Three hundred miles—and a 36-hour boat ride—southwest of mainland Costa Rica, a lush volcanic island rears up improbably out of the Pacific Ocean. Cocos is at once a geological anomaly, a stopover for big pelagics like sharks, rays, and whales, and a divine gift for recreational divers willing to make the schlep. “It's the last place where one can always see big schools of large fish, including hammerhead sharks, whitetip sharks, and trevally,” says Enric Sala.
At the dive site Dos Amigos Grande, divers swim through an enormous underwater arch and see schools of hammerheads and mating eagle rays, or at Manuelita, a night dive might reveal hundreds of darting whitetip sharks. “It’s hard to find another place in the ocean with the same tons of large animals per hectare,” says Sala. “If it's not a school of 200 hammerhead sharks, it is a bait ball attacked by Galápagos sharks, dolphins, and seabirds.”
Undersea Hunter Group offers ten-day liveaboard dive trips to Cocos Island from San Jose, Costa Rica starting at $4,895.
Next: See Enric Sala's Dream Trip: Dive the Poles
Marine Ecologist and Diver
Marine ecologist Enric Sala has dived in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the Sea of Cortez, and off remote Pacific Islands is search of the world’s most pristine and most degraded reefs. The National Geographic explorer’s dozens of studies have informed the creation of several marine reserves, including the U.S. Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument and the Seamounts Marine Management Area in Costa Rica.