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killer whales for christmas at cocos


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#1 stewsmith

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 06:31 AM

killer whales for christmas in cocos

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we returned a couple of days ago from an amazing trip to costa rica. we had 4 days in san jose, doing day trips to volcanoes , canapy tours and a couple of river trips. we had never been to costa rica before but was amazed at how beautiful a country could be. we see a mixture of wildlife from hummingbirds to 18ft crocodiles. the flowers and trees were also amazing, from orchids to trees that actually walked !!!

well the 4 days on land soon passed and it was time to board our liveaboard the undersea hunter which was to be our hotel, restaurant, transport and dive centre for the next 10 days. the undersea hunter is the sister ship to the sea hunter and the pair of them dive a very remote uninhabited island 300 miles from land in the north pacific called cocos. cocos is a very lush island with many cascading waterfalls pouring millions of litres of water into the sea constantly. we went in dry season, which in costa rican means " not so wet season"". cocos is the second wettest place on earth with an average rainfall of 24ft per year.

On first impressions of the boat and crew, we were delighted to see how organised the crew were and how well laid out the boat was. we were asigned a tank which was positioned behind a seat which was clearly marked with each divers name. we were introduced to all of the crew and were told what each person did and how long they had worked for the undersea hunter company. the two guides were excellent. jo jo and juan manuel, juan manuel was a columbian and was a cross between frank spencer and graham norton. very camp and extremely funny. this guy was sure going to be fun to live with for the following 10 days. jo jo himself was also a very funny guy.

well we made sure that all our kit was in good order then set sail for a 36 hour trip at sea to cocos. now the crossing can either be calm or it can be very rough, we chose to go at this time of year as the crossing are generally calmer. we crossed our fingers and we were blessed with a very calm crossing. the crossing only took 30 hours which was good. during the crossing it was time to get to know each other. we made friends with a couple from scotland, a guy from worthing and a guy from berlin. we asked the the dm's if we could dive as a team as we all seemed to get on. this was no prblem for the crew and we had now formed our team what was to be known as the blue team, the other guys were now the yellow team. this team consisted of a swiss couple, a couple from california, 2 italian guys and another american couple straight of the jerry springer show. all of the blue team were relieved not to be diving with them.

THE DIVING

the diving we went for was to see sharks, if we were lucky we could see schooling scalloped hammerheads, silkies, galapagos, schooling whitetips, silvertips, blacktips. well there were plenty of hammerheads every dive we were given a good show of why cocos is so special. small dos amigos and big dos amigos were probably the best during our trip for hammerheads. alcyone was very good for hammerheads, large palaegics and whitetips. dirty rock lived up to its reputation and was always teaming with life, large schools of almost everything. every dive was a world class dive. silverado also lived up to its name and reputation by producing some excellent silvertip action.

the currents were not very strong at the sites that we dove. but we did tend to dive the leeward side of the island. the surf was ok for most of the trip but we did have 2 days with very high swell, probably 7-8ft. the viz wasnt that good either, which was a bit of a shame but it averaged at 15-20 mtrs as a result i did not take too many photos. this actually meant i could see the div through my eyes rather than a camera view finder, something that i had not done for some time. all of the dives were done as a group, there was no solo diving and no decompression diving. we were 30 hours from land and all divers had to respect that this was not a cheap trip and that getting bent so far from land would put an end to every other divers trip. the briefings were very informative, precise and also included some humour. both teams would dive at seperate sites and then swap sites for the following dive. this worked well as we were able to find out about thermoclines and where the action was happening. the night diving was something to remember for the rest of my life. it was done at manuelita which is the largest pinnacle off of cocos. it was a shallow dive to 14 mtrs and what was there waiting for us was a mass of hunting whitetips. these whitetips were everywhere. i would hate to say how many but there were hundreds. all chasing behind the black jacks trying to find their next meal. we were told that we could not go within 2 metres of the sea floor and that we were never to shine our torches at another diver. the object was to try to find a squirrel fish or something similar and light it up with the beam of our torches. when we done this the hunt was on, the whitetips would chase the chosen fish into the rocks and they would thrash around in very large numbers trying to get to their meal. it was a mass of violently shaking tail fins. amazing.
silverado was a silvertip cleaning station, which was a very simple dive on a flat sandy bottom. get in get to the cleaning station, get in a circle and wait. sure enough, like clock work they would turn up. this was my first encounter with silvertips and they look mean. the fully grown adults have the same body shape as a white shark and these guys looked big, especially when they were cruising inches from your mask. after 20 minutes of photos it was time to drift into the blue to see what palaegics were around. wahoo to 2 mtrs were amazing to see as they circled us out in the blue, yellow fin tuna were also visible hunting just under the surface.

