Trip Report Trip report Cocos Island on Underseahunter's M/V Argo, 2-12 Nov

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rs86

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I just returned from a fabulous week on Cocos and wanted to share some experiences for those considering a trip to this very special place.

The diving in Cocos was incredible, I have never in the past 14 years of diving experienced such an explosion of life and action anywhere in the world. It completely blew my mind. It's hard to estimate, but I think we saw over 2,000 sharks in one week (23 dives). It's not unusual to see 4 or 5 species of shark on a single dive. They were everywhere: large schools of hammerheads at Alcyone, cleaning stations for hammerheads and galapagos sharks with continuous action at Dirty Rock, Manuelita Channel, and Punta Maria, close encounters with multiple tiger sharks, blacktips, silvertips, silkies, hundreds of whitetips, and even a whale shark. The night dives with the hunting whitetips was fenomenal, especially since larger blacktip and galapagos sharks are hunting the whitetips. Besides all the shark action, we saw a gigantic school of horse eyed jacks on two occasions, several mobula rays, a manta, massive tuna on about half the dives, dolphins, etc.

Diving conditions were often easy with little to no current, but sometimes currents were very strong (bubbles going almost horizontal). These were the dives when we could see the large schools of hammerheads. On some dives, particularly at Manuelita, the surge could be quite intense as well. On most dives we had to do free descents and ascents, and we spent quite some time in the blue where we also had some great encounters with tiger sharks and schools of hammerheads. Visibility on most dives was about 15 m / 50 ft, but in the afternoon the viz would usually drop a little. Most dives were conducted at depths between 25 and 30 meters (85 - 100 ft), where you hold on to a rock and watch the action of the cleaning stations, schooling sharks, etc. Temperature was usually 26 Celsius, but under the occassional thermocline this could drop to as low as 21 Celsius. I was wearing a 5mm suit with a 2 mm hooded vest and 5mm hoodie, and was fine. Most divers on our trip were wearing 5mm suits and were comfortable as well. Diving was done from spacious skiffs which were very comfortable, definitely much better than the small ribs you see on so many other liveaboards. All in all, diving conditions were not too challenging, but I think this trip is best suited to people who are comfortable with currents and diving in the blue.

The Argo is a wonderful ship with all the amenities you can think of. Rooms are very spacious and the common areas are great places to relax. The food was very good. Besides breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we were spoiled with fresh fruit, snacks, and warm towels after every dive, and there were always snacks available in between. The Argo's staff was absolutely wonderful, very friendly and professional. They went above and beyond to make this a great trip and meet our every need. In general, everything on the ship ran very smoothly and you can tell these people really know what they're doing. The email contact I had with them was also very good, Alan always replied quickly and answered any questions I had. I booked the trip through an agent, Dominick Macan at DiveAdvice, who also posts regularly on this forum. He was extremely helpful in getting me on the trip I wanted and provided lots of useful information. If I ever go back to Cocos, I will definitely go with Underseahunter group again.
 

wildbill9

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Sounds like a fabulous trip! Loved the report and we have considered Cocos in the past this really made me look. But wow what a price!!! Sorry but that price is similar to the cost of Raja Ampat. Has anyone been to both say Cocos is better? Sorry, with limited funds gotta get the best bang for our bucks...
 

Dan

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Thanks for the trip report. I put off my South Africa Sardin Run trip and booked Argo for Sep 17-27,2018, instead. :D
 

Dan

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Sounds like a fabulous trip! Loved the report and we have considered Cocos in the past this really made me look. But wow what a price!!! Sorry but that price is similar to the cost of Raja Ampat. Has anyone been to both say Cocos is better? Sorry, with limited funds gotta get the best bang for our bucks...

I've been to Raja Ampat (RA) 5 times. Number 6 will be in November. I spent each of the RA trips about half as much as the Galápagos & this Cocos trips. So far as the best bang for my bucks, RA is better than Galapagos. I'll find out next year if Cocos is better than RA.

I do like the logistics of Cocos & Galapagos from Texas than that of RA trip. I spent easily over 30 hour flight trip from Houston to Sorong, leaving Houston on Saturday and arriving in Sorong on Tuesday.
 

Manuel Sam

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I liken asking if RA is better than Cocos to asking whether cats are better than dogs. To me, they are both good: it depends on what I wish to see and what my expectations are. I'd go to RA if I want to see colorful corals, and amazing biodiversity of fish and invertebrates. And while it is possible to see mantas and the occasional shark - and whale sharks if the liveaboard itinerary includes Cenderawasih - RA would not be where I go for big animals because much of the Indo-Pacific has been fished out of larger stuff.

Conversely, I'd go to the Eastern Pacific - be it Cocos, Galapagos, Malpelo or Socorros - and I'd be choosy about the time of year and pray that there isn't an El Niño, if I want a chance at some of the best big animal and pelagic encounters on this planet. And I'd do it sooner than later because the numbers continue to dwindle from overfishing. And while it is possible to see nudibranchs, frogfish, pipefish and even Harlequin Shrimp in Cocos, I'd got to the Indo-Pacific for those.

I don't purport to know everything that factors into the difference in price. There are certainly fewer boats that do Cocos than RA....less competition, maybe? There is also the matter of the gas they all have to burn to make the 30+ hour crossing each way. Also, as the newest and arguably poshest boat that goes to Cocos, and the one that holds the fewest divers (18), Argo commands a higher price than even its sister ship, the Sea Hunter or the two Aggressor boats.

As far as expectations and bang for the buck: the OP went last year during a La Niña colder water episode. As a result of La Niña, Cocos had a banner year last year, the likes of which had seldom been seen in close to 10 years. I can hope and pray for similar results this year or next year, but with the return of normal water temperatures, I would be setting myself up for disappointment (and would feel like I did not get my money's worth) if I set my expectations at seeing 2000 sharks on one trip.

So if it were me, and if I have limited funds, if I am equally happy with cats or dogs, have high expectations and am easily disappointed, I'd probably go to RA. But since in reality, I prefer big animals, and also because of the much shorter flights from the US, as mentioned by Dan_T, Cocos would be my first choice.
 
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