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

Sean Chinn

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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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Blogs

Top 5 Party Guests: The Magic of Night Diving in Cozumel

American DTA Team

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A blog by Pro Dive International

*Header image: On the day of our planned night dive at the Allegro Cozumel, we had to reschedule, as any water activity during thunderstorms and lightning is considered dangerous. We still thought it was worth sharing this breathtaking spectacle with you.*


Have you ever gazed out at the open ocean at night wondering what happens down there as the sun disappears over the horizon and darkness sets in? If all marine life will be sleeping, or if there’s anything creeping along the reefs?

Here’s what really happens, including a list of our Top 5 Party Guests that make you want to add night diving in Cozumel to your bucket list.

Brief Overview

While the Caribbean Sea is not calming down at night due to the effectively constant trade-winds in the tropics that drive ocean wave trains and cause waves to break throughout day and night, a vibrant party under the sea is just about to begin, as huge basket stars unfurl their arms into the night, parrotfish create their mucus bubble beds, giant lobsters, king crabs and octopus prepare for hunt, and bioluminescence sparkles up the scene.

TOP 5 Party Guests

1. Basket Stars

These sea stars can only be observed in their true glory at night when they unfurl their many branched arms into the darkness to filter food from the water. Some reach nearly a meter in size! Shine your torch on them and watch them curl their huge arms back towards their mouths as they eat the small creatures attracted by your light.

The perfect party costume, do you agree?

Basket Star by Elizabeth Maleham @Pro Dive International

2. Cephalopods – Octopus & Squid

These fascinating creatures are rarely spotted during day dives, but at night you can see them out and about hunting the reef for their next meal. Watch as they move about changing colors and patterns in the blink of an eye! Below is a picture of an octopus spreading its body wide over the reef like a net to encircle its prey.

Did you know that octopuses were that colorful?

Octopus by Elizabeth Maleham @Pro Dive International

3. Crustaceans

Safely tucked away in the back of a crevice during the day, these creatures venture out under the cover of darkness to hunt. A fantastic opportunity to finally get a close-up look at all those king crabs and plenty of lobsters you have only seen as small eyes peering out from the back of a cave.

Up for a dance?

Crab by Elizabeth Maleham @Pro Dive International

4. Parrotfish

Many fish only half sleep, needing to be alert to the dangers 24/7, but parrot fish have evolved an ingenious warning system so they can get their eyes shut. As night draws in, they find a nook to rest in and start to create a mucus like a bubble encircling their whole bodies. They can rest safely in this for the entire night, but if anything disturbs this veil, they are off like a shot into the dark!

How did this sleepy guy make it into our Top 5?

Parrotfish in Cozumel by Guillermo Reta @Pro Dive International

5. Bioluminescence

For those not familiar with this natural phenomenon, bioluminescence is a chemical process which allows living creatures like plankton, tiny crustaceans, some fish, squid and algae to produce light in their body to either attract prey, confuse predators, or lure potential mates.

As the bioluminescent sea will glow when it’s disturbed by a breaking wave or a splash in the water at night, for most of our divers the best part is covering up the torches and waving our arms about disturbing the bioluminescence into sparkling blue points of light.

This makes the perfect party glitter!

Bioluminescence @Dreamstime


Already in a party mood? Pack your dive gear!

How to join the underwater party in Cozumel?

  1. Join Pro Dive International’s Cozumel Night Dives as a certified diver.
  2. Boost your skills and make your night dive one of the 5 Adventure Dives of the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course.
  3. Contact us for guidance.


Contact:

reservations@prodiveinternational.com

www.prodiveinternational.com/contact-us

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Blogs

Turtles of the Riviera Maya & Cozumel

American DTA Team

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A blog by Pro Dive International

Plenty of empty shells of recently hatched turtle eggs were spotted by our divers at Sabalos. They had been washed off shore onto the reef after the baby turtles had dug out of their nest at night and swam off into the sea.

The turtle nesting season on the Riviera Maya and in Cozumel happens between May and October, which means that you may be lucky to see some nests or even hatchlings during your stay with us.

Six out of the seven sea turtle species worldwide visit Mexico every year. We are lucky enough to get to see Green Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles regularly during our dives, as they are in search of food and a good clean.

The reefs and ecosystems here provide a great number of tasty snacks for a turtle, for example seagrass, sponges, crustaceans and many more. And while the turtles pass through the reef, they receive a top-notch cleaning service from many of the local fishes who feed on their parasites and algae growth.

6 Turtle Fun Facts

  1. Green turtles are so named because of their green colored fat caused by their rich diet of seagrass.
  2. Green Turtles are the largest hard-shell turtles in the world. The largest known green turtle weighed 395 kg/ 871 lbs, with a shell that measured more than 152 cm/ 5 ft.
  3. Loggerhead Turtles are so named for their massive broad muscular heads.
  4. Adult males are normally easy to distinguish from females because of their long tails visible extending past their shell.
  5. Female turtles normally return to the exact same location where they were born to lay their eggs.
  6. The sex of a baby turtle is determined by the temperature at which the egg is kept.

Turtles are regular visitors to many of our dive sites, but they are most commonly found at Tortuga – this dive site is even named turtle in Spanish! It’s located just off shore from our dive center at the Occidental Xcaret and easily accessible by boat from any of our Playa Del Carmen locations.

Moreover, for those of you who are not divers, we are lucky enough to have some extensive seagrass beds where green turtles love to hang out and eat, which is an easy snorkel off shore during one of our tours with a guide who is licensed to enter those protected areas.

Turtle Locations

Besides observing them underwater, you may be lucky to find some turtle nests in front of your resort on the Riviera Maya or in Cozumel. Hotel employees usually rope them off to ensure their protection.

Turtle conservation projects are a great alternative to learn more about their behaviors, importance for the marine environment, how you can help protect them, and to observe nests or turtles first hand:

Turtle Protection

Every sea turtle species on earth nests on Mexico’s beaches (save one that is only found in Australia). Consequently, Mexico is known as the sea turtle capital of the world and its turtle protection laws are so important on a global scale.

Current Mexican law classifies all sea turtle species as endangered.

Regulations

  • Turtles can’t be killed for their meat, skin, shell or eggs.
  • Native vegetation can’t be removed in nesting habitats, to stop erosion.
  • New regulations call for moving, changing or eliminating any light sources that illuminate a nesting beach, as baby turtles can become disoriented from finding their way to the ocean.
  • Vehicles can have a maximum weight of 300 kg on nesting beaches and only be used for patrolling and management of the nesting site.
  • Recently outlawed were turtle release events, as many places kept the hatchlings in confinement for several days until a sufficient number of participants had signed up for this activity. Upon release, they were too weak to handle the surf and avoid predators.

All of these and many more regulations help protect beaches, nests, female sea turtles, their eggs and hatchlings to make it a safer place for them.

How to start your Turtle Adventure

Let’s discover some turtles together during our dives! If you are not a diver, why not sign up for a PADI course; or join our Mexican Snorkeling Adventure at 15% OFF starting from Playa del Carmen or Tulum, if booked online until 16/09/21 & redeemed until Dec 22, 2021 with reference to this blog!

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