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Dive Review of Sea Hunter/Grano de Oro in
Costa Rica/Cocos Island

Sea Hunter/Grano de Oro, Apr, 2011,

by Michael D Smith, OK, US (Reviewer Reviewer 3 reports). Report 6021.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 101-250 dives
Where else diving Several Caribbean islands, Bahamas and Exumas.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy, dry Seas choppy, currents
Water Temp 80 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50 to 75 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions All dives were led by a Dive Master, but some freedom was afforded. Maximum depth was 120 ft. Bottom times were maximized based on individual site conditions.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals N/A Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments I am not a UWP, but several on this trip had cameras and at least two professionals were in our group. All photographers expressed praise for the camera facilities and service by the crew.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments This was our first trip to the Pacific and our first live aboard trip. We saw two documentary films about Cocos Island, one last year on NatGeo, which generated our interest in taking a trip there, and also, the must see . . . Shark Water, so we some idea of what to expect in the way of sea life.

Our experience exceeded our expectations in every way. Dive for dive, the best trip ever for us. Lots of shark action on every dive, rays in herds, enormous schools of Jacks, dozens of octopus, turtles, morays, lobster everywhere, reef fish and smaller critters galore. The structures, though very healthy, are not as colorful and coral laden as most of the Caribbean . . . I think I only saw one small sea fan . . . but the fish life and other critters easily make up. Most dives were to 80 feet plus which limited bottom times but a few of the afternoon dives were shallower and an hour long.

All the dive sites were good to excellent with Alcyone claiming the top choice across the board. Our group made three visits and I believe the other group did as well. "Hammerhead wallpaper" was how one of our fellow divers described our second dive on the site and I couldn't agree more. Moderate to strong currents on every dive make Cocos a trip not well suited for inexperienced divers. Getting caught by very strong currents and a raging rain storm after a great dive at Alcyone turned the usual short easy boat ride back into a reminder of the power of the sea and deepened our appreciation for the skill, experience and quality of our boat captains and dive masters.

The daily schedule was 7:00 AM for the first dive, followed by breakfast. Second dive at 10:30AM with lunch at 12:30PM and the third dive at 2:30PM. Dinner at 7:00PM. Each group did one night dive, though more night dives were available by request.

The entire crew was first rate in every category. Cruise Director/Dive Master Wilson Cadavid was both entertaining and helpful. Dive Master, Esteban Rojas was excellent in the water and both provided good briefings. Both pointed out a few small critters, including two or three batfish and a zebra moray, organized us for shark viewing at the cleaning stations, MOL led the swimming, drifting and assent portions of our dives and did a good job of keeping track of us when the viz was poor. At a couple of sites, the panga was moored, with decent and assent on the line, but on most dives, the panga followed and picked us up in one or more groups at the end of the dive. The pangas fold-up ladder extended well below the surface, fitted with wide steps and secure handles, made getting back on board safe and as easy as possible. Most boat rides were only five minutes each way.

Our dive rigs stayed on the pangas. Two pangas handled all the divers, which were broken up into two groups. Tanks were refilled between dives. All diving is on Nitrox and our tanks were always 3100 + PSI. Plenty of dive deck hanging space for wet-suits along with both wet and dry storage lockers made managing dive gear easy. Warm showers for rinsing off between dives and large clean towels were always provided on the dive deck.

The Deep See submarine was on board for this trip and about half the guests made a trip. Two trip options were available. One to about 300 and one to 1000. The cost was $1200 and $1800 respectively. We didnt make a Deep See trip. Unbelievable and experience of a life time were the usual comments from those who did.

Our cabin (#8) was clean and comfortable. The small, clean bathroom had plenty of storage and the plumbing worked well . . . what can beat a hot shower at the end of the diving day? Getting accustomed to the engine noise and vibration on the 30 hour trip out and back didn't take as long as I imagined, and the other boat noises didn't keep us from sleeping well every night.

The Salon is comfortable and quiet and the upper sun deck has a shaded area as well as plenty of space to catch some rays and the deck furniture was clean and comfortable. There is also a library with a computer. No internet or cell phone service but a satellite phone is available for emergency communication.

An optional afternoon two hour round-trip hike up to a waterfall was worth doing, but I'll skip it next time. The trail is steep, muddy and a little treacherous . . . at least for a 68 year old guy. Cell phone service is available on the lush island, which is uninhabited except for a handful of park rangers and volunteers.

The food was tasty, well prepared, good quality with plenty of variety. But after ten days, I was totally ready for a meal from another kitchen. The Chef and food service crew were attentive and accommodated special dietary requests. A refrigerator and ice machine in the Salon and Dining Room held soft drinks and beer are included in the cost of the trip and wine in the $25 to $35 per bottle range is available. Fruit and backed snacks greeted us following most dives and there were always plenty of chips, cookies etc. around with hot pop corn often out in the evening.

I had a delayed luggage problem (dive gear of course) upon arrival in San Jose that would have been less of a problem had we arrived a full day or two ahead rather than on the last flight of the day prior to departing. But I was able to pick up my bag at the airport the next morning and catch up with the Sea Hunter waiting for me just outside the harbor at Puntarenas.

The on land portion of our stay was at the Grano de Oro near downtown in San Jose. A wonderful old hotel with a fabulous restaurant. We enjoyed a few days after our Sea Hunter trip visiting the country side around San Jose and lots of urban trekking to museums, parks and restaurants. A couple of our favorite eateries were Tin Jo and The Park Grill.

All in all, a great trip that I would do again in a heart beat.

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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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