Cocos Island is a SCUBA destination that has been on our bucket list for nearly 10 years, and when we finally decided to explore Central America, we eagerly looked for a dive trip that would coincide with our travel plans. Luckily, we found a liveaboard on the Okeanos Aggressor II that had dates in December to meet our needs, and it was on sale. Sign us up! We flew to Costa Rica a few days early to see what the capital city of San Jose had to offer before linking up with the rest of our fellow divers for the shuttle ride to Puntarenas, the port of embarkation. Cocos Island is a whopping 550 km from Puntarenas, or a 36 hour one way journey. Hence all the liveaboards are 10 days (3 days travel and 1 week of diving). Unfortunately, in reaction to the tiger shark attacks (30 Nov 2017 and 28 Apr 2018) that have taken place in Cocos Island, new rules and regulations came into effect. Night dives are no longer permitted, and divers must enter and exit as a group. We were gutted about the indefinite cancellation of the night dives, as the legendary whitetip shark feeding frenzy was something we were keen to witness. Even though we were not diving during high season (July – November), we were still hopeful that Cocos would not disappoint. Diving here in December was OK, but we were a bit disappointed in the numbers of sharks seen…the biggest swarm of hammerheads was on our last day of diving and the visibility wasn’t that great. Oh well, this just means that we will have to come back again during peak shark season to see what we missed out on!
12 Dec: Fly Ecuador to Costa Rica via Fort Lauderdale
12 – 15 Dec: San Jose, Costa Rica
15 Dec: Pick up in San Jose, shuttle to Puntarenas. Board the Okeanos Aggressor II and cruise to Cocos
16 Dec: Cruise to Cocos
17 Dec: Arrive to Cocos. 3 Dives: Chatham Bay, Manuelita, Manuelita
18 Dec: 3 Dives: Punta Maria, Dirty Rock, Isla Pajaras (Bird Island)
19 Dec: 3 Dives: Alcyone, Submerged Rock, Viking Rock. Visit to Ranger station between afternoon dives
20 Dec: 3 Dives: Big Dos Amigos, Small Dos Amigos, Manuelita
21 Dec: 3 Dives: Small Dos Amigos, Dirty Rock, Manuelita Coral Garden
22 Dec: 4 Dives: Manuelita Coral Garden, Dirty Rock, Alcyone, Lobster Rock
23 Dec: 2 Dives: Small Dos Amigos, Dirty Rock. Cruise back to Puntarenas
24 Dec: Cruise to Puntarenas
25 Dec: Arrive to Puntarenas. Shuttle to San Jose
12 Dec: Our flight from Guayaquil to San Jose via Fort Lauderdale (Spirit airlines) was a bit of a nightmare. We both vowed never to fly Spirit again if we can help it! In retrospect, we should have paid the bit extra to fly Copa! Robby got singled out in Fort Lauderdale to explain his travel history…they specifically wanted to know why he had traveled to Iran. Thankfully, we had a long layover in Florida or we would have missed our connecting flights since it took well over 2 hours to clear immigration. Bagels with cream cheese for breakfast was a treat…haven’t had that in ages! The flight to Costa Rica was uneventful, just a bit turbulent. However, the arrivals hall in San Jose was bonkers. We were the last ones off the plane and the immigration line took forever (well over 2 hours to get through). Next battle was figuring out the money situation, to exchange or withdraw via ATM? While Robby sorted that out, Becky kept an eye on the bags and had to tell countless taxi touts to bugger off. Finally, we were all set to catch the Tuasa bus downtown. Too bad the first bus was in the wrong direction! But we got off and caught one headed to the other direction and it was all good. From the main Tuasa bus station to our hostel, we caught a taxi since neither one of us wanted to walk with heavy luggage. The taxi meter was rigged and the price started off at a reasonable 600 Colones and jumped astronomically to 1000, then 1500 and it was 3500 by the time we reached Hostel Trianon, a mere 1.5 km away. We should have refused to pay since that was a crazy rip off but both of us were so exhausted and wanted to get to our room so we didn’t put up much of a fight. It did make us vow to research Uber, as Costa Rican taxi drivers can’t be trusted! The receptionist at Hostel Trianon didn’t have our reservation which was weird. However, it was quickly sorted out and we paid for our room (3 nights for $110 or 66,000 Colones). The room itself was clean and comfortable, but had no fan or AC, unlike what was promised on booking.com. After talking to the family, we discovered that only 1 of the rooms has a fan, and it gets super hot during the day. The lady owner reassured us that once the sun went down, the temperature would quickly drop. We weren’t too sure about it but agreed to stick it out. Had a dinner of Chinese food at Wong’s (a 2 minute walk away) and the food there was delicious. Overpriced drinks though. Crashed hard after taking showers.
