by Phil the Post
Things were going well; too well.
The journey to Heathrow had been smooth, our party was the
first to check in for the Madrid leg of the journey, we had
boarded the plane for the second leg and here we were, waiting
to take off for the ten hour flight to San Jose airport in
But where were Ceri and Kevin?
Ok, so there had been a small technical hitch causing a short
delay and we were all together at that point
I thought we were? Well, apparently not, and in the worst
case scenario you could imagine, the plane took off without
our missing pair.
And more drama was to come.......At San Jose airport Peter
Reess luggage was missing, taken off the plane by mistake
instead of Ceris and Ceris luggage had been shipped
instead.......That first night started with uncertainty.......Would
Cerri and Kevin catch tomorrows flight? Was Peters
missing baggage just a mix up?...... In true Llantrisant SAC
style we left the situation in the lap of the Gods and went
for a Chinese meal followed by several beers and bed.
The day after Ceri and Kev arrived together with Peters
luggage. The reason they had missed the flight was because;
during our stop-over in Madrid airport following the announcement
of the delay they had gone back to the bar and
Meanwhile, Andre and Dave, the remaining members of our party
who had travelled from Moscow via Madrid and Miami had also
Jose, capital of Costa Rica, the city where shopkeepers work
behind metal bars and razor wire adorns the walls; its
vibrant by day and wild by night - Very wild!
I had no complaints about our Hotel. The Colonial Hotel is
situated just off town centre. It has a swimming pool and
the rooms are adequate with ceiling fans, comfy beds, en-suite,
and a television.
was served from 07:00 and though basic rice, beans
with scrambled egg, toast and jam with real Costa Rican coffee
- there was plenty of it.
The manager had also offered to store our surplus baggage
whilst we were away at Cocos which was a great help.
In the evenings we enjoyed good food at an Argentinean restaurant
or Don Wang's Chinese restaurant which were right opposite
our hotel or we joined the locals to eat simple but adequate
food at one of the many soda bars that are part of the city
our first few days in San Jose we visited museums, took day
trips to see coffee plantations, volcanoes, waterfalls and
wildlife parks and had a particularly fascinating river trip
where we saw small crocodiles, monkeys, numerous birds and
for me, Wednesday morning couldnt come quickly enough;
the coach arrived at 10-00am, was quickly loaded and we were
soon on our way to Puntareinas to meet the Sea Hunter.
Rudy the transfer guide (he didnt need a microphone)
talked us through the three hour journey to Puntarenas giving
us interesting facts about Costa Rica before finally hard
selling us a zip wire trip which we would take as part of
our return journey.
of the tides, Sea Hunter was anchored in the bay, so we transferred
via a smaller boat, down river, passing pelicans, terns and
frigate birds and seeing the fishing fleet featured on a recent
Blue Planet programme.
M.V. Sea Hunter. I havent been on many liveaboards but
this one was luxurious. I wont bore you with details
as there are plenty of images elsewhere on this site. Its
sufficient to say that our every whim seemed to be catered
for, even down to sea sickness tablets which most of us took
advantage of and boy were we glad we did.
crossing from Puntarenas to Cocos takes about 36 hours. "It
can be a bit of a rough crossing" our smooth talking
dive guide, a Columbian gent "Call me Wilson like
Tom Hanks football" told us and he wasnt
far wrong. I wasnt the only one kissing the deck when
we finally dropped anchor just off Manuelita Bay at Cocos
In the meantime wed experienced excellent onboard hospitality:
three delicious meals per day, unlimited soft drinks and beer,
a superb coffee machine, three biscuit barrels that never
seemed to empty and a bowl of candies that would have put
Willy Wonka to shame.
There was a wide screen television and 100s of dvds, a computer
room and a library; so, plenty to take our mind off that crossing.
assembled our kit en-route, on a dive deck that had seating
and lockers marked with our names yes, the operation
was that slick and checked that all was working.
first morning, the pangas the two smaller boats carried
on top deck during the crossing had been lowered into the
water using the hydraulic arm; our BCDs and regs complete
with bottles had been transferred and they would stay on the
pangas for the duration of the trip.
We had been divided into two dive teams by the D.O. The Gold
Panga Team and the Blue Panga Team. So called because of the
colour of the flag each panga was flying.
We changed into our wetsuits then listened to a briefing from
the dive guide. The shake down dive was on the Coral Garden
site at Manuelita inner. This required a short ride in the
pangas to the dive site. Within minutes we rolled backwards
off the Pangas into 8 metres of clear warm water.
first dive we saw white tip reef sharks, hammerhead sharks,
spiny lobsters, moray eels, turtles and many colourful reef
fish. Wilson and the other dive guide Leo used their experience
to point out the different species. And through the week the
dives just got better and better.
