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Why diving Cocos should be at the top of your bucket list!

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Missed part one of Sean’s blog on his trip to Cocos Island? You can read it here.

You ever expected so much from a place that you’ve then been left disappointed once you’ve finally had the opportunity to visit? Well, thankfully that didn’t happen with my visit to Cocos Island. Back in 2009 my friend was encouraging me to take up diving and showed me videos of his trip to Cocos to entice me. Ever since then and the start of my diving life, Cocos has been top of my dive bucket list. A lot of my expectations were alleviated slightly as a lot of his videos were the crazy whitetip reef shark night dives that are unfortunately not permitted anymore. However, I was still expecting a lot from a place that had an incredible reputation. Thankfully it lived up to that reputation and more.

The island itself had already won my heart on arrival. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Lush green rainforest broken up by cascading waterfalls drawing you down to a rugged beautiful coastline. It really is paradise on earth. Then I finally hit the water and quickly realised paradise continued beneath the waves. The checkout dive was a sure sign of things to come and a great entry into life diving at Cocos Island. A nice calm shallow dive at Chatham Bay but with lots of life to see and many whitetip reef sharks that weren’t as skittish as other places I’ve dived with them. Such a fun relaxing dive and then there it was!! My first Cocos scalloped hammerhead. Hang on, this is only the first dive and I’m only at around 7 metres or so. I really wasn’t expecting this, as thought I’d only see them at the deep cleaning station sites. It gave me a real buzz for the diving week ahead.

Sure enough the next dive at Manuelita Outside was really what diving at Cocos Island is all about. Hammers, hammers and more hammers!! Scalloped hammerheads were everywhere at the three cleaning stations along the wall with action pretty much starting as soon as we hit the water. While we perched up along the wall and looked on over the cleaning stations we watched as some would come in to be cleaned while groups patrolled the blue outside. What a fascinating spectacle to witness and it was only dive 2!!

The worry after such a crazy fantastic second dive was the expectations for the rest of the week. Was this a sign of things to come? Or were we to be left disappointed if we didn’t get another dive like that again? Luckily it was a great sign as the diving continued to deliver dive after dive through the week. I think I can only recall about 1 or 2 dives out of 21 where I didn’t see a hammerhead. They were prevalent throughout the week even making regular appearances on the more relaxed shallower third dives of the day.

Dirty Rock and Manuelita Coral Garden were my favourite dives of the trip and continually delivered for hammerhead action. What you learn when diving in Cocos is that if a dive site is hitting early, then it’s good to dive that site on more than one occasion. These two sites were on fire and delivered dive after dive. Not only were the hammerheads in abundance and made close passes. We also hit big moments at both sites that have gave me some of the best dives I’ve had in my life. In fact, one of the other guests I was diving with has been to Cocos 19 times and on one particular dive we had at Dirty Rock she said it was the best dive she has ever done there. I’d hit the jackpot on only my first visit to the island.

The dive started deep with numerous hammerheads at a cleaning station around 30 metres deep where I got one of my closest hammerhead passes. Hammerhead cleaning stations are typical of Cocos, whereas what happened next was completely unique and was the reason we all came up from the dive buzzing. As we shallowed up, we made our way around the rock to the other side and was greeted by BIG circling Galapagos sharks at around 16 metres. This was a completely natural encounter with no bait used as they swam past within touching distance at times. Juan Manuel has been a dive guide in Cocos nearly 20 years and had never seen anything like this before with Galapagos sharks. Such an incredible natural experience where my only problem was I couldn’t stay longer due to deco time and air consumption. I could have stayed there for hours with them circling between the group.

Close interactions with an eagle ray at Dirty Rock and the amazing school of bigeye trevally that we encountered on 3 of the 4 dives there added to the lure of this site. While Manuelita Coral Garden was a more relaxed shallow dive where around 20 metres was the max depth I reached. It was still equally exciting and gave me two of my most memorable moments. On one dive I had moved away from the group slightly watching the hammerheads circle around the reef through the cleaning stations. I then had a look over my shoulder and was surprised by a juvenile whale shark bolting along the reef at around 5 metres. It didn’t stay for long but was such an exciting moment as it was completely unexpected. That moment was joined by seeing mating whitetip reef sharks on one of the dives there. Another completely natural occurrence that left the whole group buzzing with excitement.