the highlight of the trip was on christmas eve when we were just getting into the skiff after a briefing on our next dive. as we were getting in louise see a whale fin break the surface about 80 metres from our boat. a second or 2 later we could clearly see 3 large black dorsal fins. these were orcas fins and we were now heading out in our skiff to get a closer look. when we were at a close enough distance i had my mask and snorkel on frantically trying to get my fins on. one of our group asked juan manuel if it was safe to dive with orcas, he replied in his camp tone " i dont know, just get in.!" i didnt even hear him finish his words and i was in the water heading towards these 3 beauties. such a magnificent sight. one of the orcas had a shark hanging from the side of its mouth. were these guys out hunting or were they there playing. i didnt know and to be totally honest i didnt care. with camera on and trying to locate these fast mammals through my view finder, set the appeture blah blah blah, ok perhaps it would have been best to have put it into auto mode, but at the time i had too many other thoughts running through my mind. well i did mange to get one shot of a pair of them, one of which had the shark in its mouth. back on the skiff, we were given the option as to whether we hung around with the orcas or we went to the dive that we had just been briefed on. Ummmmmmm silly question really, of course we stayed with the orcas for the next 20 minutes. i didnt actually get any more sightings of them under water, but yuri and jo jo free dived to 50ft and witnessed them scratching their backs on the sand at silverado. well as you can imagine the rest of the trip was mostly spent talking about what we had witnessed, sadly for the yellow team they just had to sit and listen, although one of the jerry springer guests did make out that she see everything......NOT.. of course i had a lot of new friends from the yellow team after that as they all wanted a copy of my photo....of course that was never going to happen.

to summerise.
the boat....excellent in every way, the food and crew were amazing.
the diving.....easier than i imagined, but awesome.
value for money....yes
would we go back....yes

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#2 Steve Williams

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 06:46 AM

Sounds like a great trip, You going to share or just keep us drooling in suspense?

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#3 stewsmith

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 06:51 AM

Sounds like a great trip, You going to share or just keep us drooling in suspense?

Steve


i will post the photo later, i do not have a copy on this pc. i havent put it anywhere just yet.

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#4 pakman

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 07:30 AM

"An American couple straight out of the Jerry Springer Show..." lol! I can just imagine...

Great Report Stew... Can't wait to see that Orca with the shark in its mouth! :P

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#5 loftus

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 08:07 AM

Thanks for that. I'm trying to get on the Undersea Hunter in '09.
Also waiting to see 'the shot'
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#6 stewsmith

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 10:20 AM

silvertip.jpg what this one

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#7 stewsmith

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 10:29 AM

straightend_orcas.jpg or this one

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#8 loftus

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 11:10 AM

You're messing with us aren't you? Are you still pissed at me about that Dolphin Dream thing? :P
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#9 yahsemtough

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 11:54 AM

If he does not post the shot I say we ban him for a week from Wetpixel. LOL

I'd love to see the image. What an amazing experience.

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#10 stewsmith

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 12:23 PM

ok here it is. i have not done toorca3.jpg o much edit wise yet, but when i have i will re post.enjoy !!!!

Pura Vida !!!!!

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#11 DeanB

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 01:23 PM

Hmmmmm....Nice

Dive safe

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#12 pakman

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 07:08 PM

Nice, but what about pics of the Jerry Springer Show Couple throwing deck chairs at each other after the DNA test confirmed he wasn't the father? :P j/k

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#13 philsokol

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 03:25 PM

Thanks for the great report! Can't wait to get there (I'm going this Sept.). I'm a new dslr shooter - do you suggest shutter priority mode (maybe 1/250) for all that action? Seems like full manual would be overwhelming...

Thanks!

Phil

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