Jump to content
echeng

Best time to dive Cocos and Malpelo?

Recommended Posts

Hey guys. Can you advise the best time to dive Cocos and Malpelo? I was there in April / May of last year, and it was awesome. But I hear there is more activity in the rainy season, after June.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ohhh that's a toughie. Depends on what you wanna see. My 4 trips in Aug/Sep had whalesharks, baitballs and (deep down) the Odontaspis sp shark ( ostensibly the sand tiger species the Wu-man will tell you all about it) in the mix. The action was always better at Malpelo when I went but it's definitely more hit or miss than Cocos. In 2006, when I went in April, it was great at Cocos but then I discovered the sub and never wanted to get wet again. I think you saw the demo reel I showed you from that trip... or maybe you didn't. ^_^

If you've never been in Aug/Sep... try it. Just realize the seas tend to be bigger. My crossing was over 48hrs! I think I told you that story.

My suggestion to get the best of both places is to go to concentrate on the Cocos side then grab another boat and hit the Malpelo side exclusively. That's what I did twice and my best trips were when I did that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Eric,

 

I was waiting to post this when I launch the updated version of our website in the next week or so but it might help a little. We did spend 2 weeks with the folks from the Imagining Foundation who have over 3000 dives out there and they felt the wet season was the safer bet for masses of life but you have to deal with 30ft viz. On our last trip one of our shipmates stayed on board and said the action was even better than on our trip. The weather went from warm and flat seas on our trip to rough and windy.

 

I will say they are predicting a strong El Nino for 09-10. Based on a fair amount of research we have decided we are putting off trips to this area, Galapagos, Cocos and Socorro until it passes.

 

We did a fairly detailed trip report for our 1st trip in 2006 so this report will mainly focus on the differences between the two trips and cover some of the questions we have been typically been asked about these destinations.

 

The Sea Hunter Operation

Once again I want to emphasize what a class operation they run. Go to their website it will give you just about all the information you need. We were happy to be back on the Undersea Hunter. It is smaller than the Sea Hunter and their new vessel the Argos but the trade off is it only takes 14 divers versus +20 and in Cocos this makes a difference. Once again the crew met and exceeded all expectations. We want to thank our dive guides, Edward, Juan Manuel and Moricieo for doing a fantastic job. Kudos to our skiff Capitan Jose always on the spot after each dive. He also amazed us by taking us into caves and cracks which due to the rough conditions in 06 we could not visit.

http://www.underseahunter.com

 

Malpelo Island

Malpelo is known for its schooling silky sharks and masses of moray eels. Unlike Cocos where you are almost guaranteed of seeing sharks with Malpelo it is a 50/50 chance. It is a minimum of 45hrs to Malpelo and close to 40 hours from Malpelo to Cocos. That’s 4 potentially miserable days of travel. We came prepared for the worst, Scopolamine patches, Dramamine and even Ambian. We were fortunate and had pond flat seas the whole trip. Were Cocos is green and verdant Malpelo is a Rock! There is no vegetation on the sides of this 1400ft tall piece of ocean bottom.

 

Malpelo Diving

If you go to Malpelo you have to come to terms with the potential of traveling a long way and getting skunked. Sadly we saw no silky schools but we did see hammer heads in the dozens, big Galapagos sharks, red lipped batfish in groups and of course masses of moray eels. We also were treated to bottle nose dolphins spinning thru the air and pod of false killer whales. If you have the time Malpelo is well worth the trip but keep expectations in line.

 

Facts about Diving Cocos and Malpelo (from our perspective)

 

#1. YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT!!!!

This applies to the weather, the creatures you will see, currents, viz and surge. Conditions can vary radically day to day and even on the same dive

 

#2. NEVER SKIP A DIVE!!!!

Malpelo and Cocos seem to delight in surprising you! Last trip two dive buddies missed one dive and the whale shark showed up. This time a couple skipped one day dive and we had a bait ball with silkies, tuna and dolphins.

 

The #1 Question we have been asked is: “When is the best time to go to Cocos????”

 

We have only been twice but we have done a lot of research, read every trip-report we could find and talked to a lot of people including Jay Ireland and Georgienne Bradley who have over 3000 dives just at Cocos.

 

Our trip this year in April was excellent. As mentioned, at Malpelo we encountered white tips, hammer heads and several big Galapagos sharks but unfortunately no big schools of silkies. Can’t emphasize enough conditions can change quickly; the boat that followed us by just two days saw no sharks at Malpelo and felt Cocos was just “ok.” This could be an “expectations” issue.