13 Dec: Breakfast at 8 am was with an old American guy from Seattle who had a crazy white Taliban beard going on. He was very interesting to talk to and we enjoyed his company. Breakfast was rice and beans with scrambled eggs and toast, coffee/tea, juice and fruit. Afterwards, we tried to get some stuff sorted before the room got too hot. By 1 pm, the room was sweltering and we were overheated, so we hit the road in search of screws for our dive lights. The local ferreterias (hardware stores) nearby didn’t have what we were looking for, but after asking around, we were pointed in the direction of Torcasa, which specializes in screwdrivers. Torcasa was fantastic and everything we needed could be found there, all for 1000 Colones…bargain. Lunch was a meal combo at Quiznos which was OK, the free refills made it worthwhile. Walked around San Jose and took some photos (Central Park, Post Office) and we were approached by a nice lady who tried to offer us something for free. Naturally our guard was up and we refused her kind offer, and she stared at us quizzically and asked again, wanting to know why we said no when it was “free”. Becky finally caught wind that she was trying to give us free tickets to the National Theater for a showing of “Alice in Wonderland” tonight at 8 pm. Score! What a nice lady and we are glad that she persisted. Relaxed at Hostel Trianon until 7:30 and walked over early to take some photos of the theater beforehand. It is a magnificent building, and well worth a visit. Our free seats were in the back, but we moved up for a better view when no one else showed up. The ballet was interesting, a bit weird in places but an entertaining 2 hours nonetheless. It felt a bit dodgy walking around San Jose after 10 pm but no issues returning to our hostel.
14 Dec: Breakfast at 8 am was a fat corn tortilla topped with scrambled eggs and ham. It was OK but we preferred yesterday’s breakfast more. The room was already hot and stuffy by 9 am, so we cracked open the window and did some admin stuff (buying onward tickets from Panama to El Salvador, hotel bookings, etc). By lunch time, we were ravenous so we found a Vietnamese-Costa Rican fusion restaurant called Cafe Rojo which had good reviews, and we quickly found out why. The food here was simple, tasty and reasonably priced. Afterwards, we walked over to the Metallic Building, cut through the Morazan park, and wandered back over to the National Theater. Did a bit of shopping (Becky got a shirt appropriate for any fancy occasions, and we found Febreze and gum at the local Walmart store). Back to the room, but Hostel Trianon was having some serious roof renovations going on so it was loud for about an hour until the workers cleared out. Relaxed the rest of the evening in the room.
15 Dec: Up early to finish packing our bags before breakfast. Ate breakfast of scrambled eggs, rice and beans, toast and juice. Since this was our first time using Uber, we wanted to wait out early. Got an error message about some payment issue, so switched the profile from Paypal to credit card and that seemed to work. While waiting for our ride, we helped some Chinese tourists figure out if they were allowed to park on the street or not by translating for them. Our Uber driver arrived just as promised and he seemed to take the long route to the Holiday Inn but the final price was very reasonable (5000 Colones). Met Dale and Allison who are American/Canadian expats living in Cozumel, and Dale is a SCUBA addict, doing countless liveaboards all around the world. Very fascinating people. The Okeanos folks arrived to inform us of their flat tire. So we loaded up the bus and went to the other Holiday Inn where everyone offloaded so the van could get repaired. Took advantage of the time to shop for hair gel at a nearby store. Then loaded up for the drive to Puntarenas. Stopped midway so that folks could stock up on alcohol or fruits. We took a look at rum prices but figured we could buy it anywhere. Drove the rest of the way to Puntarenas and pulled in at the Okeanos harbor. Loaded onto a shuttle that brought us out to the boat, where we were given a welcome briefing and shown to our cabins. We are downstairs in Cabin #5 and it is bigger than expected, with a full size bed below and a twin size bed above (bunk bed style). Shower/toilet are