The Arenal Area Magazine

Cocos Island one of the Great Places to Swim With Sharks


Cocos Island, Costa Rica — “Hundreds of scalloped hammerheads school above the scenic sea mounts of Cocos Island,” DeHart says. Here, you’ll probably spot massive manta rays, bright-orange frogfish and “whitetip reef sharks hunting like packs of wolves for small fish hidden in the reef.” The island, often described as “a jungle rising out of the ocean,” is one of Costa Rica’s many national parks and home to waterfalls and wildlife galore. Note: Getting to this remote spot is tricky; it’s more than 300 miles off the west coast of Costa Rica and requires a 36-hour boat ride.

Ranked as the 6th Best dive site by the PADI network, Cocos Island is a live-aboard only dive destination as it’s situated some 300 miles off the main coast of Costa Rica. A must dive site for those shark diving enthusiasts, it’s a unique spot to dive with literally hundreds of hammerhead sharks. You can also swim with dolphins, tuna, gigantic marble rays and even whale sharks here making it a must dive destination for any diver.

Among Cocos Island’s many attributes is a startling degree of biodiversity. This Island’s world-renowned waters explode with life; including innumerable white tip reef sharks, schooling hammerhead sharks, dolphins, mantas and marbled rays, giant moray eels, sailfish, and of course the occasional whale shark. Other common encounters are large schools of jacks and tuna, silky sharks, silver tip sharks, marlin, Creole fish, green turtles and octopus.

Whale shark at Coco’s IslandCocos Island is also home to at least twenty seven endemic fish species including the exotic red-lipped batfish. The terrestrial life at Cocos also exhibits a high number of endemic plants. Here there exist around seventy out of the two hundred thirty five identified vascular plant species in the world, some twenty five species of moss, twenty seven species of liverwort and eighty five species of fungus. There are upwards of eighty seven bird species, including the famous Cocos Island cuckoo, finch and flycatcher. There are three hundred sixty two species of insects, of which sixty four are endemic, and two native reptiles.

Located in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, 300 miles southwest of Cabo Blanco, Costa Rica, lies the famous Cocos Island Marine Park. A rugged and incredibly beautiful island, this World Heritage Site is the crown jewel of Costa Rica’s many National Parks. Cocos Island has an irregular coastline, which makes estimation of land area more a matter of opinion than a surveyor’s science, but it is roughly five miles by two miles (8 x 3 kilometers).

The island was formed during a volcanic upheaval about two-and-a-half million years ago and is composed of basaltic rock, labacorite and andecite lava flows. Its landmass is punctuated by four mountain peaks, the highest of which is Cerro Iglesias, at 2,080 feet or 634 meters.

The island has two large bays with safe anchorages and sandy beaches: Chatham is located on the northeast side and Wafer Bay is on the northwest. Just off Cocos are a series of smaller basaltic rocks and islets. The largest satellite is Isla Manuelita (formerly Nuez).

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