Diving Costa Rica's Cocos Island
Price: from $2,495 per person
Legend has it that Cocos Island, the largest uninhabited island in the world and the only rainforest-covered island in the eastern Pacific, has millions of dollars worth of gold and other loot buried by pirates in its hills. Countless treasure seekers have searched in vain for Cocos' gold, and the island is even thought to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island.
While the gold has yet to found, scientists and nature lovers have discovered that the island and its surrounding waters hold a different kind of treasure. Much like the Galapagos, Cocos' volcanic origin and remote location (331 miles off the coast of Costa Rica), have produced an incredible amount of biodiversity, including the evolution of species that exist nowhere else on earth. Its unique position in the Pacific also makes it something of a gathering place for free-ranging animals both above and below its surface. For divers, the number and variety of large marine animals that reside in the sea around Cocos are worth making the 36-hour boat trip from the mainland.
"Cocos diving is adventure diving—people go all the way there for action, not to see pretty coral," says dive guru Alan Roberts, who works in fleet operations for Aggressor, the first company to offer live-aboard dive trips to the island. While diving around the pinnacles that surround Cocos from the Okeanos Aggressor, you can swim alongside 40-foot-long whale sharks, schools of hammerhead sharks composed of hundreds of intervals, manta and marble rays, and the island's resident bottlenose dolphins. You can also see marlin, tuna, moray eels, and occasional rare species such as scorpion fish. On Aggressor's eight- and 10-day dive trips, there are also opportunities to visit the island itself, which is now a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cocos Island dive trips are recommended for intermediate to advanced divers. Dive trips are scheduled year-round, but you are most likely to see whale sharks June through October.
Prices for eight-day trips start at $2,495 per person for quadruple occupancy rooms or $2,895 for double occupancy rooms. Rates include transfers between San Jose, Costa Rica, and the departure port of Puntarenas; onboard accommodations; diving; compressed air tanks, weights, and belts; use of the ship's entertainment center, sundeck, dive deck, and lockers; meals, snacks, and beverages; and beer and wine. Nitrox is available onboard for a charge and dive equipment and underwater cameras are available to rent.
You are responsible for booking your own airfare to San Jose. Round-trip flights on Martinair Holland from San Jose to Miami start at $329 excluding taxes for summer 2007 travel.