tiny. Had a few minutes to sort out our SCUBA gear and the bell for lunch rang at 2 pm. Lunch was buffet style, with rice, chicken, vegetables and salad followed by a scoop of ice-cream for dessert. Got to know our table mates (Amber and David from Canada, Natalie from Darmstadt, Germany). There are 19 of us and we hail from all around the world. We have already started our 36 hour journey to Cocos Island and fingers crossed we have a smooth journey. There are free seasick pills on the bar so we’ll grab some if necessary. Finished unpacking our SCUBA gear and took a walk around the vessel which is quite compact. A tiny area to soak up the sun in the bow (in front of the bridge), and a compact area near the stern to escape the sun. The stairs leading up to the second deck are steep and narrow – no wonder we were warned repeatedly to be careful climbing the stairs, especially when they are wet! Relaxed in our cabin until dinner, with some Scooby snacks to tide us over. We didn’t hear the dinner bell ring and at 7:15 pm, someone came to knock on our door to let us know dinner (fish, potatoes, veges and salad) was ready. The fish was a bit bland…some salt and pepper would have spiced things up! We were ready to lie back down afterwards, but it looked like half the group stayed up late talking and getting to know each other.
16 Dec: Slept in until 7:45 and got up for breakfast at 8. Looked over the front of the bow for dolphins but no such luck. Breakfast was a buffet of eggs to order, toast with peanut butter, nutella, or butter/jam, bacon, pastries, cheese, yogurt, cereal and juice. Had a nice chat with Gavin, Michelle and Lucy at the other table. Lucy¬¬¬¬¬’s husband, Matt, is quite shy and didn’t talk much to anyone. Enjoyed our morning conversation with David and Amber. They live near Vancouver and it sounds gorgeous up there! We will have to visit that region at some point. Rested until lunch, which was a delicious buffet of Mexican tacos (chicken and beef) with loads of guacamole, tomatoes, cheese and salsa. Yum! Of course topped off with ice cream for dessert. Did a “House of Cards” marathon until dinner which was fish and mashed potatoes. Yuichi (Japanese guy) joined Natalie and us for dinner. He just recently retired and has been on a diving tear this year, with over 200 dives in 2018, with Socorro being his favorite so far. We had been told to expect to arrive to Cocos Island around 4 am tomorrow morning.
17 Dec: The boat dropped anchor just after midnight and we started to rock and roll in a different direction, with items shifting in our room. Woke up early to sort out our dive belts and let our cameras adjust to the outside temperature. First view of Cocos was magical…very beautiful and the perfect island for “Jurassic Park”. Ate a light breakfast since our first dive was at 8. Very weird to eat before diving! Sat with Roberto from Peru (now lives in Mexico City) and Cinthia and had a nice chat with them. Got ready to dive by 8 am and it was a bit disorganized with none of us sure of what was going on but it eventually all got sorted out. We were in Panga #1 and our driver was Xavier. We were diving Chatham Bay for our checkout dive, an easy shallow dive site with max depth of 16 meters. Loads of small white tip sharks, puffer fish (yellow and black spotted) and schools of yellow striped fish. Saw some lobster, eels, and parrot fish. Felt like swimming in an aquarium, the water was so clear. Total dive time was 59 minutes and we are excited to see what the rest of the Cocos has to offer! Back to the boat before 10 am and had a Cocos Island briefing given by the park rangers on Cocos Islands. They put on a short video followed by a question/answer session. When asked if night dives will ever be allowed at Cocos again, they said in the future (barring any more attacks), they would allow it. Sucks for us but maybe we’d make the journey out here again to experience the legendary night dive with all the white tips! Second dive was at Manuelita and we were given a safety briefing (keep the reef to our right shoulder). This is the dive spot where the tiger shark attacked the American woman last year, so we all paid attention to the briefing. As we entered the water, we saw a group of several hammerheads but they quickly dispersed. Lots of white tip sharks, puffer fish, and