LIVEABOARD HOLIDAYS IN COSTA RICA
Cocos Island is rightly considered one of the world’s finest places for big fish encounters and liveaboard diving holidays, as the planet’s largest uninhabited island is surrounded by a wealth of glorious marine life and top dive sites – enough to make the heavily protected isles one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, as voted by New7 Wonders of Nature.
With 25ft of rainfall in just 6 months on the life-packed island, the bright vegetation and habitual haven of the 9m² Cocos Island ensure there’s always an incredible array of creatures in and around the land and waters of the place that so heavily inspired Robinson Crusoe and Jurassic Park. From the giant whale sharks, dolphins and turtles to the silver tip sharks, mantas and other whales; Cocos Island harbours a magnificently diverse range of marine life - and in the most unspoilt and visually spectacular of settings.
Lying around 340miles South West of Costa Rica in the Pacific Ocean, the National Park is exclusively restrictive with its visitors – meaning the only way to visit the lush waters is with one of the exciting liveaboards available here. This is of course no bad thing, as the extended time in the water allows divers of an experienced standard to delve much deeper and discover much more about the breath-taking scenery of the place so drenched in pirate history and folklore, and of course its unique inhabitants - making for the most fascinating of diving expeditions.
Voted one of the Top Ten Dive Sites in the World by PADI, Cocos Island comes fully loaded with all the credentials and diving essentials to ensure your liveaboard diving holiday will be truly unforgettable. From swimming with the world’s largest schools of hammerheads to studying the rich coral reef and volcanic tunnels encapsulating the World Heritage Site – even just few days of diving in the Cocos will be one of the best things you ever decide to do.
WHY CHOOSE COCOS ISLAND LIVEABOARDS OVER LAND BASE
Cocos Island Liveaboards are not only the best way to see much more of the marine life in the surrounding waters – they are in fact the only way to get close to the protected isles due to the strict laws in place for land based visitors. With a liveaboard in the Cocos, you are afforded the freedom of choice to anchor up and get diving in the recommended hot spots, massively increasing your chances of seeing the creatures you’d most like to swim with and study up close.
The social aspect of liveaboards combined with the greatly extended time in the water ensure divers can get a much more detailed and studied understanding of Costa Rica’s Cocos Island – sharing the awesome discoveries of the day time activities with your fellow liveaboard divers over dinner and a few drinks in the evening. With much greater scope for dive sites and diving time afforded, you’ll have plenty to discuss and talk about in between dives!
DIVING SEASONS OF THE COCOS ISLANDS
Best Time to Visit: May
Average Temperature: 26˚C to 32˚C
Hottest Times: December to May
Coldest Times: June to November (marginally cooler)
Average Visibility: 25m to 40m
Surrounded by deep waters with some reasonably strong counter-currents, the Cocos are highly regarded by Scuba Divers for the vast quantities of marine life available throughout the majority of the year. The wet climate of the Island provides an ecological character that is unrivalled on this planet, with many life-supporting features and characteristics of the island’s climate proving a great differentiator for a unique set of dive sites with a difference.
Diving in the Cocos is truly spectacular all year round, with little change in what you could expect to see during your liveaboard holiday there. Between the months of December and May the weather is at its warmest and driest, with temperatures between 28˚C and 32˚C – whilst the seas are also at their calmest, meaning visibility is at its highest during this period.
The rainy season of Cocos Island is considered to be between June and November, and during these months the water temperature will drop slightly. During these cooler months, the visibility is a little less and there is little if any wind – attracting the biggest of marine life creatures, and in turn - the most divers!
The months between September and December provide the highest chance of seeing the majestic whale shark, particularly during the full moon periods. However, the best month to visit the Cocos is generally considered to be May, as the wind has almost completely died off and access to the more remote dive sites becomes available. Even though the visibility is slightly restricted during this month due to it being part of the rainy season, May is still considered to provide some of the most exciting diving conditions and marine life sightings of any point throughout the year.
MARINE LIFE IN COSTA RICA’S COCOS ISLAND
The Cocos Island is an oceanic island of both volcanic and tectonic origin, and forms the only emergent island of the Cocos Plate; one of the smaller tectonic plates. Composed primarily of Basalt, the cooling lava is well over two million years old and houses huge schools of a spectacularly diverse range of marine life, both in seascape and the surrounding waters.
Whilst not the world’s prettiest coral reef, the volcanic tunnels, caves, massifs and deep waters of Cocos Island are very colourful and are host to more than 30 species of coral, 60 species of crustacean, 600 species of mollusc and well over 300 species of fish.
