Friday, July 31, 2009

Puntarenas - San Jose

In stead of driving straight back to San Jose, we let Rudolfo take us on a canopy zipline tour, at 60$/person for about one hour in the tree-tops. Followed by a tasty local lunch in a roadside restaurant (casado con pollo at 2000 CRC, plus agua de fruta).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cocos Island - Puntarenas

Pleasantly smooth sail back to Puntarenas. Shortly after we left the island yesterday evening, a pod of dolphins joined us, playing in the bow's wave till sunset.

While we off-gas any residual nitrogen accumulated over seven days of intensive diving, our gear's slowly getting as dry as possible on a ship at sea. At the end of the day, repacking everything takes 15'.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Dive #22 [ 07:59 | EAN30 | 49' | max.34m, avg.18m | Dirty Rock ]
Dive #23 [ 11:06 | EAN32 | 48' | max.30m, avg.16m | Punta Maria ]
Dive #24 [ 14:57 | EAN34 | 45' | max.23m, avg.13m | Manuelita ]

Most divers come to Cocos Island for its schooling hammerhead sharks. And while they definitely still are here in unknown numbers, they rarely came close enough for us to see more than their shady contour in the distance. Personally I only got to glimpse a few small packs of up to twelve or so, i.e. no 'hammer wall' like in the Galapagos just two and a half years ago. Relatively bad visibility of course didn't help us getting a good look at these rather shy creatures. A couple of times though, a few of them did come a bit closer out of curiosity, giving me at least a chance to get a snapshot or two as souvenir.

The prowling white tip reef sharks however more than made up for our troubles getting here. Especially my three nights out with them were in themselves reason enough to come back. Note though that according to my logbook scribbles from twelve years ago (12/1996), their number has seriously decreased, as has the population of marble rays.

Yearly and seasonal variation can account for a lot, as does daily timing and luck, but still, June-August is supposed to be the best time of the year for diving, whereas December-January is normally only better weather-wise.

During my first visit here I also witnessed huge schools of swirling jacks, hanging like great dark clouds below the waves, forming massive columns of silver rising from the ocean bottom to the surface, in numbers beyond counting, in congregations in which I could disappear and loose myself. This time however we only saw a few comparatively small schools of jacks.

Another dramatic difference was the total absence of mobulas and pacific mantas. And it's not just the big boys that are scarcer: small fish, lobsters & turtles too are no longer as present as they used to.

According to a park ranger with whom I had a brief chat, I'm not the only one to mention this apparent general decrease in underwater populations. Not surprisingly I guess considering the relentless illegal fishing going on around here. Tuna and shark fins are big money indeed. Nothing a few rangers with a dingy can do anything against.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Dive #18 [ 08:40 | EAN31 | 35' | max.30m, avg.20m | viz<10m | Alcyone ]
Dive #19 [ 11:42 | EAN33 | 30' | max.30m, avg.20m | viz<10m | Alcyone ]
Dive #20 [ 15:42 | EAN34 | 57' | max.26m, avg.15m | viz.15m | Manuelita ]
Dive #21 [ 18:20 | EAN34 | 42' | max.14m, avg.9m | night | Manuelita ]

Empty blue at Alcyone. Whitetip warm-up tumble at Manuelita.

At night, we once more mingled with an ever increasing multitude of whitetips, for some up close and personal moments :o) Somehow I found myself in the middle of the pack again, loving every second of it. Sharks bumping into my camera & torch, squeezing by underneath my arms. While sometimes hectic indeed, it never got chaotic, and I always felt completely at ease.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Dive #15 [ 08:22 | EAN32 | 42' | max.22m, avg.16m | viz.20m | Dos Amigos ]
Dive #16 [ 11:15 | EAN33 | 44' | max.30m, avg.19m | viz.20m | Dos Amigos ]
Dive #17 [ 15:32 | EAN31 | 46' | max.22m, avg.14m | viz<20m | Manuelita ]

Hammerheads by the dozen, whitetip bustle, marble rays & schooling fish under Dos Amigos Grande's arch and pairing jacks at Manuelita.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Close encounters!

Dive #11 [ 08:01 | EAN31 | 41' | max.30m, avg.22m | viz.15m | Alcyone ]
Dive #12 [ 11:05 | EAN32 | 35' | max.29m, avg.22m | viz.15m | Alcyone ]
Dive #13 [ 15:40 | EAN32 | 55' | max.16m, avg.12m | viz.10m | Silverado ]
Dive #14 [ 18:28 | EAN32 | 40' | max.19m, avg.12m | night | Manuelita ]

Hammerheads relatively close and a pack of resting whitetips at Alcyone. Not a single silvertip in need of cleaning at Silverado, but we got face to face with a red lipped batfish and a snake eel.

Great night dive among prowling whitetips, hungry giant trevally and brave lobsters scurrying about. Caution: Beware of the sea-urchins!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fish weather

Dive #8 [ 08:30 | EAN31 | 46' | max.29m, avg.18m | viz.15m | Dirty Rock ]
Dive #9 [ 11:27 | EAN32 | 47' | max.28m, avg.19m | viz.15m | Dirty Rock ]
Dive #10 [ 15:22 | EAN30 | 49' | max.30m, avg.17m | viz.20m | Viking Rock ]

Pouring rain. Any wetter and the fish will be flying around. On the bright side however, we got to mingle with jacks, saw dolphins swimming by and had some hammerheads coming a bit closer than usual.