the hammerheads kept their distance. Saw a large shark that we hoped was the tiger but it ended up being a silvertip. David went through his NITROX quickly and most of the group surfaced at 40 minutes, but we hung out with Dale and Natalie and surfaced 10 minutes later. Visibility deteriorated towards the end of the dive and by the time we did our safety stop, it would have been impossible to see if a tiger was lurking below, although we did keep our eyes peeled! Lunch was grilled hamburgers, toppings of bacon strips, tomato, lettuce, cheese and french fries, with blackberry mousse for dessert. Way too much food and a siesta was in order before the last dive. Again back to Manuelita where we were to keep the reef to our left shoulder. Visibility was good and it felt like swimming in an aquarium. Tons of fish (loads of schools of blue and gold snapper), a leopard flounder, eels, a marbled ray, a large hammerhead keeping its distance, soldierfish, a blue spotted boxfish. It was a very pretty and enjoyable dive, total dive time 60 minutes. Our favorite dive of the day although to be honest, we are starting to wonder if the Cocos Island are overhyped as we had very high expectations. Perhaps it is the season we are diving, but we can’t help but feel slightly disappointed with what we are seeing versus what we thought we would see. Back to the boat by 4:30 pm and took a quick shower. Paid our Cocos Island fees ($490 each plus $30 DAN insurance for a whopping $1040 for both of us). Now a big chunk of our cash is gone. We could have paid by credit card but that would have entailed a 4% surcharge…no thanks! Dinner at 6:30 was grilled salmon. Fancy dinner by candlelight and everything was delicious. Ate with Roberto and Cinthia and talked to them for nearly 3 hours about travel. Off to bed by 10 pm.
18 Dec: Breakfast at 7 am and we chatted with Lucy and Vanessa about Malpelo (the dive site off Colombia). Today we had Carlos as our dive master and our first dive site was Punta Maria. On the ride out there, we got to jump in and swim with a manta ray. Very cool! Loads of waterfalls cascading into the sea from Cocos Island. Since Punta Maria is notorious for strong current, we were told to descend via a fixed line and wait at the bottom (30 meters). No shark activity but we spotted an octopus, white tips, eels, and lots of reef fish. It was a fairly deep dive so we surfaced after only 44 minutes. Rested for an hour in between dives. Second dive for us will be at Dirty Rock. Joseph broke his little toe as he was coming down the stairs. Michelle took a look at it and gave him some Advil but there was not much she could do for him. Dirty Rock had quite a few hammerheads when we descended and we ended up seeing a total of about 25 – 30 in pairs or single individuals. We were happy to finally start seeing some sharks, but still no tiger. Back for lunch which was pasta with 3 choices of sauces (marinara, Bolognese and alfredo). Ate way too much and took a 45 minute siesta before the visit to the Ranger station on the island. But the 2 pm excursion was cancelled because of bad conditions so we napped until 3 pm. We didn’t hear the SCUBA bell ring and were the last 2 to show up for the final dive but no matter, we had plenty of time. Last dive was at Isla Pajaras (Bird Island) and we saw a ton of lobsters. Lots of white tips, reef fish…we were on the lookout for frogfish but didn’t spot any. A marbled ray swam directly towards Becky who got a video of it. Quite a few eels. Robby felt sick towards the end of the dive and heaved lunch everywhere. It was disgusting bobbing up and down in his puke as we exited the water and into the panga. Half the group missed it but half of us swam right in the middle of it which was completely disgusting. Becky’s first stage was leaking so she informed Carlos who promised to take a look at it. Rested until dinner which was a beef tenderloin. We took a group vote to change up the diving schedule, with first dive at 7 am, followed by breakfast afterwards. Very happy to see this change! None of us like diving after eating breakfast. Went to bed immediately after dinner as Robby was still feeling a bit off. Watched a new tv show called “Killing Eve” with Sandra Oh which was very good. Ship was docked at Wafer Bay and we rocked and rolled all night long.