While we hit big at these particular sites, the rest of the diving we did around the island had its moments and delivered amazing dives throughout the week. I’m a sucker for a critter and in particular octopus and frogfish are some of my favourites. Seeing both these on what is a popular big animal destination adds to the appeal of a trip to Cocos Island. We also got lucky and got to see the elusive Cocos batfish that is endemic to this area, a really interesting and comical looking critter with its big red lips. The schools of snapper (particularly blue-and-gold snapper) and soldierfish were in abundance on most dives with the swim-through and caves at Submerged Rock creating memorable moments with them and the whitetip reef sharks. Marbled rays were always fun to see and friendly at times.

Overall, what an incredible dive trip to return to after a forced Covid break over the last year and a half. When expectations are so high but can still be exceeded you know you’re in a special place. From the first minute to the last, the dives continued to deliver and we were even given a parting gift on the very last moments of the very last dive. A huge school of bigeye trevally rose from the sandy bottom of Manuelita Coral Garden and engulfed the group, staying with us for our safety stop as if to ensure we have a reason to return. Something I would rush to do in a heartbeat.

More information

www.underseahunter.com

www.visitcostarica.com/en


Find out more about Sean, his photography and his hosted trips at: www.greatwhitesean.com

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Diving with… Aydin Inc, The Cenotes Guy, Mexico

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In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…


What is your name?

My name is Aydin Dinc.

What is the name of your business?

The Cenote Guy – Cenote Diving.

What is your role within the business?

Founder. I’m guiding in the Cenotes and I’m the manager of the business.

How long has the business operated for?

We started in February 2018.

How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?

Professionally diving since 2017 in Mexico.

Got certified in 1998. I was mostly diving for fun during vacations in the Mediterranean.

2017 MSDT Padi instructor

2017 TDI full cave Diver

What is your favorite type of diving?

For sure, cavern diving. I also love Ocean diving, the Big Blue and marine life.

Cavern and Cave is more like a living style, a daily ritual, a spiritual thought process for me.

Diving in caverns in very addictive. I enjoy the caverns on a daily basis and practice cave diving on my days off.

If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you, what would it be?

We are specialized in cavern diving and that´s what make our strength. The dives are tailormade taking into consideration the diver’s experience and skills. We are not doing any courses; we are not doing Ocean dives. We want to give you the best in cenote diving. Fully concentrating on GUIDING. Safety being our biggest focus. And, word of mouth, that’s how our customers choose us. That’s a niche we have chosen because it is not “regular diving.” It’s special, it’s Cenote Diving.

What is your favourite dive in your location and why?

Little Brother is by far the most enchanting dive of all. My personal favorite. Incredibly beautiful and with the most features you can have in Cenote diving. I am proud to guide in this place where you have the feeling of being on another planet, where the words are missing when trying to describe the experience.

What types of diving are available in your location?

We only do cavern diving. So, the main parameter is how much you get inside the overhead environment. I personally categorise them as:

Semi open water dives: The open water surface is wide and easy to spot, like Kukulkan, little brother, eden,  Barbie line, carwash, casa Cenote etc.

Penetration dives: You have this real feeling of getting under the ground and tunnels, adventure lovers are welcome! Tajmaha, Batcave, dreamgate etc.

Open water dives: Technically open water dives, but all around 30 meters / 90 feet of depth, for advanced divers. Like Angelita, zapot , Kinha etc.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

I’m into guiding and sharing my passion with my fellow divers is the best reward. It’s amazing how diving creates bonds after having done a Cenote dive. I have seen people crying after the dives, being moved. It’s impacting, calming and so out of this world. It’s a spiritual calling. And believe me, to be someone witnessing the emotion and in a way being the one that is facilitating such moments, is the greatest reward. Back in time, my first cenote dives were the most exciting things I have ever done in my life. And I know that it’s the case for the majority of our divers. A life changing experience.

What is your favorite underwater creature?

My favourite underwater creatures, that we are lucky to spot in a couple of cenotes, are the crocodiles. They are laying on the rocks and watching us calmly. They are the real inhabitants of the cenotes. They are small and very inoffensive. Always a nice encounter for our divers.

As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?

The fast growth of the region is somehow menacing our beautiful cenotes. We would like to keep this activity as an off the beaten path one!

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

We care about the environment and we are trying to reduce our footprint. No plastic cups and bags, no chemicals in the cenotes. We are helping and working with the local Mayan community to minimize our waste.

Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?

