Sharkweek on my Discovery Channel

Today I was in space. Okay, technically I wasn’t, but it sure as hell looked like it: it is the fourth day into my dive expedition to Cocos, an island about 36 hours off the pacific coast of Costa Rica by boat. Here, like on only very few places in the world, you truly feel like the protagonist in “Jurassic Park” (minus the dinosaurs) – and more importantly: you’ll see no lights whatsoever in a preeeeetty wide radius. Which brings me back to the space thing. I have been one or two places over the course of the last 28 months, but nowhere was the night sky so clear and the stars so close. Ironically, not even on top of the highest elevation, the summit of the Chimborazo in Ecuador, have I seen it so damn clear. Just imagine one of those super cheesy pseudo-artsy long exposure pictures you frequently find on instagram. I simply cannot stop staring at that illuminated darkness.

What the Cocos Islands are in fact famous for, are actually the prestine divesites with its pelagic sealife, not necessarily the spectacular night sky. This means: big stuff! Especially Hammerheads make appearances quite often, but also Galapagos Sharks, Silkys, Blacktips, Tigersharks, Whalesharks and many more hunters you can find here. Already on day one the first schools of Hammerheads cross my path and make my underwater life oh so interesting. I completely forgot about being scared of things, especially the fear of sharks has left me long time ago, with increasing experience and knowledge about them. In contrast of might or might not know about them, fatalities with sharks are quite rare and scuba diving close to the large majority of the species, with a few exceptions, is very safe (they much rather feed on animals they know and are significantly smaller than them). Any given moment I jump in the water with much confidence I won’t be harmed, always with the necessary respect and distance. Most of the times at least.

That being said, on day three, we encounter a free swimming log, with dozens of birds sitting on top of it, feeding, which is usually an indicator for possible so called bait balls. The logs gather juvenile fish, which in return attract bigger fish and sharks – and the dance begins. Lucky for us, we jumped in the water right in time for the show to start. And this is just an incredible sight: hundreds of fish of different species (I won’t bore you with the specific) gather around the log, being surrounded by dozens and dozens of Galapagos Sharks, Silkies and Blacktips, 1,5-2,5 meters big. When the buffet opens, they all join in and snap as many fish as they can get out of that indistinguishable biocluster.

Now, when you swim in between that amount of sharks being all bloodthirsty and primal, you don’t really know what’s going to happen. So you really have to trust your dive guide when he said “it’s okay to jump in”. The adrenaline kicks in and curiosity overcomes the last redundant of fear, so you try to find a balance between getting as close to the action as you possibly can and not getting to close to the bloodbath for the sharks to snap at you. The key is not to panic when they get close. Like wolves, they can feel it when you get nervous. “So don’t get nervous”, I tell myself, admitting that this is an unprecedented event and I need to keep my cool. A couple of minutes later the bait ball is over, but the sharks hang around long enough to just dive with and through them. To get a closer look at those magnificent creatures. With awe, I get out of the water and think: “Could this place be any more incredible?”

Turns out, it can. Depending on how you define beautiful though, as not everyone would describe the feeding frenzy of hundreds of Whitetip Reefsharks as beautiful. I do. When the sharks, led by ruthless giant Jackfish tag in for the daily hunt, they all swim around the reef until they find the common soldierfish. You would assume that such a fish is capable of putting up a good fight, so you shouldn’t be surprised when it takes about 40 sharks to finally go in for the kill. Interestingly, it’s the Jackfish though who seem to be on top of their game tonight and snitch away all the tasty red snacks. Why they spare all the boxfish and lobsters is beyond me, but maybe those are just not on the menu. I don’t like mushrooms either, so I can sympathise.

Here is a recap Video of it all! Enjoy.

repeatedlyreminded – Cocos Island from vanphyl on Vimeo.

Cocos Island, this well protected and fairly hidden place is really unbelievable and a lovely change to the Dominican Republic in many regards. Sorry Atlantic, but the Pacific rules! While driving along the fantastic waterfalls and the green, moss covered rocks of the steep Cocos shores, I am thinking about the stories that surround this place: pirates used this island as a hideout and for decades people have been looking for hidden treasures, before the government declared it was national park worthy. Now, the tropical rainforest is so dense, that even the rangers haven’t been to the large majority of the island, and 90 percent remains unexplored. Many more things can be told about this sanctuary, but I’ll leave you with the recap video I am planning on finishing up in the next couple of weeks.

I have a good feeling about Costa Rica so far, as you can imagine, and it started out pretty well: already within my first three days in, I drove up to the Poaz volcano (close to the capital) to gaze on the beautiful turquoise lagoon crater and leave on a two day river rafting tour through the highly dense rainforest direction atlantic coast. I felt very comfortable there and this has only little to do with the fact that I can finally understand people speaking Spanish.

There is yet so much more to discover: Surfing and Yoga is a pretty standard thing to do here and I also have the sloth sanctuary on my todo-list. I am therefore making my way down south, to Drake Bay. Stay tuned.

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