(Editor’s Note: This is the third post in a series of blog posts about the Feb. Cocos Island Expedition to track sea turtles and sharks in order to create a protected science-based swimway that will safeguard endangered marine wildlife during their migrations in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. You can read the first blog here. View the entire series of blog posts here).
Feb. 17, 2015
For the first dive of today Giovanni is our dive guide, and we are headed to a new location – Shark Fin Rock. The rock is unimpressive from above, in fact you can barely see it sticking out of the water, but like most of Cocos the real treasure is below water.
We kick up our fins and head down to 50 feet to wait for the group out of the fray of the swell. Together we slowly spiral down exploring the walls of the rock, and looking out into the blue for wildlife. I watch a Guinea Fowl Puffer Fish and Mobula Ray dance around each other for awhile while exploring the rock wall.
We approach half our air we begin to move away from the wall and head out into the blue.
And that’s when we met an endangered Giant Manta Ray. Giant Manta Rays are the largest of all species of Rays and are instantly recognizable underwater by their size and horn-like features (which is why they are also known raya diablo). The Ray came from the blue and gave us a show – flapping its wings and gliding with such power and grace that we had no chance of catching up to it.
But luckily for us it was a curious, and it circled back to check us out. And then in a swoop disappeared and blended seamlessly back into the blue. Giant Manta Rays might be my favorite wildlife to watch underwater because they instantly put you in your place as a small human in their big, beautiful, underwater world.
Next up was the second dive of the day, and then a choice to dive more or go explore the Island. I chose to explore the Island with Jim, Nada, Alejandra, Justine, Catherine, Lohna, Hans and Joel.
Pepe, the skiff driver, skillfully maneuvered us as close to the shore as possible and then we jumped, holding our bags above our heads and crashing on to the same rocky shore that the famous Pirate Captain Morgan landed on.
I love a good pirate story, and this Island has loads of them – from lore that the Great Treasure of Lima (all eleven boatloads of it were buried there) to stories of Benito Bonito burying his millions on the Island!
Fueling this lore (and my imagination) is a rock tucked towards the back of the beach that is supposedly chiseled by Captain Morgan. Jim shows Hans and I the rock, and I trace my finger over the engraving.
The real story though is in the wildlife that have developed on the Island. On our walk up to a lookout I had the chance to photograph endemic lizards and watch Frigates fighting Blue and Red Footed Boobies for food.
We end our Island adventure by joyfully dunking our heads under a mini-waterfall. We are pirate kings for the day. ¡Que rica!