We are very happy and proud to have very competitive pricing. Having a high demand, we are doing way better in our offer for the people willing to have a very private experience to celebrate birthdays, honeymoons and special days in the cenotes. As our team of instructors is getting bigger, it’s easier to separate private divers from the other divers. We are into diversifying our offer to match with the demand. Keeping the quality and the safety as our main concern.

How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?

From what we can see in the Riviera Maya, tourism activity is increasing. This region is the pearl of Mexican tourism. Radical measures should be taken to allow this blooming to be regulated in order to respect the nature. Unfortunately, the educative ‘pink’ approach is not working anymore – my humble opinion.

From the Airport on arrival to the departure day, the tourist should be hammered with preventive (and punitive) measures to make sure the preservation and protection of the environment is ensured.

Finally, what would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?

Cenote diving is a different way of diving. The open water certification is more than enough to enjoy this very amazing adventure. We have seen a lot of divers never going back to “normal” ocean diving after having experienced Cenote Diving 😊

Where can our visitors find out more about your business? 

www.thecenoteguy.com

WhatsApp messages only: +52 984 100 78 65

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thecenoteguy

Instagram: www.instagram.com/thecenoteguy

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Diving with…  Pablo Calderon Cadiz, Takata Experience, Mahaual, Mexico

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In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…


What is your name?

Pablo Calderon Cadiz

What is the name of your business?

Takata Experience

What is your role within the business?

Owner / General Manager

How long has the business operated for?

6 years

How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?

I have been diving for 16 years; I am a PADI IDC Staff Instructor

What is your favorite type of diving?

I really enjoy all types of dive but deep dives and dives with crazy topography are by far my favourites.

If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?

We are a dive center and also a research center, so we merge both into one big idea.  When you dive with us you also benefit the reef, as we put part of that money into our restoration program. We are also one of the only dive centers in the world that has a full research center working together with us. That’s why our official hashtag is #Divewithpurpose

What is your favorite dive in your location and why?

My favorite dive in Mahahual is Piratas, because of the beautiful topography and the amount of big animals you can see, such as turtles, manatees and sharks.

What types of diving are available in your location?

One of the best things about Mahahual is that there are dive sites for all levels, from shallow reefs with beautiful life to walls that can go down to 150 meters within 5 minutes from the shore. You can always choose what you want, if you are looking for biodiversity, topography, shallow sand patches or very deep walls, we have them all.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

The diving industry is an industry that is constantly evolving and from my role I am able to always bring that to Takata.  I am always looking for ways to create a solid business culture, to make sure the people that work for us can always develop themselves from a professional perspective, but also from a personal one. We have created many different programs that are unique to us, where we merge the dive and research center. All that is possible because I can take those decisions. To see how your dream becomes true is the biggest reward ever.

What is your favorite underwater creature?

Sharks are my number 1, and if I can be more specific, Hammerheads!!!

As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?

I feel that many dive centers in the world don’t  know yet what makes them unique, so the way for them to attract people is to charge very low prices, sometimes that is very difficult, because the one that is next to you can charge 30% less than you for the ¨same service¨. I believe we should always find what is unique to us and to create a value on it. We should all focus on the professionalization of our industry.

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

As I mentioned before, we have a full research center, our director has 2 master degrees and our 2 biologist both have PhDs. Actually our research center was name as Actor for the UN Decade On Ecosystems Restoration for the next 10 years.

Our research center works together with the Mexican government to ensure a sustainable development in the area and to implement big scale conservation and restoration projects in Mahahual.

Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?

As we are a new company, there are always exciting thing coming our way, in these years we became an IDC center, UN partners, we did a small hotel and we are looking forward to develop our research center even more.  We would like to become the biggest research center in Mexico which is very ambitious and to become leaders in diving, restoration and everything that involve costal ecosystems. We dream big because we love what we do.

How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?

I think the industry is doing ok but not great.  For sure freediving has grown a lot in the last 10-15 years. There are several organisations around the world who do great work, but we need more people and businesses looking to do the exceptional.   Sometimes talking with diving friends around the world, we all agree that this is probably one of the few industries where the prices we charge are the same or even cheaper than 5 or 10 years ago. We urgently need to proprofessionalize the industry and put the correct value on our product and services.

Finally, what would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?

If you guys are looking for a unique immersive experience where you can mix your passion for diving with deep understanding of marine and costal ecosystem, then we are your choice.

Where can our visitors find out more about your business?

You guys can follow us on IG: Takata.experience 

FB: Takata Experience                                                                                

Our website is: www.takataexperience.com

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