Cocos Island is one of the most remarkable dive destinations in the world. The island, lying 300 miles south west of Costa Rica in the Pacific Ocean, is famous for its schools of hammerhead sharks. A protected National Reserve, Cocos is lush and rugged with waterfalls at regular intervals cascading down to the sea. Cocos was discovered in 1526 by a Spanish sailor, Johan Cabezas and became a famous refuge for pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries.
In May 2001 Eve and I travelled to the Costa Rican small coastal town of Puntarenas for a diving holiday at Cocos aboard MV Okeanos Aggressor. We had expected to join the Okeanos in Puntarenas harbour for the long voyage to Cocos but it was low tide and the Okeanos Aggressor was moored out to sea. Travelling out to the Okeanos in choppy waters, I should have realised that I needed to take some seasickness tablets. Foolishly I did not. Instead I simply joined a Welcome Meeting in a warm and rather crowded room as the Okeanos set sail. The meeting lasted an hour during which I began to feel ill. When the meeting finished I was repeatedly sick for the next 35 hours until we arrived at Cocos.
Feeling much better, I happily joined in the checkout dive at Cocos and could hardly believe my eyes when a hammerhead cruised by me - the island was living up to its reputation! There were so many whitetip reef sharks that I could not count them. Stupidly I flooded my underwater camera housing on our second dive and so my only images of this holiday were taken above water.
The rainy season at Cocos Island is from May through to November and boy did it rain while Eve and I were there in May 2001. But the trade-off is that this is also the best time of the year to see its underwater delights.
At lunchtime on our second day at Cocos, Eve and I joined a group leaving the Okeanos for a visit ashore and made a steep climb to look at a small man-made cave. Steve Westall, one of our party, fell and seriously hurt himself. He had seven broken ribs, a fractured pelvis, a neck injury and many cuts and bruises. Steve weighed around 19/20 stone and carrying him back down the steep slippery slope to the shore and then to the boat was extremely difficult.
The Okeanos set sail for Puntarenas and as night fell I went to bed expecting another 36 hour crossing. However while I was asleep a USA coastguard boat offered to take Steve to the mainland as it was a faster boat and so able to reach the mainland within 18 hours. When I woke up the next morning I was astonished to find that Steve was no longer aboard and we were back at Cocos Island.
Steve had to endure many months of recovery. However by September of the same year, he was fit (and generous) enough to hold a party in Brighton for everyone who had been to Cocos, this including 2 days local diving-all paid for by Steve. He was still on crutches and so could not join in the diving but by February 2003, Steve was not only diving again but able to join Eve and I for a second trip to Cocos.
The diving at Cocos in May 2001 really did live up to my expectations. The highlights were the numerous whitetip reef sharks as well as blacktips, hammerheads, silvertips and silky sharks and three manta rays.