Located off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is the remote, yet accessible, Isla Del Coco, more commonly referred to as Cocos Island. The renowned Cocos Island Marine Park was established in 1978. In 1994, after several return visits to the island, Jacques Cousteau pronounced Cocos Island “the most beautiful island in the world”. In 1997, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site. The protection offered by these titles has resulted in Cocos Island becoming world-renowned for its incredible bio-diversity and vast array of wildlife, which includes exotic birds and thriving marine life.
Cocos Island has a tropical climate with no real dry season. It is hot and humid throughout the year, which is tempered by cooling sea breezes. Through-out the year, temperatures average out at 33.5°C during the day and drop to 23°C overnight.
Wet Season: April to November
Rainfall is generally in the form of torrential downpours and thunderstorms in the afternoons. The number of rainy days starts to increase from April, and from May to October expect rain almost every day.
‘Dry’ Season: December to March
The rain starts to drop off a bit in December, and you can begin to enjoy some sunny days interspersed through the rainy ones. February is the best month to visit as it has the least amount of rainfall and the most sunshine hours.
The waters around Cocos Island are a visual feast, and some of the most soul-stirring dives in the world take place here.
There are roughly 20 dive sites located around the island offering everything from steep and shallow vertical walls to deep pinnacles, blue water dives and drift dives.
You can expect to see a massive collection of pelagics including white tip reef sharks, dolphins, mantas and marbled rays, giant moray eels, sailfish, and the occasional whale shark. Other frequent sightings include large schools of jacks and tuna, Galapagos, silky and silvertip sharks, marlin, Creole fish, green turtles and octopus. However, the diving highlight of Cocos Island is the large schools of hammerheads, sometimes hundreds strong, who gather to feed in the nutrient-rich currents from deep water nearby.
Cocos Island is only accessible via liveaboard. It is not a destination recommended for novice or inexperienced divers, due to the strong currents, thermoclines, surge, unpredictable sea conditions, water temperature and the remoteness of the island. The nearest recompression chamber is a 36-hour boat ride away, in San Jose.
Water temperature ranges between 24 – 29ºC and can vary dramatically, dropping 3 – 6ºC during a dive due to thermoclines. A full length 5 – 7mm wetsuit with the option of hood, gloves and boots is recommended.
The main factor affecting diving is the calmer seas between December to May. The dry season makes for more pleasant surface conditions, higher visibility, warmer water and fantastic spawning events to be seen underwater.
However, from June to November, the bigger fish and sharks are attracted to the higher concentration of plankton in the water caused by the nutrient upswells, making for some exciting diving. The trade-off for all the action is poorer visibility (around 15 metres), rough and windy surface conditions, stronger currents and cooler water. This is also considered the high season for diving at Cocos Island.
One of the best sites for an up-close and personal encounter with hammerheads coming in their hundreds to the cleaning stations nestled here. It’s not just hammerheads that come here to be cleaned. Divers experience a variety of sharks such as white-tip reef sharks, tiger sharks, silky sharks, Galapagos sharks and, occasionally, a spectacular whale shark or the ever-popular manta ray. Depth: 27 - 36 metres.
Manuelita Coral Garden
Likely to be your first dive at Cocos, a calm and protected site good for macro photographers and one of the few coral reef dives in Cocos. Countless fish, eels, and lobsters reside here. Out in the blue, search for hammerheads, black tip sharks, white tip sharks and numerous marble rays. Large schools of white tip sharks can be seen feeding at dark. Also, the best night dive spot. Depth: 6 - 20 metres.
One of the most dynamic dive sites at Cocos for the sheer volume of hammerheads and incredible biodiversity that surrounds these boulders and rock pinnacles. Divers are engulfed by different species of sharks and rays, while large schools of bigeye jacks, bluefin trevally and hunting tuna dart around the boulders. Whale sharks, turtles and dolphins also frequent this site. Don’t forget your camera! Depth: 6 - 40 metres.
All trips to Cocos Island are liveaboard based. If the weather is satisfactory and your liveaboard possesses the appropriate permits for visitors to come ashore, you may get the opportunity to admire the spectacular jungle surroundings on the island. There are dense, luscious jungles, cascading waterfalls and spectacular wildlife all waiting to be admired and enjoyed as you hike around the island.
It is even possible to participate in a deep-sea dive onboard a custom-built, single atmosphere submarine to an underwater peak 100 metres deep. This is a once in a lifetime experience not to be missed!
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