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Dive Review of Undersea Hunter in
Costa Rica

Undersea Hunter, Jun, 2010,

by MAX WEINMANN, MA, US (Reviewer Reviewer 3 reports). Report 5576.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving New Guinea, GBR, Sea of Cortez, Fiji, Vanuatu, Australia, Palau
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather rainy, cloudy Seas choppy, surge, currents
Water Temp 77 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 75 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Shelves and ledge available. Cramped and competing for space. Don't consider it particularly friendly set up for photographers.

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 3 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 2 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 2 stars
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 2 stars
Comments I recently had the opportunity to visit the Cocos Islands aboard the Undersea Hunter in early June. As most of us here at the forum, I was very excited to travel to a new and very talked about destination which promised a great deal of big fish action. This anticipation was only fueled by reading the dive operator's blog and previous reviews. My imagination was primed with hopes of big animal encounters and I felt sure that the chances were in our favor.
On arrival at the Undersea Hunter, we were introduced to the crew and the dive masters. Toby hailed from Germany originally, but now lives mainly in Spain. He would prove to be a delightful, resourceful and very capable DM who worked tirelessly to support all the divers.
Of course, the crossing was the worst in years, and all but the hardiest sailors remained below in their cabins awaiting the clunking rattle of the anchor chain which would signal our arrival at Cocos.
The crossing left us somewhat exhausted, but excitement at having arrived rapidly eclipsed the fatigue and had us scampering top side to be briefed and get in the water.
The check out dive was fine: everyone adjusting weights, checking out their suits and adjusting their camera equipment.
It was the typical rush to acclimate prior to doing the "real dives". We were quickly split into 2 groups which turned out largely to be the "allies" vs the "germans".
We were regaled with stories of tiger sharks, schooling hammerheads and other tales of wonderment and big animal encounters. Sadly, it was not to happen. Not for the entire trip really. I realize one has no control over nature and it just happened that the El Nino was not in our favor. Isolated hammers, galapagos sharks were witnessed but not the schooling masses we had so hoped for. Most of us understood, and made the best of it with levity and humor, but events would unfold which would certainly challenge us.
Diving was definitely not for the faint of heart. Currents were extremely strong leaving many of us exhausted to merely reach a handhold on the reef below. If one was also carrying a camera, the burden was merely increased. Efforts didn't always pay off, and we would be straining our eyes, only imagining shadows somewhere off in the distance...despite DM insistence that there were hammers "just out of view". Re entering the boat was often a challenge amidst the chop and swells accompanying the cooler weather, but the single driver on board was skilled in helping us up and finding us despite surfacing at a distance or the rain. This site is clearly only for the very skilled and fit. Currents may shift and change and toss divers effortlessly about. A good understanding of your limitations and buoyancy control is essential. The potential for injury, both physical or DCS is very real. In fact one diver did develop DCS and was sucking down 100% O2 once it was evident why he was not well. Despite advice to stop diving from the physician who was on board, he decided to continue after a short break. One has to remember that in the event of injury, there is no easy access to medical care. Even if a doctor is on board, facilities are the very bare essentials and inadequate for anything beyond scrapes and bruises. If there is a serious injury, the boat must turn around and head back to the mainland : another 36 hours away.
As time went on, a neophyte diver who happened to be a new hire to the company kept shouting out giddily that her dives were the "best ever". It soon began to grate upon us as we were in no need of a company cheer leader, and the dives were typically mediocre at best. Entertainment was provided on board, perhaps to distract us, when our cheer leader continually flirted with the crew and one of the DM in a very sophomoric way. We did encounter hunting wild dolphins on 1 dive and that was indeed a truly magnificent encounter. It whetted our appetites for more but it was not to be.
In addition, we were informed early on that the water filtration system might emit a sulfurous odor, and so doors should be kept open down amongst the cabins. Sure enough, the cabin area smelt like an unattended mens room in summer; it was very unpleasant. However it did seem to appeal to the cockroaches who were found scampering about the dining area and in our cabins. Food was good, but not always plentiful, although the chef did his best to attend to everyone's culinary needs and idiosyncrasies.
As time progressed it became evident that our hopes of big animal encounters were going to remain merely that : hopes. Such is life on dive trips.
Upon our return, the crew quickly dissolved into the background once tips were given and we found ourselves searching quickly for our rides back to the hotel and ultimately home. No one from management appeared despite our encounter with DCS during the trip, which left us dismayed and curious. Just what would it take for them to be interested in events that took place on board?
Would we return? Very unlikely.
While we realize that many people have had completely contrary experiences with this outfit, in our opinion, we found that management was lacking and was not responsive when we contacted them after the trip. Our concerns over the handling of DCS, the cockroaches, pungent sulfurous aroma all went unanswered despite later remarks and inquiries. Perhaps of equal concern was the fact that the subsequent dive blog seemed to remark on a different trip altogether. If more than 1 hammer was seen, then the blog described it as "... the largest schools of hammerheads were seen at...". There were other examples of exaggeration of events which would only serve to entice prospective divers, much as we had been.
We left feeling that marketing imperatives had superseded any others. We were disappointed to say the least. That is not to say that there will not be other trips which will no doubt be spectacular, but in our opinion what will remain are the unfortunate tactics of aggressive marketing, issues of professionalism and utter lack of communication.
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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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