In amongst these huge schools of marine life variations are vast populations of humpback whales, sea lions, hammerhead sharks, scalloped hammerhead shark, white & silver tip reef sharks, whale shark, rays, dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and mantas.
On top of all the huge residents swimming the Coco waters, the incredible schools of fish are by no means second fiddle to the larger life. Giant collections of yellowfin tuna, barracudas, jacks, sail fish, moray eels, manta rays, lobsters and giant turtles are all roaming the waters in great quantities – to name but a few. With such highly populated waters and such stunning landscapes & seascapes – it’s no wonder PADI & Natural World consider the Cocos one of the top 10 dive sites, and one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the world respectively.
During the months with cooler waters, the larger life is attracted - including the female hammerheads that come looking for cleansing of their sting ray barbs, through the symbiotic relationship shared with the parasitic copepods; providing a nutritious meal in return for removing the barbs and the discomfort of the wounds built up… which of course makes great viewing for divers at a distance.
‘At a distance’ is your best chance of seeing the sharks in Coco waters, as the naturally shy creatures are elusive and scared away easily. That’s why we recommend a re-breather in this situation, as no matter how subtle you attempt to be, the bubbles will almost certainly restrict how close you can get to them. Although this may mean you’re the last to have a cold beer planted in your hands at the end of the day (due to packing away), it does mean you have a much greater chance of seeing a more plentiful offering of the wonderful marine life creatures around the island.
THE BEST PLACES TO DIVE IN COCOS ISLAND
Due to strong currents, Cocos is recommended for advanced divers only. The dives sites are mainly characterized by wall diving which house a variety of small creatures living in the holes and caves, as well as large schools of pelagics swimming by. There are a number of rocky pinnacles which are beacons for big action and large schools of fish. The pelagic sharks such as tiger sharks, Galapagos sharks, and whale sharks are also attracted to the remote pinnacles.
Some of our favourite sites around Coco Island are:
Manuelita Coral Garden you frequently get Tiger Sharks, hammerheads and large groups of whitetips hunting during the daytime.
Manuelita Outside is a good dive site for schooling hammerheads, dolphins, and spotted eagle rays.
Big Dos Amigos and Small Dos Amigos gives divers a chance to see marble rays, Mobula rays and white tips. You can also see silky sharks, whale sharks, and mating white tip sharks.
Bait Ball, where you can see sharks and dolphins feeding on large schools of fast swimming fish.
TOP TIPS FOR DIVING AROUND COCOS ISLAND
The best time to dive around Cocos Island is during the rainy season (May - November), although the rain may decrease visibility a bit. It is too windy and wavey during the dry season to access some of the best dive sites. Sharks are more often see in the rainy season too.
Don't visit Cocos during an El Nino year - you are less likely to see the larger marine life as sharks go deeper.
Mid September to October is not a good time to visit Cocos Island because many boats are dry docked for repairs.
What is the best way to dive Cocos?
Liveaboards are the only way of diving around Cocos Island since there is not accommodation on land. It takes about 30 hours from the mainland to reach the dive sites of the Cocos Island.
Where is the best scuba diving in Cocos Island?
Because Cocos is not that large of an area, any of the 20 dive sites around the island will give you opportunities for some of the world's best diving.
What is the water temperature?
Temperatures may vary from site to site and thermoclines may drastically change temperatures, but generally speaking it is 25° - 28°C between November and May, and 24° - 27°C from June to December.
What scuba equipment should I bring?
Most divers bring a 5mm long wetsuit, hood, and boots. Some people need thicker wetsuits, so it is best to plan on cold temperatures. It is always smart to bring spare equipment as well as an SMB, whistle, or mirror to signal the boat from the surface. Reef hooks are not necessary, but they are a good idea. Bring fins that allow you to cut through strong currents and keep up with the fast-swimming sharks that you are sure to see there.
Is Cocos suitable for beginner divers?
Cocos is only appropriate for experienced, fit divers. Strong currents, remote dive sites and many close encounters with sharks are the main reasons for this. Additionally, a 30 hour crossing by boat and heavy rains at times make Cocos only suitable for seasoned divers.
What is the crossing like?
The crossing from the mainland to the first dive site is between 30 - 35 hours. We recommend bringing motion sickness tablets, plenty of good music and books to keep yourself entertained, and of course, a good dive buddy to pass the time with.