 

The “theory” is the wet season (June-November) with colder water, bigger currents, rainy days and rougher surface conditions has the best schooling action for all species. The warmer weather is nice for divers and photographers but the schools aren’t as big and are down deeper, this is the “Theory”.

 

Our meager experience

 

September of 2006

Water temp: surface about 74-77. At 60fsw 72 and thermo clines in the 65 degree range

Visibility: was average of 35-40ft but did have some dives with it in the 80ft range

Surface conditions: Ride out was rough most just stayed in their cabins

Conditions at Cocos: Rained hard every day but we did have 2-3 days with sun breaks.

Surface conditions: Rides out in the pangas could be pounding due to +3ft chop.

Hammer Head Action: Was great we never got skunked, big schools of +100 sharks but due to viz it was sometimes hard to appreciate their mass. They were often in 70fsw or less of water.

White Tips: Were every where you stop paying attention to them after awhile. The night dive is one of my favorite dives of all times.

Jack Schools: Were massive. They would block out what minimal sunlight we were getting and due to viz again the schools were so large you could not see the edge of them.

Rays: Like white tips the marble rays were everywhere

Silver Tips: We got skunked one day but did see one on our second try. We also found the red lip batfish at this site.

Silkies: None

Baitballs: None for us but the other team found one with very good action

Whalesharks: We had the joy of spending about 10 minutes with one the other team none.

For the Photographers: Cocos is friendlier to video but know how to manually focus your camera. For still photographers rainy season, the “low” viz, murky water and gray subjects can be a challenge.

Over All: Great trip, could be tough for people who get seasick, great action with big schools. But was cool, we were happy we brought our fleece and being from Seattle the Rain did not bother us, too much.

 

April 2008

Note: La Nina was supposed to be in affect. Meaning that the water should have been cooler than normal. We thought we might get the best of both worlds diving in the dry season during an La Nina, meaning good viz and lots of sharks.

 

Water temp: Much warmer around 80 degrees. Some chilly thermo clines again in the 65 degree range

Visibility: Much better this time, give it an average of 60ft and many dives it in the +80ft range

Surface conditions: The whole trip the seas were flat, flat, flat!

Conditions at Cocos: Mainly hot and sunny with a few afternoon showers but Julie got a lot of tanning in.

Surface conditions: Flat

Hammer Head Action: Was good, never skunked. Some good schools at Dirty Rock and Alcyon but most schools were at 80fsw or deeper.

White Tips: Again were everywhere but not in the numbers we saw in September. Once again the night dive delivered.

Jack Schools: Were there but not in the masses we had previously.

Rays: Only found 3-4 the guides said it was due to the warmer water.

Silver Tips: Like before we got skunked one day but on the second two came buy and stayed for 15minutes or so.

Silkies: We snorkeled with dozens as we chased bait-balls and I had one very close encounter with one, see Multi-Media show.

Baitballs: Found one at the end but still attracted yellow fin tuna, silkies and dolphins. The second we kept missing but did see dolphin and silkies again

Whalesharks: None for either team

For the Photographers: Due to viz much better for both video and still but due to low currents and warm water everything was down deeper so no blue water, sun ball and huge hammerhead school shot. Now a buddy who was there the week before did get many of these shots.

Over All: Another great trip. The weather was “perfect” and viz was much better. BUT, next time we will probably try the rainy season again.

 

Were there is adversity there is great opportunity. Yes the trip out to these amazing islands can be trying, the diving at times challenging, the sharks operate according to their own agenda but when it all comes together there is truly no place like Cocos; besides maybe Malpelo.

Edited by NWDiver

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So let me chime in here as well...

 

In May 2006 we did Malpelo and Cocos. We had fairly flat conditions at Malpelo (overcast but little/no rain) and we did see a couple of (really) big schools of Hammerheads at Sahara (but they were always either 50 ft above us, or 50 ft below us...). No silkies, but we did get a lot of Galapagos sharks and some Dusky sharks as well (unfortunately no Senor Big...). Hammers were generally present at many of the other sites as well. BTW - when Malpelo is overcast it can look a wee bit ominous - it's a fairly wild place, and at depth it felt darker than it really was. I was surprised how I had to mentally approach the diving - might have had something to do w/the fact that they had lost a diver (never recovered the body) at Malpelo 2 years previous, and the wife (now widow) was on the boat that week.

