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.
Find out more about Sean, his photography and his hosted trips at: www.greatwhitesean.com
Diving with… Pablo Calderon Cadiz, Takata Experience, Mahaual, Mexico
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…
Pablo Calderon Cadiz
What is the name of your business?
What is your role within the business?
Owner / General Manager
How long has the business operated for?
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
Our website is: www.takataexperience.com
Discover the Best of Belize with Dive Worldwide
This June marks the 25th anniversary of the Belize Barrier Reef becoming a World Heritage Site! To celebrate, Dive Worldwide have rounded up their top trips to Belize which includes a resort-based stay, a liveaboard special and a twin-centre with neighbouring Guatemala – perfect for soaking up some culture.
Reefs, Atolls & Mayan Ruins
The only English speaking country in Central America, Belize is warm, welcoming and offers unbelievable adventures. This gem has plenty for divers from incredible nature and topside activities to magical diving opportunities. Belize has the second longest barrier reef in the world and three of the four atolls in the western hemisphere making it a popular choice for divers.
If you missed the Dive Worldwide Belize talk in January you can catch up here.
Spend a week diving the remarkable barrier reef from Ambergris Caye before enjoying a few nights exploring the jungle with its Mayan ruins and caves.
Underwater there’s plenty on offer, with canyons, drop offs and swim throughs in addition to a unique topography and relatively easy conditions. You’ll be accompanied by a kaleidoscope of reef fish as you marvel at the array of sea fans and sponges adorning the seabed. Highlights include nurse shark, stingray, grouper, angelfish, turtle and dolphin.
You then head off-the-beaten-track in land where you stay at an eco lodge in the heart of the Belizean jungle. Here there are a multitude of activities on offer including hiking and cave tours or you can immerse yourself in Mayan culture and visit a number of nearby ruins for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Duration: 13 days
Price from: £2,945 per person
Dive the Lighthouse and Turneffe Atolls from a liveaboard and experience the very best diving Belize has to offer. Located in the Lighthouse Reef there will be the opportunity to dive the Great Blue Hole. This atoll is full of marine life with angelfish, Creole wrasse, butterflyfish, barracuda and sponges found here.
Turneffe is the largest of the three atolls and offers a mixture of shallow reefs and sheer walls with a variety of reef fish and beautiful underwater scenery. Turtle, eagle ray, reef shark, snapper and jacks live on the healthy reefs. Dive sites of note include Half Moon Caye – another UNESCO World Heritage Site – and Painted Wall where you can find macro subjects such as ghostfish, crabs, blennies and invertebrates.
Duration: 10 days
Price from: £3,475 per person
Begin your holiday with some topside cultural discovery in Guatemala. This country packs a punch with its colonial architecture, Mayan ruins nestled in the verdant green jungle and stunning vistas. Don’t miss a visit to Lake Atilan, widely renowned for being one of the most beautiful lakes in the world with its volcanoes, thermal springs and incredible sunrises.
After a few days in Guatemala it’s time to go diving in Belize! Explore the barrier reef and spend time diving the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Blue Hole – the largest of its kind in the world and one of the top reasons to visit Belize. Here the waters are crystal clear, the topography is impressive with large coral and rock formations and the marine life is prolific with reef and black-tip shark in addition to large grouper.
Duration: 14 days
Price from: £3,495 per person
If you want to experience the world class diving and topside highlights of spectacular Belize, contact the Dive Worldwide Team.
All prices are per person and include flights from the UK, liveaboard or accommodation, diving, most meals and airport transfers.