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Not everyone looks for the opportunity to be in close proximity with sharks. But if you are one of those rare souls, there are few places in the world more impressive than Cocos Island.

It is certainly no easy feat to reach this unique location. Sitting 550 kilometers (340 miles) off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, Cocos Island National Park is a 36-hour boat trip from the mainland. But those with enough patience, determination, and motion-sickness medication will be treated to an unforgettable experience.

Getting to Cocos Island isn’t the only challenge. The water is warm (25-28° Celsius) but unpredictable; thermoclines cause the temperatures to plunge significantly in places. The dives are generally deep (25-30 meters) with potentially strong currents. These factors and variables make Cocos Island a poor place for beginners to hone their skills: don’t go if you’re not totally confident in your gear and abilities.  

Over 300 species of fish have been identified in the waters of Cocos Island, but it is the large pelagic migratory species (chief among which are sharks) that provide for the jaw-dropping experiences. The rocky, underwater pinnacles and small satellite islands provide perfect sites for cleaning stations where hammerhead sharks and other pelagics gather to remove parasites. The Alcyone and Dirty Rock sites are particularly amazing. In the open water, enormous schools of fish gather in “bait balls.” These spiraling orchestrations of thousands of fish dance against a deep blue backdrop, that is, until a group of predators decimates it in a mater of minutes!

Cages? What cages!?! Diving with the sharks in Cocos Island is a rather “exposed” situation. While whitetip sharks rest comfortably on the ocean floor during the day, at night they roam the rocks en masse, hunting in “packs.” One almost pities their prey, cowering in small rock recesses. What a way for them to spend each night! For the most part, the whitetip sharks pay no attention to the divers, so one can have a “front row seat” to this incredible action.

With huge schools of hammerheads, countless whitetips, occasional silvertips, and many other species, Cocos will definitely not fail to thrill.

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