May 20, 2017
We’re in Costa Rica! What happened to Nicaragua? Well, we were only there for a week and it wasn’t too eventful. Maybe I’ll get around to writing about it eventually…
So, we’re in Costa Rica! We checked into Playas del Coco and have been bumming around Bahia Culebra in the anchorages. After arriving, we met another boat named Kini Popo with Dan and Susan on board. We quickly discovered that we had a lot in common. Mike & Dan even figured out that they were at Disneyland on the same night in 1985 when they both attended “grad night” for the Southern California graduating seniors their senior year of high school. Too funny!
Both boats started talking about all of the potential dive sites nearby and that developed into a plan for a week of diving. Dan and Susan had heard that there was a dive out at Isla Murcielagos (Bat Island) to see bull sharks. (Check out my post about Diving Cabo Pulmo last year when we saw bull sharks in the Sea of Cortez.)
We didn’t really know anything about this dive site. We checked at a dive shop and discovered that this was an advanced dive due to depth and current, and their price was over $200/person. (This sounded a bit over my still level, so I planned to just snorkel while the others did this dive.)
We have the boats and the gear, so all we really needed was a dive guide. We found a guy selling tours on the beach and asked him. He made a phone call to his buddy who was a dive guide who agreed to go on our boat for $75. Unfortunately, it was a bit too good to be true. Our dive guide did not show up the next morning. We weren’t going to let that ruin our day, so we made a plan to do another dive on some islands right outside Bahia Huevos. Because this wasn’t going to be an advanced dive, I was in!
I had to shake off some nerves on that first dive – I hadn’t had the dive gear on since last summer. We anchored Kini Popo in about 45 feet of water and descended down the anchor chain to the sand bottom. It took me a few minutes to shake off that initial anxiety, but I was finally able to relax and marvel at the underwater world.
Although we initially descended onto a flat sand bottom without many fish, there were round, white jellyfish all around us. The jellyfish didn’t sting at all, they just sort of drifted around like in some alien world. Very cool. We then swam underwater to the rocky reefs surrounding the island to check out all the cool reef fish.
Me, trying to get my dive mojo on…
The next day was try #2 to meet the dive guide for the Bat Island dive. (We were told he had car trouble the first day.) But, again, he was a no show. So, we decided to make the most of getting up super early with all our gear and get another dive in. This time we anchored out by the “monkey head” rock just outside Bahia Culebra. We did a cool circumnavigation of the monkey head that had lots of underwater rocks and reef fish.
Can you spot the moray eel…
After those two dives, we were really getting into the groove. So, we decided to both head to some bays a little south to check out some more dive spots. We first anchored at Bahia Guacamaya, which was an absolutely gorgeous spot with white sand beaches and not too much development, just an eco-lodge on shore. We did some initial snorkeling to find a good dive spot, and then piled the dive gear in the dinghies to dive on a nearby rock.
Mike with the dive gear in the dinghy…
We had an awesome dive. One of the most interesting things was the difference in water temperature. At 50-60 feet, it was cold! But, as soon as you hit 30 feet, it was a good 10-15 degree temperature difference.
Here is a really cool ray that we saw on the dive…
Looking for our next stop, we found the Islas Santa Catalina, which were supposed to have good diving. The only problem is that these small islands are mostly pinnacle rocks, and there are supposedly lots more uncharted pinnacle rocks underwater. Those rocks are great for diving, but terrible for sailboats that draft 6 feet!
We decided to anchor at Playa Conchal in Bahia Brasilito, about four miles away from Islas Santa Catalina. We waited for a calm morning and buzzed out to the islands in the dinghies with handheld GPS devices and depth sounders to do some reconnaissance.
One of the pinnacle rocks…
Dan and Susan checking out more of the islands…
When we got to the biggest of the islands, we anchored the dinghies to do some snorkeling. We found a sandy spot about 40 feet deep where we could anchor the sailboat and dive around the point of the island.
Dan doing reconnaissance snorkeling…
Our exploration day at the islands also happened to be my birthday, so that night we took the dinghy over to Playa Flamingo to find a happening spot to celebrate. We found a great spot right on the beach called Coco Loco. And, we made quite the entry, as we had to negotiate the surf landing of the dinghy right in front of the restaurant. Thankfully we timed the waves right and looked like pros!
Having the signature Coco Loco drink for my birthday…
After a recovery day, we were ready to take the sailboat to Islas Santa Catalina to dive. We decided to dive in pairs, so we would have two in the water, one person on the sailboat and one in the dinghy to do pick up if necessary. Dan and Susan went first and said they had a great time. They even saw a white tip reef shark!
Next, Dan dropped Mike & I off around the point, and our plan was to swim back around toward the sailboat. As soon as we descended, we came upon a school of spotted eagle rays. Absolutely amazing!
We kept heading around, keeping the rocky island on our right side, and saw all kinds of reef fish and big schools of fish. Some of the fish were ones that we’d never seen before!
I think this guy was trying to give the camera a kiss!
We’d had a amazing dive, and it was time to find the surface. We came up and looked around and Mike said “where the heck are we?” Total underwater navigation fail. We do have compasses, but clearly we did not use them well. Somehow we ended up back where we started. The best we can guess, there was a split in the rocks underwater, and where we thought we were following the island around we actually did a 180 turn around some other rocks.
We realized it was going to be a long swim. Dan and Susan were expecting to see us on the other side of the island. There was a panga nearby fishing that was just pulling up anchor, and I joked to Mike, “maybe they can give us a ride.” Just then the panga turned toward us and I waved at them to make sure they saw us in the water. The guy smiled at me and said, “do you need a ride somewhere?”
We climbed in the panga and headed back to the sailboat. Just as we were heading around the corner of the island, Dan was coming to look for us in the dinghy. So, it all worked out but lesson learned.
After a fantastic week, we headed back to Bahia Culebra to do some much needed boat maintenance and cleaning. But, we have the diving bug now and can’t wait to get back out there.
Thanks Mike, Dan and Susan for helping me get my dive mojo back!