Scuba Diving at Cano Island in Costa Rica
My trip to Costa Rica wasn't intended to be a scuba diving trip. However, I saw no reason not to take advantage of the opportunity to dive in a new location. Although there are a handful of locations to dive, there are only two locations that I think are worth considering.
The main location is Cocos Island. Unfortunately, this island is located 300 miles southwest of Cabo Blanco. Aside from being a long haul, you'll have to contend with a liveaboard so if you're prone to motion sickness like I am, you're out of luck. The promise of this dive location is the opportunity to see paleagics like hammerhead sharks. Now that would be awesome!
The second location is Caño Island, part of Corcovado National Park and located just 13 miles off the coast of Costa Rica near Drake Bay. This island is far enough away from the coast so that visibility can be good enough for diving. With just a short distance of water to cross, this island seemed like my kind of diving so I had arranged for two 2-tank dives while I was staying at La Paloma Lodge.
The underwater terrain includes volcanic rock in which 15 species of coral make their home. This coral in turn attracts tropical reef fish, but pelagics also frequent the area (Whale Sharks are very rare though). Snapper apparently grow large in the area with some reaching 70 lbs. Ridley and Hawksbill turtles are often seen too.
Day 1 of diving was with Mauricio, a marine biologist and conservationist. The two dive sites we visited were Shark Cave and Arches. Visibility on the first dive was a little disappointing. Which isn't to say we didn't see anything, but when you've been spoiled by the clarity in places like Belize, it's hard to not be bummed by anything not as good. On the second dive the visibility started off much like the first dive, but then about half way through the dive it seemed like all of the particulates in the water disappeared. Everything become so clear and the colors of the marine life popped – what a treat!
Whitetip reef sharks were everywhere. As were stingrays and spotted rays – they looked particularly cool when mostly buried in the bottom with just the outline discernible. Some careful checks of crevices revealed lobsters. In one area we came across blue starfish in numbers I had not seen before. And of course the usual suspects like sea cucumbers, parrot fish, angel fish, and sergeant majors.
Day 2 of diving was with Ivan. Not sure what happened as we were supposed to be with Mauricio once again. Ivan took us out to the Shipwreck and Devil's Rock dive sites. Overall visibility was about the same as Day 1 or perhaps a little worse. At no point did the visibility suddenly improve as it did on Day 1. Regardless, both of these dives were enjoyable. In fact, one of the best parts was when Ivan took us into an area where we couldn't see the bottom -- I had no idea where I was and had to constantly check my depth gauge to make sure I wasn't sinking. Without warning we came across a school of silver jacks with a hunting barracuda behind. And then a school of sardines swirling sort of like what you see on TV. These were incredible too see and I half expected sharks or dolphins to appear, but no such luck.
Not too surprisingly we saw many eels like garden eels and green moray eels, but one in particular was impressive -- a grey eel with black spots like a leopard that had the girth of a boa constrictor.
As with day 1, we also saw white-tipped sharks, lobster, parrot fish, angel fish, and sergeant majors.
On the way back from the dives Ivan steered towards a school of dolphins. Once we got close the dolphins moved to the front of the boat and swam ahead of us, sometimes jumping out of the water. Also at the surface we saw jumping rays -- multiple rays jumping out of the water. Apparently this action helps clean them of parasites.