19 Dec: Restless night of sleep so got up before the alarm at 6 am. Reconfigured the dive light to a wrist strap to see how that works today. Ready to go before 7 and found out our first dive site was to be at Alcyone, which is located on the other side of the island. Beautiful 15 minute ride to our dive site, and it is supposed to be the best place for hammerheads. We had to descend using the line, and entered into a bowl where there were fish milling about, plus white tip sharks. Everyone took a low position (as briefed) to avoid scaring sharks away from the cleaning platforms, but Mathew lingered up high for some reason and the sharks never materialized. Saw an octopus that was hiding in a crack. Made our way over to the other cleaning platforms but no sharks there either. Bit of a bummer first dive and Dale was vocal about it at the surface, saying it was a disappointing dive. Robby felt sick again at the surface and puked what little he had in his stomach. On the ride back, Anibel took a photo of our group in front of a waterfall. While we were feeling a bit bummed about our dive, imagine our annoyance when the other group was on cloud 9 because they went to Manuelita instead, and got to play with a manta ray all dive long! Good for them, glad they got a good dive. Ate breakfast and decided we enjoyed the new set up (dive then eat). Had enough time for a brief siesta before the second dive, which was at Submerged Rock, also on the other side of the island. Chatted with Micheala on the zodiac ride and found out that she and Gavin are Buddhist and very well traveled. They take off 3 months each year to travel the world ever since Gavin was 3 years old. Submerged rock was cool, with a swim through tunnel full of fish. We entered one at a time and then went around the entire rock. Lots of white tips, reef fish, eels, and octopus. Got to see two octopus fighting each other which was very cool and the highlight of the dive. Back to the Okeanos for lunch which was a traditional Costa Rican meal of rice and beans, plantains, stewed beef and vegetables. Chatted with Lucy and Mathew and then found out we had 10 minutes to get ready for visit to the ranger station on Cocos Island. Should have worn our bathing suits because we got absolutely soaked on the zodiac ride to shore with the waves splashing in. Got to take classic Cocos Island photos and crossed over a suspension bridge built out of fishing nets and buoys. Very cool to see the materials recycled into a unique bridge! Had an hour here and realized our last dive would be a late one since it was nearly 3:30 when we got back to the ship. Last dive site of the day was at Viking Rock, which was nearby the Okeanos. It was late in the afternoon so we found lots of sleeping white tips, lobsters, a school of jack, 2 marble rays swimming towards us, and a flounder. Back at the boat, Eduardo had hot chocolate waiting for us, and we rinsed our gear. Becky had to swap our weight belts because someone had stepped on hers and broke it, and it had nearly come off during the last dive. Okeanos had t-shirts for sale but none of them piqued our interest so we passed. Took hot showers and relaxed before dinner. Ate with David, Amber and Natalie. David and Amber had donated all their alcohol to the bar (they had stocked up and now realized they wouldn’t be able to drink it all). It started pouring down with rain just as dinner started, so the gang that was trapped outside got soaked and were freezing during dinner. Lucky for us our cabins are below deck, so we weren’t exposed to the outside elements. There was a video from last week’s liveaboard on the computer and we watched their highlights. Looked like the “highlight reel” from Cocos had been spliced in there, with footage of hundreds of hammerheads, a tiger shark, and eagle rays present…this place does look amazing in peak season. We might have to come back to experience it at a different time.
20 Dec: Up early and drank some juice before getting geared up for the first dive. Carlos gave us the choice of Manuelita or Big Dos Amigos and Amber chose BDA, even though Carlos told us Manuelita would be better. Dale skipped out on the dive as he did not like this site (from his previous trips out here). Saw schools of blue and gold snappers, lots of white tip sharks, swim through tunnel, porcupine fish (big ones), eels, huge moray eel, tons of sea urchins. The waterfalls plummeting directly into the sea on the ride back looked really cool…very pretty here! Had breakfast of croissants, bacon and cheese..yum! Only 1 hour in between dives….we were supposed to go at 10:30 for the next dive and Carlos jumped the gun at 10:20, rushing off to depart on time. Second dive site was Small Dos Amigos, which the other panga reported as having quite a few Galapagos sharks when they went this morning. Finally, on our 8th dive, we saw some sharks! This was the best dive of the trip so far with loads of 2.5 meter (10 feet) Galapagos sharks and a hammerhead shark (which Dale thought was massive). The current here was strong, and we were rewarded with morays swimming in the open, a marbled ray, Galapagos sharks, and a blue spotted boxfish. Several folks (inconsiderate or oblivious?) cut through in front of everyone else, when they knew that others were trying to film or take photos. Not sure what some people are thinking sometimes. We tried to be considerate of others but the current was wickedly strong in places and it was hard to keep a low profile at times. Maybe that was what was going on? Felt bad for those divers who were patient, considerate and who got cut off by everyone else. Great 