DIVERS in Costa Rica faced many choices over the past few weeks: Warm or cool? Heaps of fish or endless reef? Near shore or offshore? Pay a lot or pay a little? Pacific or Caribbean?
They chose all of the above. Cooperating weather rendered all areas of the country good for some down time, and reports indicate time well spent. Caribbean divers report good conditions with little to no rain, leaving warm waters very clear. Big tarpon and barracuda have been reported seen on most dives.
Large schools of three-foot-long midnight parrotfish, possibly in mating congregations, complemented the colors of the reefs from Punta Uva to Punta Mona, inside the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge on the southern Caribbean coast.
Pacific divers report excellent dives from the Bat Islands in the northwestern province of Guanacaste’s Santa Rosa National Park to the Southern Zone’s Caño Island Biological Reserve off the Osa Peninsula. Plenty of manta rays have been reported from divers out of Playas del Coco, Ocotal, Flamingo and Tamarindo on the northern Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio on the central Pacific coast and Drake Bay down south. Reports from Isla del Coco National Park, almost two full days’ journey off the Pacific coast, are of the standard, daily, incomparable-world-class-diving variety.
WETSUITS flew off the racks for anyone dropping down in Caño Island Biological Reserve. While some northerners dropped in skin, many other divers were layering two or more wetsuits together to guard against the green-tinged chill starting at 40-100 feet on most days.
The temperature layers mixed together seemed like two mixing ecosystems, and there seemed to be twice as much life.
Dense schools of jack and big sharks and rays lurked just below the edge of the cool water that layered like water below alcohol. Big schools of tuna rocketed through warm surface waters full of small groups of 10-50 huge wahoo, some more than six feet long.
Multiple species of dolphins and whales filled the waters as well. The extremely popular pseudorcas, also known as false killer whales, have been cruising off the Osa Peninsula for a few weeks, making appearances at nearly every boat in the area (TT, Dec. 23, 2005). Seeing the same dorsal fins over many years confirms that the same big pod of about 120 animals frequents these waters each year.
TWO new dive shops, Manuel Antonio Divers and Oceans Unlimited, are up and running in Manuel Antonio, offering dives to nearby rocks and islands, and even as far away as Caño Island Biological Reserve, the country’s premier one-day trip. The island dive sites are a little more than two hours away from Manuel Antonio with calm seas, and dolphin sightings have been reported along the way.
Training in diver rescues and underwater search and recovery for coast guard, police and other interested groups will also be taking place from the new dive shops.
A new program of the Ministry of the Environment and Energy proposes the creation of new artificial reefs for fishing in the Southern Zone. This seems a good opportunity for divers and surfers to join together with fishermen to create some new multipurpose reefs for the area. With proper construction, artificial reefs have been proven to provide fish, diving and waves around the world. These economic generators could help many a community.
As usual, now is the time to go diving in Costa Rica. For information or to contribute to this report, call 835-6041, email [email protected] or visit www.costacetacea.com.