived from a more perfect film production platform. Undersea Hunter is simply the best there is.
Since 1991, we've now made 17 trips to the island with Undersea Hunter Group. Prior to this, the last one was almost 7 years ago. It was so nice to be back at Cocos! During our dives, we saw not only the ‘regulars,’ including hammerhead and white tip reef sharks, mobula rays and giant schools of big-eye jacks… but we also saw Galapagos sharks and tiger sharks! This was a first for Howard and me. Some years ago Lotte and Hans Hass told me that they saw tiger sharks at Cocos in 1951, but these grand creatures disappeared from the Island over the decades. Now they’re back… and now finally I have also seen them at Manuelita.
An added bonus was ‘diving’ where few are able to go: the deep reefs around Cocos in Deep-See. This is a submarine experience that shouldn’t be missed. Looking up through the clear dome to see hammerheads school, tuna darting about, mobulas flying and turtles drifting past… oh my. And then, seeing Ragged Tooth Sharks at 300 feet at The Arch… it felt like I was living a dream – so much so that I had to pinch myself to be sure it was real.
Simon Rogerson Editor of DIVE Magazine
Dear Undersea Hunter Group,
I wanted to write to thank you for looking after Charles Hood and myself on board the Sea Hunter. Throughout the voyage, your team supported us in many different ways to help us experience the best of Cocos Island. The crew were extremely professional, the dive guides were diligent and good-humoured...
the whole experience was a joy from beginning to end.
We had some very good hammerhead action throughout the trip, and we are now well placed to write a story about experiencing Cocos in three different ways - on open circuit, rebreather and submersible. I anticipate that our feature will be published in DIVE's July edition, which comes out in mid-June.
The Sea Hunter remains one of the finest liveaboard experiences. The vessel was immaculate, and wonderfully suited to its purpose. We had calm crossings in both directions, so I was able to enjoy the Sea Hunter at my leisure. I was especially fond of the excellent coffee, by far the best I have had on any boat. Several guests remarked that the food was fresh and delicious, and I have to agree. Every mealtime was something to look forward to - with that and the diving, we were in heaven!
It had been a decade since my previous trip on Sea Hunter, and I was anxious to see if things had changed. If anything, the whole experience has improved
- your guides' understanding of the cleaning stations (and how to marshall divers around) them allows for much better hammerhead encounters. And the availability of DeepSee adds a whole new dimension to the experience - our descent onto Mount Everest was a revelation, watching from our bubble as we were mobbed by a school of almaco jacks. It's rare in life that I get to do something completely new; observing a deep reef environment from a submersible was simply beyond my wildest dreams.
Complaints? Well, perhaps the t-shirt sizes are a bit small... or maybe I enjoyed myself too much at mealtimes! Please extend my gratitude to Avi and the rest of the Undersea Hunter family. I will no doubt be in touch with questions as the article progresses, but for now I just wanted to express my gratitude, and to congratulate you for running such an excellent operation.
For me, Cocos is a wonderful, precious place. Every second I spent there was a privilege, and I will be dreaming of hammerheads until my next visit.
Until then, thank-you for reminding me how amazing the Eastern Pacific can be.
With best regards,
Stan Waterman Underwater Film Producer & Photographer
Over the years I have dived in several deep range submersibles. On this last of my annual tours to Cocos Island on the Sea Hunter I explored the deep water in their newly launched DeepSee. With a 1,500 ft. depth range, comfortable seats for two passengers and unimpeded visibility from inside an acrylic bubble I consider DeepSee the finest submersible I have ever experienced. It must be the ultimate adventure for the diver who thought he had seen everything. It was for me.
The DeepSee is a state-of-the-art submersible, available to all dive guests on the boat. At 300’ I had the exciting experience of following a fourteen-foot, deep-water ragged tooth shark, so close that she seemed to be right under my feet sitting in the acrylic dome of the sub. Other guests went to 1,000 feet where the pilot had discovered the territory of a new species of shark, the Prickly.
These are explorations and adventures that have only previously been available to scientists with research grants. That makes Sea Hunter totally unique in the world of live-aboard dive boats. Many of the finest adventures I have had in my fifty-odd years of diving have been experienced here with the Sea Hunter. Sometimes I dream of the food on this ship and wake up sobbing.
Mike deGruy 1951-2012 Cinematographer
Best Cocos Island liveaboard reviews and testimonials
I’m a lucky guy. For all of my working life I have been privileged enough to travel literally around the globe (numerous times), dive under the ice of both poles and spend countless years observing and filming the wonders of the nature world. The last 7 or 8 years I have spent diving in a variety of submersibles, often as the pilot, to the extraordinary hidden treasures of the deep sea, the hydrothermal vents, underwater lakes, cool seeps, the Titanic and to the realm of the insane creatures of black mid water.
