Cocos Island is mountainous rainforest paradise, remotely located 300 miles west of Costa Rica. A World Heritage Site and Costa Rica’s largest national park, the island is a biodiverse wonder that spans about 10 square miles.  Close to 100 endemic plant and animal species make Cocos Island and its coastal waters their home; including three birds, two reptiles, two freshwater fish and 20 marine fish.

Cocos Island landscape, Chatham Bay, aerial view.
Cocos Island landscape, Chatham Bay, aerial view.

The deep water upwelling around the island spurs an impressive diversity of marine life, that includes some 330 fish species and the largest shark populations in the world. Cocos Island is only accessible by boat – after a 36-hour journey through open ocean. Aside from live-aboard diving and a handful of park rangers, the island is untouched. Sadly, illegal shark and tuna poaching does occur regularly in the surrounding waters.

Scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini) come to cleaning stations during the day to have  parasites and loose tissue removed by barberfish (Johnrandallia nigrirostris) and other cleaner  fishes. Cocos Island.
Scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini) come to cleaning stations during the day to have parasites and loose tissue removed by barberfish (Johnrandallia nigrirostris) and other cleaner fishes. Cocos Island.

Cocos Island has some of the largest schools of fish I have ever seen. Sharks, rays and schools of fish are common on every dive. Rich coral reefs, tunnels, caves and sea mounts make up much of the underwater terrain.  Most of the islands dive sites are subject to strong currents and quickly drop off into the abyss. My dive highlights included congregations of marbled rays; yellowfin tuna; endemic reef fishes; massive schools of bigeye trevally; sea birds and skipjack tuna feeding on bait balls; the nightly hunt of hundreds of white-tip reef sharks; and the scalloped hammerhead sharks at the cleaning stations. Favorite images from my trip to Cocos Island, Costa Rica.