Advanced Diving in Cocos Island

A certain red beanie-wearing French pioneer of diving once declared Cocos Island to be ‘the most beautiful island in the world’. Located 300 nautical miles southwest of Costa Rica’s wilder west coast, this remote island is both a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is also home to some of the planet’s most epic diving. Known for the impressive number of scalloped hammerhead sharks that frequent its dive sites, Cocos is a bucket-list destination, but the conditions can be challenging. There’s no shortage of advanced diving in Cocos Island – strong currents and deep cleaning stations make it a destination for the more experienced diver. Those who do choose to descend on its more challenging dive sites are, however, exceedingly well rewarded...

Bajo Alcyone

If you're on the hunt for hammerheads, Bajo Alcyone is a must-dive. The site features one of the deepest cleaning stations at Cocos Island and is a submerged seamount about a mile off the main island. The exposed nature of the site means there are often strong currents, and with divers often descending past 30 metres, Bajo Alcyone definitely counts among the more advanced diving in Cocos Island.

A dive at Bajo Alcyone often rewards divers with screensaver-worthy hammerhead photo opportunities, with the sharks filling your field of vision. With the regular appearances of devil, manta and eagle rays at Bajo Alcyone and silky sharks and Galapagos sharks also making use of the cleaning stations, if you do get bored of the hammerheads (unlikely), there's plenty else to focus on too.

Dirty Rock

The dive site features boulders and pinnacles that just break the surface, and the dive begins with a quick descent down to 25 metres before the show starts. Clouds of blacknosed butterflyfish, also known as barberfish, wait patiently for the big boys to show up. And show up they do, with large schools of hammerheads passing through to enjoy being attended to at the cleaning stations by the blacknosed butterflyfish. Bigeye jacks, bluefin trevally and dogtooth tuna hunt in large numbers here, and lucky groups get to spend their safety stop drifting in the blue accompanied by pods of playful bottlenose dolphins.

Dirty Rock may be among the more advanced diving in Cocos Island, but it seldom disappoints and is often visited at least twice during liveaboard trips.

Dos Amigos Grande

Dos Amigos Pequeña and Dos Amigos Grande are two neighbouring dive sites on the exposed southern side of Cocos Island. The swells can get too big for safe entries during the rainy season, but when the conditions are right, Dos Amigos Grande in particular can be spectacular. The dive site is famed for its large, submerged archway and, you guessed it, hordes of hammerheads.

Dos Amigos Grande is also a good spot for tiger shark encounters. These huge sharks can be seen visiting the cleaning stations, and their appearance always makes for a memorable dive. Classified among the more advanced diving in Cocos Island, Dos Amigos Grande, with its stunning archway and plenty of big fish action, is always a crowd-pleaser.

Manuelita Deep

Situated to the north of the main Cocos Island, Manuelita Island is often the first stop for liveaboards in Cocos, and the outer side of the island is known as Manuelita Deep. When the currents are running, a quick descent is required to take you down to the shelter of the large boulders, where you can find your ideal viewing spot to watch the incoming hammerheads. King angelfish and barberfish are also waiting for the hammerheads and patiently pick the parasites from their bodies as they saunter past the cleaning stations.

But these cleaning stations are not for the exclusive use of the scalloped hammerheads. Occasionally they need to share their salon with huge tiger sharks, which also frequent the waters around Manuelita Island. If the tigers and hammerheads are not enough, an occasional glance toward the surface during the dive may reveal cruising eagle rays and mantas, or even the giant silhouette of a passing whale shark...

Punta Maria

With its shallowest point just below 20 metres, Punta Maria sits a few hundred yards off the southwest corner of Cocos Island. The deep seamount rises to within 25 metres of the surface, and steep slopes drop away on all sides. The exposed pinnacle can be subject to exhilarating currents, and venturing away from the shelter of the pinnacle is not advised. Find a reasonably sheltered spot and wait for the show to start. The chief protagonists at Punta Maria, however, are not hammerheads but three-metre Galapagos sharks who frequent the cleaning stations.

But fear not; there's still a chance of seeing hammerheads cruising by, and mantas and silkies also enjoy the occasional pampering at the cleaning stations. Due to its depth and lack of ability to shallow up, Punta Maria is best dived on Nitrox and is also among the more advanced diving in Cocos Island.

As spectacular as the diving at Cocos Island is - and it is spectacular - conditions can be challenging at times. Our team of dive travel experts have been lucky enough to dive Cocos on several occasions, and we can help you choose the best time to visit, when the conditions best suit your level of experience.

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Emily C and Eleanor are our 'Advanced Diving in Cocos Island' experts and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.

Call us on 1-800-652-1972