Trip report, 2019 trip to Cocos Island

Trip report, 2019 trip to Cocos Island

Article and Images by Erwin Poliakoff

I just finished a wonderful trip to Cocos Island off the coast of Costa Rica on the Argo liveaboard. It was excellent diving, and a very well-run dive operation. I recommend it highly. The trip was chartered by Ultimate Dive Travel, and I use them frequently to arrange my diving trips. Ken Scarbrough asked me to write up a brief summary of the trip; I am happy to do so. I have been very happy using Ultimate Dive Travel to arrange our trips, both for their recommendations of good diving locations, and for their service. That is the end of the advertising section of this write up.

I flew into San Jose. Costa Rica a day early, and overnighted at the Marriott near the airport, a very nice hotel. I met up with Ken, and some of the other divers on our trip. The next morning, our group was loaded into a bus and taken to the port at Puntarenas. with a couple of stops on the way. It was about a 2.5 hour drive. We got on the Argo liveaboard, and it was very nicely laid out and well-maintained. The lounge area was comfortable and spacious, which was good, as it was a 36 hour ride to Cocos Island. The conditions of our boat ride to Cocos Island were mild, but I have heard that it can be rougher. My cabin was comfortable, and on the spacious side for a liveaboard. The food and service on the boat were great. We did three dives a day, which suited me fine. The water was warmer than I expected (81 F mostly), although there were some significant thermoclines that made a hood a good idea. We saw a lot of sharks, including schools of hammerheads. They were the highlight of the trip for me. I have also been on a trip to the Galapagos a few years ago, and I would say that the trip to Cocos Island was similar, insofar as the hammerheads were frequently sighted, and were the central attraction of the dives. Here is a picture of a hammerhead to give an impression of what we would typically see.

Typical view of a beautiful scalloped hammerhead shark at a cleaning station at Cocos Island.

This was not an atypical sighting. The dive guides instructed us carefully as to where they would position us, and how to wait. The point is that they really knew the behavior of the sharks well, and knew how to maximize the likelihood we would spot them, and up close. Typically, we would start our first couple of dives positioned at a cleaning station, where we would wait for the hammerheads to swim by to be cleaned by the angelfish and butterflyfish. The hammerheads were cooperative most of the time, and we would see them swim by. As usual, they were more shy than a photographer would like, but relatively cooperative. There were also several other types of sharks. There were too many white-tips to count. We also saw a  number of Galapagos sharks, and an occasional tiger shark. We also saw several whale sharks, which was a first for me.

Whale shark sighting from one of the Cocos Island dives. We saw several of these, which was a first for me and a couple of the other divers.

The schedule for the day was typically: 7am breakfast, 8 am first dive, 11am second dive, 1pm lunch, 3pm third dive. This made for a comfortable and relaxed schedule that worked well for me, and all of the guests on the boat. On most dives, the visibility was okay, but we were told it is typically better at Cocos Island. I would estimate we had about 60′ vis on most dives. I was pleased to see relatively attractive and healthy reefs (hard coral), and lots of fish life.

School of grunts at the Submerged Arch dive site, one of many islands and pinnacles surrounding Cocos Island.

In addition to the usual fish life, there were tons of peacock flounders on most dives. This was unusual and fun. Also, there were a lot of marble rays, which was very unusual in my experience. Everything about the trip made for a number of special memories. I want to make a point of complimenting the crew. I have been on several liveaboards in the past ten years, including two others in 2019. While all of the crews that have been good, the dive crew and the rest of the Argo crew made everything run perfectly, and they made the guests feel welcome and comfortable while working really hard.

Peacock flounder from a Cocos Island dive. These critters were everywhere.

In addition to the scuba diving, many of the guests also did the submarine ride that went to a depth of 1000 foot. It was ridiculously extravagant, but it was still a lot of fun, and a definite bucket list item. I think that about eight guests did this, and all were glad that they had done it.

After 7 days of diving, we headed back to Puntarenas. Some of the guests were able to get afternoon flights and headed home; about half of us, myself included, could not catch a flight late enough to get out easily, and overnighted before leaving the next day. It was the definition of an excellent trip for me in that I had a lot of fun, really enjoyed the diving, and felt sufficiently satisfied that I was ready to head home and start thinking about my next diving trip.

Erwin Poliakoff