 

The transit to Cocos was fine (I slept virtually the entire way). Cocos was a bit rainy, and there was more chop going out to the dive sites. Lots (and lots) of Hammerheads - many close encounters at Dirty Rock, Alcyone, and Manuelita Outside. Lots of Marble Rays (the annual "love fest" seemed to be just getting started).

 

I did a return trip to Cocos this January, and I thought it was even better. Flat calm seas (most of the time), more sunshine, and better visibility. Alcyone was almost as good as the previous trip (maybe dropped from one of the 5 best dives in the world to one of the 20 best dives in the world). Manuelita just went off - we had Hammerheads everywhere on the backside (all three cleaning stations were active, and the resident Galapagos sharks were consistently between the 2nd and 3rd cleaning stations). Looking back at my log we dove Manuelita outside 7 times during the trip, and it never missed. It was so good that we actually dove the Coral Garden (Manuelita Inside) twice in the afternoon, and there were 40-50 Hammerheads cruising through the Coral Garden (in 45 ft of water) for most of the dives (swimming on the edge of the garden and the sand patch, and then swimming through the garden, then returning to the sand). We also encountered the largest school of Jacks I've ever seen here (stretched from 3 ft off the sand to just below the surface in about 70 ft of water).

 

Towards the end of the trip the dive guides would ask were we wanted to go (Dos Amigos? Dirty Rock? Silverado?) and we would just say "just around the other side of Manuelita please..." (literally less than a 1 min. boat ride in the panga).

 

It got so that if you still had some energy during the surface intervals you could snorkel with the Hammerheads in the Coral Garden (they were swimming right under the Sea Hunter).

 

Things do vary by time of year - but here's something to consider as well. Cocos is changing (compared to 7,8,9 years ago) - according to the Sea Hunter folks there are fewer Silkies and Silvertips these days, fewer sightings of Whale Sharks, less Marble Ray "madness," (but still lots of Marble Rays)...

 

Yet surprisingly, quite a few more Hammerheads than even 9 years ago (and an increasing number of large Galapagos sharks).

 

In short - YMMV, but it's still one of the best places in the world to dive w/large animals.

 

On a personal note: my wife (who dives, but doesn't really like live-aboards - esp. with long crossings) has given me permission to take one more trip w/out her (either this fall or early next year) and I'm torn between going back to Cocos (I'm really hooked) or a trip to Raja Ampat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've only been once so I can't compare it to other seasons. But I went in August to Malpelo and Cocos. Malpelo was a miss, with respect to sharks. Aside from a couple of close encounters with some Galapagos that was it. There was so little action we even left early for Cocos. But still...what a place to dive.

 

As for Cocos, everything was there in abundance, except no whale sharks. However, the week before they had seen 6 in one trip, including one that hung around the boat for a couple of hours. Still, Alcyon was hot with seemingless limitless schools of hammerheads, schools of large tuna were hunting around us on the safety stops, silkies on every blue water drift, etc. The usual superlative diving.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, guys. The reason I'm asking is because Wetpixel is thinking of doing a charter or two to Cocos/Malpelo in the coming years. I've only been there in April, and have to pick a time to book the boat.

 

At Cocos, Alcyon and Dirty Rock were our favorites, when I was there. Dirty Rock went off on every dive!

 

Sea Hunter didn't allow us to do bait balls in Malpelo without 1/2 a talk of air left. And, of course, we would always see them on the way back from a dive, and no one has 1/2 talk after a dive in Malpelo!

 

After having done sardine run, I'd be happy to snorkel a baitball, but things work differently in Malpelo, I guess. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Snorkeling in baitballs is just a bad idea Eric. The snorkeler's shadow gives the baitfish somewhere they think they can hide and inhibit the birds from diving. Then you have to consider that some baitfish hit the surface (herring, mackerel) and you don't want to be a snorkeler at the surface when the baitfish are right under you because the sharks usually go through the baitballs with mouths open. Ask Tony White if he advocates 'ballsy' diving anymore. :)

And I agree with Seahunter's rule on baitballs. After being loaded with nitrogen on a dive, bouncing up and down chasing a baitball freediving is a recipe for DCS. I do recommend using a rebreather for Cocos/Malpelo. You have plenty of air supply and it's EAN, so your nitrogen levels are slightly lower on average.

