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Dive Review of Undersea Hunter in
Costa Rica/Cocos Island

Undersea Hunter: "Pre El Nino Dive Trip to Cocos Island: Great trip, limited prospects", Jun, 2014,

by David Welch, BC, CA ( 1 report with 2 Helpful votes). Report 8023 has 2 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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 $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments I took advantage of a sudden cancellation to take this trip, which had been on my bucket list. The bottom line is that this is a well-organized, safe, friendly and very competent group of people running the liveaboard, and the "back office" people appear to also have been very professional-- I had no complaints about the aspects of the operation that are under the company's control-- you will be safe, enjoy your trip, have some very enjoyable liveaboard diving. This is as it should be, because this is an expensive trip. Divers ALSO need to recognize that this is an advanced skills trip-- save this one for when your skills and experience are appropriate, as divers are a very long way offshore and far from skilled medical staff.

Although shark numbers are down by an estimated order of magnitude (1/10th former abundance of 20 years ago), Cocos Island is a marine protected area/park and UNESCO World Heritage Site mainly because it is a gathering ground for large schools of sharks. So, even though the abundance of sharks and other large pelagics has dropped everywhere, this is a world-wide phenomenon driving by the rise of an affluent middle class in China. Lacking a time machine, the decline in sharks is affecting the quality of the diving worldwide. With this caveat in mind, you will see more large sharks at Cocos Island than most any other place in the world-- or should, if you don't come during El Nino conditions.

At Cocos, I had high hopes of seeing LOTS of hammerheads, on virtually every day. Alas, that was not to be-- El Nino had started forming in the western Pacific, and even though the Australian and US computer models were forecasting only a 50% probability that an El Nino would develop and propagate eastward across the equatorial Pacific, the ecology a Cocos knew that it was coming and the ecology had changed big time-- according to the divemasters, the trip just before ours was the first to run into a lack of upwelling winds and resulting warm water. The net result was that the big predators had vanished. Although we still saw lots of resident white tips (the nighttime feeding frenzy is still fantastic!), the hammerheads were gone, and so were the Galapagos sharks. Fortunately, towards the end of our week of diving there was some recovery, and we did see one school of about 30 big hammerheads, and we had sporadic encounters with a few individuals, almost always at the edge of visibility, although I had one breathtaking encounter with an 8-10' male that just angled up past me only 10' away.

That one encounter made the trip for me, because as this male gave me the once over from very close up, I could see muscles rippling under a skin of beaten silver as he effortlessly slid past me-- it was a magic moment, tinged in the back of my mind by the the recognition that in a fight, I would lose. In the event, apart from eyeballing me at close range, the hammerhead made no move toward me at all. That moment made the trip, though I wish there had been more of them.

The dive sites are in very good shape, probably because not many divers, relatively speaking, get out to dive here and partly because the divers that do go tend to be more skilled and more aware, so there isn't much damage from flailing out-of-trim divers. (Incidentally, if you are NOT relatively skilled, keep this trip on your bucket list until you get some significant experience with buoyancy and breath control- a minimum of 100 dives I would think. Dives during daylight hours are consistently deep (100'+) to get down to the sharks and I highly recommend being Nitrox certified to reduce nitrogen loading-- it is a VERY long way back to land and the local recompression chamber). As it happened, one of the divers ended up with a fair DCS hit the night before the last day of diving, despite diving Nitrox and remaining within the NDL limits. (The DMs checked her dive computer and verified this). It helped that two of the divers were medical doctors, but the staff were very professional, and handled the incident very professionally & discreetly, from what I could observe. (For those who aren't experienced divers, be aware that I have the feeling that this happens more often than might be suspected).

Overall, I enjoyed my trip, and I have some disappointments, but no complaints that could be laid at the feet of the staff or the company. We had one diver on the trip who turned out to be a serious alcoholic and the DMs "handled" him as best as could be expected for such an isolated place-- 500 km offshore is not a place where someone can just be dropped off and have his trip refunded without losing three days' diving by the rest of the paying customers. (For those naive enough to wonder if the company should be held more responsible, the "guest" seems to have been mostly drinking in his stateroom and then staggering upstairs in the evenings). I had a quiet word about him with the DMs about day 5 and asked if I should intercede-- they told me enough about his one prior trip with them that they knew what the issues were with him and they were handling him the best that could be expected-- and they specifically asked me to stay out of it because he was known to be violent when crossed. (He had apparently won the trip, or else would not have been able to board, apparently).

Overall Summary: This company runs a high-end operation, and it is expensive travelling 500 km offshore to get to Cocos Island. You get what you pay for, and I felt the price was fair for the opportunities offered up. Divers who can afford the trip are advised to be "on their game"-- there can be strong currents, repeated relatively deep dives for SCUBA, and there is need for good buoyancy control. If the upwelling winds don't fail you (as they did me), you will see some spectacular large pelagics. Incidentally, this is volcanic rock we were diving on-- not much in the way of interesting soft or hard corals, although there is certainly some. I will probably go back again some day, but will try to choose a time when I can be confident that I will hit peak time for big sharks. If soft or hard corals are your thing, or you just love muck diving, probably best to go elsewhere-- this is a trip to see Cocos' iconic hammerheads and other large beasts.
Websites Undersea Hunter   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Vancouver Island; Red Sea, Bonaire, Cozumel, Fiji
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather rainy, cloudy Seas choppy, no currents
Water Temp -°F / -°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 60-90 Ft/ 18-27 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions We were asked to go no deeper than the DM, but once the DMs were able to assess each diver's abilities, they merely guided... there were no overbearing DMs on the crew. That being said, I don't think there were any dive sites where it would have been possible to exceed about 120'.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities 5 stars
UW Photo Comments [None]
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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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