It is with this history and experience that I comment on my recent visit to Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. I was invited to join Steve Drogin and Avi Klapfer’s new alliance, the 120 foot M/V Argo with its resident 3-man submersible, DeepSee. I have known Steve for many years and also have chartered Avi’s superb vessels in Costa Rica and know each of these men to share a common interest: high quality diving. So it was with great interest and high expectations that I joined their collaborative venture into the world of submersible operations. And did they ever deliver! Admittedly, I was a tad skeptical as I arrived the Argo – after all, I had been in Alvin, Johnson Sea Link, both single and double Deep Rovers, Deep Workers, Star II, Perry, Pisces, the MIRs… you get the idea. I had reasons to be a little bit spoiled and even snooty at this new “tourist sub” that Steve and Avi had created. And built by a company who’s subs went no deeper than 100 feet or so and the bloody pilot was in scuba gear outside! Preposterous! This new sub will surely be a joke for any real work!
Once again I was reminded to enter situations with eyes wide open and check the presumptions and prejudices at the door. What sat neatly in front of me was a beautiful submersible – no facsimile – definitely the real thing. I carefully walked around the DeepSee, looking for the shortcuts; the plastic where the Titanium belonged, the gaffers tape and chewing gum sealing gaps, something to give away a newcomers approach to sub building … but I saw none of this. DeepSee is the real thing, a robust and cleverly designed submersible capable of taking 3 people down to 1500 feet in extraordinary comfort and safety. It has the latest communication and navigation equipment and is brimming with top notch lighting, video and still cameras. Did I mention comfort? I have not been down in a submersible as comfortable as this one.
Finally, it was time to dive. Steve had told me about a discovery they had made, something that no one had ever seen in the Sea of Cortez – a hydrothermal vent at 450 feet. The Chief Pilot and man in charge of the sub, Shmulik Blum, was to be my pilot and Avi went along to help answer any logistical questions I may have as he knew my agenda on this trip was as much to assess the feasibility of using this new operation in a future project as my desire to dive a sub in the Sea of Cortez. So, here I was with the A team. The Argo anchored about 1 mile away from dive site. Using the massive “A” frame at the stern of Argo they deftly lifted the DeepSee off the deck and dropped it into the “Utility Bay” at the stern, created by building two narrow 22 ft. sections on either end of the stern creating a calm U-shaped bay between the added sections of the hull. Here the DeepSee floated awaiting our easy step-in. Soon I was seated in a very comfortable chair with ample legroom to shift and stretch during the dive. Avi sat next to me at the same level and Shmulik, the pilot, was slightly below, behind and between us with the operating electronics directly in front of him. The 6-foot acrylic dome (3.3 in. thick) was lowered over us and we were away.
The DeepSee is unique. Most submersibles are, well, submersibles; DeepSee seems to be somewhat of a hybrid, operating like a sluggish boat motoring along the surface with the passengers high above the water and only when they reach the dive site will they empty the huge bladders of air holding them up and become a submarine. And in the same length of time it has taken me to write this sentence, we were dropping below the surface; our dive had officially begun.
They had asked me to write a paragraph of my experience and here I am on page 2. That should suggest 2 things: I am (more than) happy to oblige, and I have a lot to say about this operation. But back to the dive… it was perfect. All systems operated flawlessly and we were able to spend several hours moving up, down and across an area seen only by 4 eyes prior to me. And such is the Deep, always revealing new things. And such is the Argo / DeepSee operation; giving people unique opportunities, the rare chance in life to truly discover new things, see animals and landscapes never seen by anyone before. In our overpopulated, overdeveloped world, these chances are becoming fewer and fewer and I for one am thrilled to have been part of this one. Thank you Steve, Avi, Shmulik and the entire Argo and DeepSee team for what I will remember the rest of my life as an incredible voyage to Deep Mexico!
September 12, 2008
Nigel Marven British Wildlife Presenter, Author, and Television Producer
What a joy it's been, filming my new 5 episodes of “Shark Island”, with the Undersea Hunter Group. With all my traveling, it is one of the best dive operations to work with. Cocos Island is one of the greatest dive sites - an unbeatable combination.
The diving guide and the skiff driver took us through amazing schooling Hammerheads, cleaning Silvertips sharks, and a bait ball action, something I have never seen before. The night dive with hundreds of hungry whitetip shark crawling around me was the most memorable experience of my life.
Part of our production was around the DeepSee sub, a unique spectacle that added a different dimension to the film. Descending 300 meters to the black abyss, the submarine pilot showed us the Jello-nose fish, Mobula rays and the rare Prickly shark. The sub was the ultimate filming tool for us and I would highly recommend the sub experience to anyone who takes a trip to Cocos Island.
Thank you very much all, for the great professionalism, the spirit and good time.
Lorne Orleans Producer - IMAX CORPORATION
As you know, running a multi-million dollar film production at sea can be logistically complex. Your talents played a key role in enabling us to film what is likely to be the world’s finest humpback whale footage ever captured...and we did it on IMAX !
The value of having the right team, the proper equipment and the right attitude is the difference between a successful film production or a failure...