50 minute dive…everyone surfaced feeling happy with big smiles (except Natalie who doesn’t care for sharks that much and prefers macro…how very bizarre she chose Cocos as a diving destination since it is not really known for its macro!) Lunch was mushroom soup, rice with shrimp, and ice cream for dessert. Sat with Dale and Allison and found out about their lovely house in Cozumel. Sounds like another destination to add to our list! Had a short siesta before the 3 pm dive. Last dive of the day was at Manuelita, and we were wondering if the elusive tiger shark would make an appearance. Saw a pod of dolphins on the short ride over there. Xavier, our panga driver told us a story about 4 years ago when a diver got too close to the rocks and was sucked in and killed. Hence it is very important to swim away from the rocks for pickup. Went down and saw that visibility was limited…water was a lot murkier than the last time we dove here. Saw 2 frogfish at 34 meters…our dive computers went ape-shit at that level though! Saw loads of white tips hunting, and a single dolphin in the distance which jetted once it got closer to us. Conditions were perfect for a tiger shark attack since the water was murky, visibility was poor and it was late afternoon. Ended the dive after only 45 minutes and the panga drifted close to the rocks, making for a dangerous pickup. Dinner at 6:30 was by dim lighting and with fancy tablewear and was delicious, with a pumpkin/shrimp/ginger soup, followed by pork lion and roasted pineapple slice, and we skipped dessert but Amber shared her Lindt sea salt chocolate which was delicious. Heard about diving in Canada’s God’s Pocket, which you have to book several years out due to its popularity. Would like to dive there even though it is cold water!
21 Dec: Up before the alarm and ready to go before 7 am. First dive this morning was Small Dos Amigos, and it was raining this morning and overcast, which made us all feel colder than normal. For some reason, our flippers had been offloaded, so we had to grab our gear before boarding the panga. The current was quite wild, and it was impossible to hold onto a rock as we felt like we were in a washing machine, being tumbled about. Much easier just letting go and letting the current bob us up and down. Our computers didn’t like that at all so they kept alarming when we would have a difference in elevation of 12 feet in just a few seconds! Saw lots of Galapagos sharks and some hammerheads. There was a distinct cleaning station (with butterfly fish) towards the end of the dive, with 2 Galapagos sharks circling around and around. Robby was very close to the action, perhaps too close as Anibel kept a cautious eye on him. Two hammerhead sharks near the panga after we did our safety stop but they were a bit too far away to examine closely. Back to the Okeanos by 8:30 and had a full breakfast. Next dive is not until 10:45 so we have a bit of a break in between dives. Two crew from the Sea Hunter came aboard to tell Carlos that at Manuelita yesterday, they saw 2 tiger sharks, one of them a female with a hook in her mouth. They thought she was acting aggressively and for us to beware. None of us have seen a tiger shark here at Cocos so we are wondering if they really are around or not since we didn’t spot them at Manuelita yesterday! Second dive was at Dirty Rock. Lucy and Matt thought it was at 11 so they both were running late. The visibility here was pretty bad as soon as we descended, even though it was bright and sunny out. Current was very strong and we saw some sharks but it was impossible to anchor down and hold onto anything so couldn’t film them. It was also a very deep dive, down to 34 meters before our dive computers went bonkers. Back up to 28 meters and slowly made our way from one end of Dirty Rock and then backtracked. Saw a Galapagos shark cleaning station and that was pretty cool, with the sharks entering into a gully to get cleaned. Shark after shark entered and exited. Watched the action with Micheala and Gavin; everyone else started ascending to do safety stops. Finally had to ascend when our dive computers forced us to…too bad the best part of the dive was the last 10 minutes! Back to the ship for lunch, which was asparagus soup, grilled chicken with mushroom sauce on rice and vegetarian lasagna. Had a brief siesta before the 3 pm dive because the afternoon excursion to the waterfall was cancelled due to rough waves and an unsafe landing. Boo! Maybe tomorrow we will get lucky and be able to land? Last dive of the day was at Manuelita Coral Garden and our dive master was Xavier (Anibel steered the panga instead). We saw quite a few hammerheads in the distance, a flounder, porcupine fish, but the tigers never appeared. Good shallow dive and it was about an hour. Back at the boat and we downloaded photos and backed them up before heading out for sunset at 5:30 pm. Lovely sunset and we joined Micheala, Lucy, Matt, David and Amber on the back deck for drinks. Amber showed us some footage from her GoPro 7 and it is amazing! Definitely time for a camera upgrade. That little camera takes some incredible footage. Dinner was at 7 pm and it was an amazing spread of sushi . The chefs outdid themselves preparing such a special meal and there was happy hour cocktails on offer too (Pina Colada for Becky and Cuba Libre for Robby). Enjoyed dinner conversation with Amber and David. Anibel briefed us on the program for tomorrow and we are finally doing 4 dives. Yay! First dive will be at 6:30 am, then 9:30, 11:30 and last dive at 3:15. Hit the sack early tonight in anticipation for tomorrow’s dives.
