Freediving COCOS ISLAND with Mission Blue and Fusion
Dolphins leap in front of the boat, it’s as if they can sense our excitement and rush out to welcome us to Cocos Island. We lean over the bow and peer into the distance. An emerald green bump in the vast expanse of midnight blue water gradually rises on the horizon.
I AM WATER team members Hanli Prinsloo and Peter Marshall had the great privilege of joining Mission Blue and Fusion Network for a once in a lifetime trip to the remote Cocos Island. Acclaimed ocean advocate Dr Sylvia Earle has been diving at Cocos Island for decades, and joining her on the boat we could feel her infectious enthusiasm sweep us first timers along as we travel the 36 hrs from the Costa Rican port city of Puntarenas. The UnderseaHunter Group is one of two operations that are allowed access to the island for recreation diving. Our vessel the Argo is equipped with two diving skiffs as well as the incredible DeepSee diving submersible and her support skiff, Topsy.
We’re a motley crew of salty sea lovers and divers. Dr Sylvia Earle, Shari Sant Plummer and Kip Evans from Mission Blue
(http://mission-blue.org/) Adrian Grenier, actor and activist working on his Lonely Whale project (http://52thesearch.com/) freediver and shark researcher Ocean Ramsey/ Waterinspired (http://www.waterinspired.com/) Julie Andersen the Founder of Shark Angels (http://sharkangels.org/) Stephanie Ruhle best known for being the face of Market Movers on Bloomberg TV (http://www.bloomberg.com/personalities/stephanie_ruhle/) and our intrepid storyteller from Fusion Network, Professor Jorge Cortes, coral reef expert and author, Nicolas Ibarguen and his team. (http://fusion.net/author/nicolas-ibarguen/)
We have flown from far and wide to board the Argo and together explore the oceans around Cocos – see for ourselves the state of this magnificent marine reserve. (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/820)
Costa Rica is and has been a world leader in conservation for many years (being one of the nations to fight hard for the inclusion of their hammerhead sharks in the CITES Appendix II) but the last six months has seen the light dim on this glowing example of shark understanding and protection. Late 2014 and early 2015, the Costa Rican government allowed the export of shark fins to Hong Kong. This while the rangers on Cocos Island tirelessly patrol the waters around the island’s protected ring, intercepting illegal longline fishermen, confiscating hundreds of kilometres of line and thousands of hooks. It’s not an exaggeration, we saw the storage warehouse.
Five magnificent days of diving saw us meeting the enigmatic hammerhead sharks, an elusive tiger shark, juvenile white tip reef shark, huge schools of jack fish, electric baitballs alive with sharks, dolphin and boobie birds. On the DeepSee submersible we saw the largest raggedtooth shark I had ever seen, over five meters and heavily heavily pregnant and the next day freediving through 25m deep and over 30m long tunnels with raging current being met by eagle rays on the way up… Cocos Island will remain in my dreams and memories forever.
Under the leadership of the Fusion team and Mission Blue, I AM WATER will be part of World Oceans Day – June 8th - worldwide push to raise awareness for this and other ocean challenges. Please keep following us here and on social media to share the important stories, the anguish, and the hope!
Thank you to the amazing Underseahunter Team: Avi, Shmulik, Diana, Jim, Edwar, Javier ... the chefs, captain, deck hands and dive helpers... you are all amazing!
All underwater images, thanks to: Edwar Herreño / Underseahuntergroup.com