April 30, 2010

From The Sky To The Seabed

We came to Playa Del Cocos for one thing: scuba diving.

After all that hiking in the forest and that flying in the sky, I was ready for some ocean action. And we were just about to get some :)

We booked a two-tank dive with a small operator on local shores, as opposed to further outings, because we were told there was less current at the diving spots around closeby islands. I wanted to see octopuses (Octopii? Octopussies? Octopae? I hate latin.), Vez wanted to go for the white-tipped sharks. So we did both!

We got up early yesterday morning, caught a quick breakfast and headed down to the dive shop on a bright sunny morning. The weather was gorgeous. We got on the boat, went to pick up a very late Russian dude with an awesome underwater camera, then headed for the first dive.

The water was agitated and the visibility wasn't good. The equipment we rented was kinda crappy, too, and Vez started off with a leaky mask. I was stuck with a huge 12L metal tank so heavy I couldn't move around the boat on my own. But after we got into the water and worked out the kinks, it was all right.

Our dive master, Anton from Belgium, was really good and professional. It helps to have a lead diver who obviously knows what he's doing, so it made me take things a little easier. We went down a guiding line to the sea floor, then around a rocky island in search of the amazing sea life Costa Rica shores are said to harbour...

... And we saw nothing.

It was really disappointing. Oh, we spotted an elusive ray for a couple seconds and we saw a few different species of fish, but the dive, to be honest, was mediocre. Add the fact that we had to come up early and sit in the high waves waiting for the boat to notice us, and it made for a pretty crappy first outing.

We had to get to a bay to harbour the boat from the heavy swells for about 45 minutes between dives, so we all went out swimming and snorkeling around. When we were finally cleared to go out to the second diving spot, I wasn't expecting much.

We got to the second line and started our descent. We'd had time to better adjust the sketchy equipment, so both Vez and I were more comfortable. Almost right after we reached the seabed, we headed for a very nice little wreck of a fishing boat, lying alone on the bottom. Surprise! It was teeming with life!

Loads of parrot fish were swimming in and around the wreck, along with many other types I couldn't identify. But it's when I raised my head and saw a huge school of silver fish (ya know, sorta like the ones who do the riddles in Finding Nemo?) just hanging around a couple dozen feet from me. Thousands of fish.

It took me only a couple fin strokes to get to them. They did not mind my presence at all, so much so that I ended up swimming right in their midst. I had fish 360 degrees around me, no more than a couple inches from my body. For some minutes there, I was a school of fish. I loved it.

Back to the wreck, everyone was hanfging on the other side, and the visibility wasn't good enough for me to see why, from where I was. As I got closer, I quickly understood: several white-tipped sharks, about 5 to 6 feet long, were swimming around the wreck! We were able to get real close and observe them, which made Vez, very, very happy. It was his birthday, too, so I thought that was a pretty cool gift :)

We relunctantly left the wreck to keep going around huge boulders that border the island. The current got really strong and the dive became much more technical. I was very proud of Vez who didn't get swung around and manoeuvered like a pro along the course :)

By the time we got back up, Kaya had gone for her second round of snorkeling in the waves. As she hauled back onto the boat, we realized that without sunscreen, bathing under the scorching sun, she had cooked like a lobster in the swinging waves... so she now proudly sports an awesome one-sided full-body sunburn :)

We all got back to the shore, happy with a fun day of sea adventures. Back to the hotel, we all got some much-deserved sleep, packed our bags ready for the next morning and went to bed.

Next stop : Quepos!

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