22 Dec: Up early for the 6:30 dive. There was a juvenile booby that was seeking refuge on the boat. Carlos picked it up from the rinse off area and carried it to the second deck so it could get some sun on its wings. First dive site for Panga 1 was Manuelita coral garden with Carlos. He took us to a rock where there were hammerheads and then we swam across a stretch of sand where we saw yet more hammerheads. One got super close to Becky (Amber filmed it so we will have to get a copy from her). Nice dive with lots of sharks. Back to the boat for breakfast (croissants and bacon and cheese…yay). Lucy tried to give the booby some croissant and water because she was worried about it but it didn’t budge or seem remotely interested. Second dive was at 9 am and we went to Dirty Rock. Dive master was Xavier and we saw a shit ton of hammerhead sharks, swarming against the murky water. The closest experience to what we had in Galapagos. Very cool but poor visibility. Swam out into the blue and there was a big ball of fish which Becky got to swim into. Magical safety stop! Saw two silvertip sharks that were curious in our group and not shy at all. This was one of the best dives so far and we were pretty happy. Back to rest for an hour before dive #3. The booby had flown away already which we were happy about as we were worried it was injured. Rested on the deck in the sun until 11:15 when we got ready for the next dive at Alcyone. Went down the line and thought the current wasn’t too strong so let go to take photos of the big-eye trevally/Jack fish. Current was wicked near the base of the line, so bad decision to let go of it early! Very deep third dive at 32 meters. We basically huddled near the massive school of big eye jacks for 30 minutes. On the way back up, Xavier spotted a blue marlin and let out a big whoop. Everyone else missed it except for Dale. He has been diving for decades and this was the first time he has ever seen a marlin in the water. He was on cloud 9, stating this alone was worth coming to Cocos Island for! Very happy for him. Carlos steered the panga over rocks and near waterfalls, with everyone on the boat whooping it up. We are enjoying our time here in Cocos. It is so different from Galapagos and the crew works hard to make us happy. The crew with Okeanos has quickly endeared themselves to us over the past week. Back by 1 pm for lunch, which was labeled as a “pizza party”. Ate pepperoni, bacon and Bolognese/mushroom pizza slices for lunch, topped with a crepe and ice-cream. 3:15 pm was the last dive and it was supposed to be Manuelita but Panga 1 changed it to “Lobster Rock” at the last minute. Amber had queued the song and we were all supposed to dance but half the panga didn’t get the message and/or refused to dance so it was pretty lame. But funny since Carlos really got into it! Lobster Rock was supposed to be good for spotting the elusive batfish (fish with red lips), and tiger shark. However, the conditions deteriorated halfway through the dive, with visibility nonexistent. It was scary to think that tiger sharks are common here because any one of us could have been attacked and none of us would have been aware of what was going in. In fact, we lost Dale and Natalie on the dive as they lingered behind and couldn’t find the group. Back to the boat before 5 pm, and dinner tonight was BBQ on the top deck. We had passed by the Undersea Hunter “Argo” which had pulled into Cocos Island earlier this morning. They have a submersible on board, and it looks like a much fancier vessel (probably with a price tag to boot). They had perfect Day 1 conditions to dive today though. Chatted with David and Amber and Lucy and Matt on the top deck while the chef grilled a variety of meats…dinner smelled delicious! For some reason, the crew decided to have us eat inside, and it was a late one at 7 pm. Robert, Michaela and Gavin skipped dinner but everyone else enjoyed the food and it was topped with a birthday cake for Yuichi (who couldn’t eat any due to dietary restrictions). Nice dinner and we were stuffed. Chatted with Natalie about the Philippines liveaboard she did with a German guy (Bern Tauchen Safari) and how we need to avoid it as Bern Meyer is an egotistical nightmare. Good to know! Anibel briefed us tonight and said we could only do 2 dives tomorrow as we had to make it back to Punta Arenas on a strict schedule. Dives would be at 7 and 10 am respectively. We chose Small Dos Amigos and Dirty Rock and the other panga took over an hour and still didn’t come to any conclusions. It was funny watching them debate the issue endlessly. Robby stayed up late doing a jigsaw puzzle.
