Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Monkey Head

Thursday, June 7


Great diving day. I woke up having slept well, presumably after the hard workout on the bicycle the previous day pedalling down the coast line to Playa Ocotal and Bahia Pez Vella. I wanted to see the beautiful coast from the shore which I had seen from the dive boat on Tuesday. Those hills were killer. I walked the bike up most hills and coasted down, my foot on the brake all the way. Hard work.

After breakfast at the hotel (scrambled eggs and fresh fruit was now my staple), I gathered my gear and walked down the block and a half to the beach. The Deep Blue dive boat, Marisol, was there with the same crew as the previous day: Antonio the captain and Owen the divemaster. We waited for another couple. Owen called, using his cell phone, the dive shop and they tried the couple's hotel. No luck. At 8:30 am we left without them.

Our destination: Monkey Head, one of the more famous dive sites in this area. The source of the name is obvious from my photo, above. From the east (shore-side), it looks like a colossal gorilla head rising from the sea. The cacti give it a spike hair style. It is located right off the Papagoya Peninsula where the Four Seasons resort is located. This was significant to me as we learned about tourism development on the Papagoya Peninsula on the first day of our Sustainability seminar in Monteverde. Now I got to see it from sea level.

First dive site was (I think) Viadora, a low island between Monkey Head and the Papagoya tip:

Basically we descended ~10 meters on the east (shore, shallow) side and circled around counter-clockwise. Dive boat met us where we ascended ~20 meters on the outside. Decent visibility (10-12 m?). Fish, moray eels, rays. Mostly fish.

Surface interval was devoted to--fishing. I also enjoyed the views and took pity (really) on how the 1% live:

I knew I was having more fun!

Second dive was Monkey Head itself. We descended on the east (shallow) side again, and again made out way counter-clockwise. Same good visibility and fish life. Highlight was a couple of sea turtles. First was a large green resting on the bottom in about 20 meters of water. Let us get fairly close to watch. Minutes later we came upon a Hawksbill turtle and watched as he slowly ascended to take a breathe at the surface. Fun to see them from below, backlit by the sunny surface above.

More fishing on the second surface interval, starting off Papagoya: DSCN0736

I kept my eyes out for bird action from the bow: DSCN0740

Notice how flat the sea surface was. I grew up fishing the Pacific Ocean, in the 1970s off the coast of Oregon. I don't remember ever seeing the sea up there this flat. Owen agreed that this was unusually calm. Surfers, take note: Costa Rica does not always have great surf.

Eventually we saw some good bird action and headed the boat right through it on several passes. bird action CROP Not one strike! Owen said it was good he was a diver as he'd starve as a fisherman.

Third and final dive site of the day was Tortuga: DSCN0772

as these islands are right off the shore in front of Playas del Coco. Did not see sea turtles here, but did see some nice white-tipped sharks. An over-all great dive, and great day of diving. I loved having the boat to myself! At the last dive site there were two other dive boats from Coco but underwater it still felt like we were alone.

We then headed back to El Coco: DSCN0773

Headed back up the road to the hotel. Arranged for horse riding for Friday. Showered and worked. Walked back to the beach for dinner. Was too tired from diving to join in the volleyball game but was tempted: beach volleyball CROP

Watched another sunset at what is becoming my favourite beach anywhere: DSCN0790

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