I'd probably follow the Argo because of DeepSee. Oh what a way to dive. Dry, warm and shoot with a 70-200 or 24-70.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Snorkeling in baitballs is just a bad idea Eric. The snorkeler's shadow gives the baitfish somewhere they think they can hide and inhibit the birds from diving. Then you have to consider that some baitfish hit the surface (herring, mackerel) and you don't want to be a snorkeler at the surface when the baitfish are right under you because the sharks usually go through the baitballs with mouths open. Ask Tony White if he advocates 'ballsy' diving anymore. :)

Hmm. So how to reconcile your statement with the snorkeling we did above baitballs in South Africa? I'm happy to defer to expertise (after all, the locals are the experts), but I usually want to know why.

 

(and you know that I mean that I'd try to stay OUT of the baitball. i guess "try" would be the operative word. :B): )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I did a return trip to Cocos this January, and I thought it was even better...

 

I am going on a ten day trip at the beginning of february 2009 and I liked to read your report on those months. I guess that is place very impredictable and that is why I really do not have high expectations (which I think is a good approach for any trip). One always hears that summer is rougher but with more action etc...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hmm. So how to reconcile your statement with the snorkeling we did above baitballs in South Africa? I'm happy to defer to expertise (after all, the locals are the experts), but I usually want to know why.

 

(and you know that I mean that I'd try to stay OUT of the baitball. i guess "try" would be the operative word. :) )

 

Well you wouldn't be doing that with me. I don't claim to be an 'expert' but it's rather logical to me. Most of the operations who let people do it are newer so they haven't seen the consequences of such things. It also allows them to broaden their market to non-scuba divers. In fact there are a couple of ops who don't have any restrictions at all but they also have the injuries to prove it. You have feeding sharks when in frenzy, just start snapping at things. This is much different to a baiting stem.

But as they say, a video is worth 10k words so I'll let these videos illustrate my point:

 

http://www.earth-touch.com/result.php?i=Sa...hins-and-sharks

2/5 of the way thru the vid starts getting interesting.

 

http://www.earth-touch.com/result.php?i=Ga...ea-for-sardines

3/5 into the video

 

This is with scuba with a few sharks in the water. In Cocos/Malpelo, you have schools of silkies, which tend to be even more aggressive when feeding. On the surface, snorkeling, you can only go left, right or forward quickly. Throw in a little pandemonium and very likely you won't see 50% of the sharks coming at you. I guess I like having more escape routes. You know I'm not afraid of anything I can see, from crocs to piranha, but you have to give a healthy dose of respect to anything with big teeth. Sharks are not always docile creatures. :B):

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll be there in a few weeks (end of Sept., supposedly "high" season), so I can give you a report then...

 

Phil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was at Malpelo back in late March of 99 on the Sea Hunter. The surface conditions were ok but underwater it was not too good. Poor viz down to 70-80 feet where you hit a thermocline and it was crystal clear and COLD. 68-one reported 59. In the warmer water there were lots of hammers and silkies but they were ghosts swiming into and out of your view. The boat voted to go onto Cocos after a day and a half there.

I went back in 2000 in late May and the conditions were great. Hundreds of silkies swimming over huge schools of hammers. At that time I think the Sea Hunter was trying to figure out the best times to go. I imagine they have it down a little better but there still is a bit of luck here. If you have the conditions topside then you will love it. Much better (my opinion) than Cocos. We saw schools of hammerheads right up at the surface. Flip side to this is if the conditions are not that great you just spent a lot of money and time to do a boat trip. If you study the Undersea Hunter web site trip reports on Malpelo you see trips that were cut short due to bad conditions.

Regarless the boats they run and the operation is outstanding.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was in Cocos on USH in September 1999. It was after the El Nino had finished and the beginning of a La Nina (or so I was told.)

 

Hammerheads were EVERYWHERE and they came in really close, like 15mm lens (Nikonos system then) close. Tried out the rebreather for fun but it was totally unnecessary as the HHs came in so close. Of course, the whitetips, rays, mantas were all around. Also had excellent silvertip action. No whalesharks that week.

 

We had rain everyday, nearly all day long. Water was 78 degrees on every dive, with the air temps slightly lower, making getting into the water a joy as it was warmer than the air.

 

Despite the weather, I would go back into the rain again in a heartbeat, if the shark action was similar :drink:

Robin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i've been to cocos twice.