Overcast sky, relatively deep dives and rather poor visibility alas ain't what you'd call ideal conditions for underwater photography without strobes... meaning taking down my compact Sea&Sea DX8000G digital camera would be a futile exercise. Luckily, video is another matter, so for memory's sake and your visual needs, I'm trying to capture some moments with a housed Panasonic Lumix FS5 compact digital camera.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Dive #4 [ 08:04 | EAN30 | 53' | max.30m, avg.19m | viz<15m | Manuelita ]
Dive #5 [ 11:01 | EAN31 | 51' | max.27m, avg.15m | viz.10m | Manuelita ]
Dive #6 [ 15:09 | EAN34 | 48' | max.25m, avg.14m | viz.15m | Manuelita ]
Dive #7 [ 18:22 | EAN31 | 53' | max.16m, avg.10m | night | Manuelita ]

A few scalloped hammerheads (3-4m) keeping their distance, whitetip reef sharks (1–1½m) resting on sandy patches or slowly patrolling around, marble rays weaving by and a relatively large school of jacks hovering like a dark cloud above us. That is, Cocos usual suspects.

Highlight of the day was our night dive on Manuelita's shallow side, where dozens of whitetips immediately joined us to pack-hunt by the light of our powerful torches! An incredible experience indeed :o)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Under pressure

Dive #1 [ 08:19 | EAN34 | 51' | max.13m, avg.10m | viz.15m | Bahia Chatham ]
Dive #2 [ 11:17 | EAN34 | 52' | max.29m, avg.16m | viz.10m | Isla Pejora ]
Dive #3 [ 15:41 | EAN34 | 51' | max.21m, avg.12m | viz<15m | Manuelita ]

Except for the check-out dive, all diving is done in two separate groups from two zodiacs. Most dive sites are located off the main island, around rocks or seamounts. As these are relatively small, both groups usually dive different sides or sites.

Cocos being an oceanic island, swept by sometimes breathtaking strong currents, divers must be confident they can handle rough conditions and blue ascents with SMB deployment from 5m or deeper. Water temperature rarely drops below 27°C, so that's no challenge.

With up to four dives a day and initial depths varying between 20-30m, Nitrox, at 113$ for the week, is highly recommended, both for safety and extended bottom times. Deco dives are not allowed.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Puntarenas - Cocos Island

Not feeling too great until noon, when suddenly I'm just fine again and hungry. The sea's actually amazingly smooth, with long flat swells. The blue sky's showing off some dramatic 3D cloud formations.

We're twenty divers on this trip, all Germans except for myself, and surprisingly most happen to come from Bayern, that is, the Bundesland I currently call home. To take care of us, there's a crew of eight: captain/divemaster, three divemasters/boatdrivers, chef & assistant, steward and engineer.

Cocos Island is located about 530km west of Costa Rica's Pacific coast, a 32 hours sail for the Okeanos Aggressor (length: 33m, beam: 7m, draft: 3m, cruising speed: 10 knots, max 22 passengers).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

San Jose - Puntarenas

After an early breakfast, where I get to meet some of the other passengers, we're all checked into a mini-bus by Rudolfo, for our transfer to Puntarenas, where the Okeanos Aggressor is waiting for us. The ride, commented all the way by Rudolfo, only takes 3 hours, including short stops at a roadside eatery, fruit-stall (cashew nuts, 1500 CRC) and supermarket (1/2l Powerade, 600 CRC).

At the dock, the ship's sturdy Costa-Rican crew welcomes us and quickly loads all our stuff on board. I'm sharing the four bed bow cabin with Jürgen. With four it'd be rather crowded, but being only two, we've got plenty of space to move around and stow our things. Each cabin has its own toilet & shower and adjustable AC.

Settled in we immediately also set-up our dive gear on the large aft deck. After a quick shower, we're served a light lunch and get briefed about standard boat safety procedures.

The weather's pretty nice, but I've strapped Petra's sea-bands around my wrists anyways. Note that anti-seasickness pills are available on board, personally though, I'd rather avoid any medication unless absolutely necessary. Besides, should the crossing get rough tonight, resulting in hard slamming of the bow, I guess I could always try to get some sleep on one of the couches in the main deck's salon?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Orquideas Inn

Transit day at the Orquideas Inn. I'm sharing a room with Jürgen, a German diver & underwater photographer.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sonthofen - San Jose

Train from Sonthofen, via Ulm, to Frankfurt (5h). Flight from Frankfurt, via Santo Domingo, to San José (15h). Door to door a 27 hour journey. Traveling this far west, I actually went back 8 hours.

Currency: 1 Euro = 820 CRC , 1 USD = 0.7 Euro , 1 USD = 580 CRC

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Packing day

My flight being with Condor I'm only allowed 20kg, so for an additional 50€ I bought myself an extra 30kg so as to be able to pack just about any dive gear I might need. When diving around a small island in the middle of the ocean, you don't want to make any compromises regarding SCUBA & safety equipment.

Preparing & packing all my stuff took about five hours. My dive bag weighs 24kg, my clothes & toiletries trolley 8kg and my hand luggage 10kg (incl. laptop and heavy dive light battery).

Friday, July 17, 2009

Last-minute booking

After an early phone call from Tauchreisen Roscher confirming availability and price, I gave myself one hour to quickly check things out before calling them back to book my next adventure!

Departure's in two days so I've got no time to waste :o) Action!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Trip enquiry

Sent an email to Tauchreisen Roscher enquiring about a last-minute offer for a 10 day dive trip to Cocos aboard the Okeanos Aggressor.