23 Dec: Up early because our neighbors were loud. Our first dive was Small Dos Amigos and it was good. Lots of current, and lots of Galapagos and Hammerhead shark activity. Chatted with Dale about his Palau diving. He did one week on land with Antelope Marine Park (good budget accommodation) and one week liveaboard with Aggressor. He enjoyed both but said the land based diving was way more affordable. (3 tank dive for $110 which is surprisingly cheap). Had breakfast with Amber and David. Amber’s shoulder is bothering her but since Joseph said the dive this morning at Dirty Rock was the best of his life, she is going to struggle through the pain and do the last dive. Second dive at Dirty Rock was at 10 am. We dropped down on some hammerheads and Galapagos sharks and then moved over to where they were swarming in the dozens/hundreds. However, visibility was poor and we weren’t able to see them about 95% of the time. The 5% when the visibility cleared was amazing though. Lots of marbled rays swimming by, and during the safety stop (away from the rock), we could see hammerhead sharks below us. It was a very nice last dive, only wish visibility had been better! Anibel surprised us with cold beer immediately after the dive but didn’t allow any photos to be taken of the occasion, ha ha. Back at the boat, it was all business as we set about quickly trying to wash and rinse our gear, and lay it out to dry for the journey back. The staff warned us to tie everything to the boat, otherwise gear would be lost along the way. One of the volunteers at Cocos Island, Maribel (Mar), was hitching a ride back to Puntarenas with us. We had lunch (grilled chicken with rice, topped by a delicious brownie for dessert) with her and found her to be a soulful, kindred spirit. Very cool Polish girl who views life a different way. 2 hours later, we finally broke free to check on our gear and ensure it was all tied down. Relaxation time until dinner at 6:30 pm. Becky was feeling a bit off so she took a seasick tablet and begged off from dinner, while Robby stayed on deck to finish the jigsaw puzzle.
24 Dec: Last day of our cruise! Breakfast at 8 am, and we sat with Mar and chatted for about an hour. Then started sorting our luggage and packing. Most of our SCUBA stuff was dry but there were a few items that needed a bit more time in the sun. The boat stopped at 11 am so folks could take a swim if they wanted and nearly everybody hopped in for a quick dip. Lunch at 12:30 was fish fingers and chicken nuggets, along with pasta and pesto sauce, veges and salad. Dessert was ice cream on top of brownie, dubbed “Euphoria” by the chef. At 3 pm, we had blue champagne and everyone got “Iron Diver” certificates and medals if they completed all 21 dives. Anibel had put together a nice video compilation of our week here and we enjoyed watching it together. After watching it once, we aren’t sure if we’d watch it again, so the $65 price tag seems a bit high. Especially since Robby will likely make his own video for free. Gave tips to the crew ($600) and paid for NITROX ($300), so that took a big chunk of our cash. Dinner at 6:30 was steak and potatoes. Went to bed to finish packing afterwards. Put our big bags in the hallway since the staff said they would carry it up for us in the morning. At midnight, we finally pulled into Puntarenas, and it seemed to take forever for the boat to drop anchor.
25 Dec: Breakfast at 6:30 am and we chatted with David and Amber. Sad to leave the vessel but ready for the second part of our adventure. We had anchored right next to the Okeanos dock and there was free WiFi so we got to check it for the first time in days. Happy to see that BG had made it safely and was enjoying herself already. The ride from Puntarenas to San Jose was quick and quiet since chatty Rudy wasn’t driving. At the airport, we bid farewell to the group and went our separate ways.