 

first time was may 2007. the crossing was pretty rough, and even several members of the crew got sick. the action started off a little slow, but really picked up after the first three days. huge schools of hammers at alcyone, and on one dive there we saw a giant manta and a whale shark. the silver tips no showed the first dive a t silverado, but made an appearance on subsequent dives. no silkies on this trip. white tips and marbled rays were everywhere.

 

the second trip was june/july 2008. the crossing was better but people still got sick. the action was slow at most spots, but manuelita outside and dirty rock were en fuego! they never missed. huge schools (200-300) hammerheads, and they came close. the drift out into the blue at the end of the manuelita dive had schooling silkies. a whale shark spent almost an entire day at manuelita outside. one dive at dirty rock had hunting dolphins, massive school of jacks, and schooling hammerheads. the marbled rays were few and far between, but we did see several eagle rays. tiger sharks had been seen around the island on previous and subsequent trips, but we didn't see any. the night dive in manuelita garden had tons of white tips. i've never seen so many. we even saw black tips, silver tips, and even a hammerhead on the night dive. apparently that is pretty rare. no mantas. the silver tips were in force at silverado, and they were present on every dive. we also saw galapagos sharks deep, but they didn't come close.

 

what a great place. i want to go in 2009, but i understand that el nino is supposed to be in effect so i may skip this year.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hey guys. Can you advise the best time to dive Cocos and Malpelo? I was there in April / May of last year, and it was awesome. But I hear there is more activity in the rainy season, after June.
....................................................................................................

...............

Ahoy Eric,

Simpler times

I visited cocoas in mid August 2000 with a group from SE Florida who had been there a number of times and arrived too many days early in San Jose(1 day would have been enough) I was impressed with the Sea Hunter at the time(food,dive schedule,nitrox)in addition to U/W photo gear I brought my own Drager Dolphin which served me well(missing only 1 dive in the week I was there)if I was with other RB divers.Of the 2 dive quides we had one dove a Dolphin all the time and we got more time in the water with him the other one didn't and seemed to be in a hurry to get back to the Sea Hunter ASAP so I missed a lot of bottom time/photos with him. also,I had tried to stay another week on the Undersea Hunter but their schudule didn't permit it.

 

weather, we had a few misty days but the HH's showed up as advertised just about everyplace,manuelita,dirty rock,alcyon(my favorite) whale shark at Dirty Rock,silvertips at Siverado,marble ray at Dos Amigos.

 

I flew to Costa Rico and opon arrivel fould a few of my bags had been gone through and a few items missing(knives,gloves,small tool bag) as I had made I detailed list I took it to the airline and files a claim,later receiving a % of the items value.

 

Next time, I don't think I would bring a RB unless it is an all RB trip,more then a few photos were blown by an older couple on OC who would show up close to me and hang arould to watch what I was doing no matter how many time I waved them off. I would bring a spare wet suit or two to allow one to dry or semi-dry suits as you can get 3 dives a day min.

 

to paraphase,

Bring all you cameras and housings,bring all your friends with cameras and housings and bring lots of large compact flash cards.

 

Highly recommend the place

 

Flafrog

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Anyone know what Cocos is like round New Year?

 

jon

Its been quite a few years since I was in Cocos but back 10 or so years ago I always felt that Jan Feb were nice times to be there "dry season" so to speak. I first went to Cocos back in may of 94. Grest action but i only saw the sun once. Later trips we did Jan etc and i liked it since there was a bit more sun though the action was maybe a little slower. So if I was ever to go back i would vote for Jan or Feb. New years sounds like fun.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i just got back from Cocos on Sunday. el Nino is in effect this year, and I was worried about there being no sharks. This was not the case. I saw more hammerheads than my previous years at Alcyone. It was a great trip and on par with my trips from the last two years. If el Nino strengthens in the next few months, New Year's may not be a good time to go ... but it was awesome last week!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was at Cocos this past July and there wasn't much action at all. Very dissapointed. A friend did a trip in August and there were hundreds of hammerheads... I saw the pics. Tha captain of the Sea Hunter recommended April for both Cocos and Malpelo.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another data point on Malpelo . . .

 

I went in April of 2006 on the Malpelo/Cocos trip. We caught the same thing cozumeldogs had . . . really really REALLY bad green soup viz at Malpelo. The sharks were there, but we're talking 5 to 10 foot viz. And cold - like 60 (although I think I was expecting this). We left early for Cocos, which was great, as others describe. Conditions were flat calm on all crossings and almost no current.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sponsors

Advertisements



×
×
  • Create New...