Sea Hunter there were warm showers and clean towels
I could get used to this.
typical day would be; first dive at 07.00 followed by breakfast;
the second dive was 10-30 to 11.00am; lunch was served at
the afternoon dive was at 15.30 and sometimes there was an
optional night dive at 18.00. The dinner bell was sounded
at 19.30 for a three course meal, after which the choice was
to watch a film or read a book or look through the camera
shots taken during the days dives. Our meals were served
by steward Javier, and were superb with lots of variety
they even catered for veggie Dai The Doc there was
enough quantity to satisfy the biggest of appetites
and weve got some real gannets.
Underwater currents were quite strong but not as strong as
some of those we encounter in West Wales but on some sites
strong enough to necessitate using a shot line to descend.
It was at these sites that the hammerheads shoaled; as many
as 300 400 and Im not exaggerating. This is what
wed come to see and we werent disappointed.
For safety we were equipped with a high viz safety sausage,
a loud whistle and a small torch. And each diver carried a
personal EPIRB with a directional radar finder; they werent
about to lose us! We dived using nitrox, a first for some
of the group and whilst the effects of using enriched air
werent obvious to all, bottom time was extended and
personally, I didnt surface with a headache as can sometimes
be the case.
Submerged Rock, Big Dos Amigos, Punta Maria, Dirty Rock, Silverado,
Manuelita Inner, Manuelita Outer; these were the sites we
dived. There are many others, we just didnt have time
enough and relied heavily on the guidance of Wilson and Leo
for where best to dive next; we were never disappointed.
The Welsh flag goes wherever we go and wherever we go in the
world theres a Welshman. So it was that one afternoon
a small boat came alongside and a Welsh/American accent boomed
out "Where you boys from then?" Mike,
a chef from a private yacht anchored nearby comes originally
from Crickhowell near Abergavenny, he goes back every year.
He was more than pleased to see the Dragon fluttering in the
breeze and chatted to us for a while.
Later in the week we had a visit from Cocos Island Rangers
who showed us dramatic videos about illegal fishing and the
work carried out by rangers to minimise the affects, though
I must say here that our party picked up lots of fishing gear
from the seabed and we saw too many fish with hooks and traces
attached; it would seem these rangers face an uphill task.
too soon it was time to leave. On our last night we did a
night dive and managed to see the white tips in a feeding
seen the Blue Planet series where this was featured but to
see it there, happening just inches away from your face is
awesome. And Wilson reckons he saw a tiger shark, well Im
just glad he kept that bit of info to himself until we were
safely back on board Sea Hunter.
The journey back to port was smooth, so much so that we all
enjoyed it and were able to go up on deck and see events like
dramatic thunderstorms happening in the distance and sea birds
hunting and catching flying fish and all the time we kept
a hopeful eye out for a passing whale shark. We didnt
see one. Shame really, it was the only biggy that we didnt
see on our trip.
Back on dry land the coach was waiting. Wed said our
goodbyes and within an hour we were hurtling through the rain
forest at speeds of up to 45 mph, on a zip wire, a unique
experience for me, Ill say no more.
in San Jose More trips were organised including white water
rafting and visits to other volcanoes. My Costa Rica experience
ended on Monday 4th November; I had commitments and needed
to return early, accompanying me were Gill and Gareth (Gatch)
and Lyn Eade who decided at the last minute to join us. The
rest of the team stayed on in Costa Rica for another week.
journey was un-eventful and we arrived back in South Wales
tired but safe at 21:00 Tuesday evening.
conclude here by saying that everyone got on very well together
and this is probably due to the way the trip was planned and
organised by our D.O. Peter Rees. Nothing was left to chance.
Sea Hunter is a most luxurious craft. I took so much stuff,
the majority of which was unnecessary, so much was provided.
The diving was superb, the dive guides helpful and the sharks
obliged us by showing up in numbers. Cocos enjoys
seven metres of rain annually; whilst we were there it was
warm and humid but we didnt get a sun tan. The island
looks awesome from the sea and this is the only view we got.
We had planned a visit but on the day it rained so hard that
we decided against it.
Before I left I spoke to the oldest member of our party Phil.(The
Flute) Marshall, 78 years young who, fair play, did nearly
all of the dives and took part in most of the other activities.
I asked him what he fancied doing next. He had no hesitation.
"I fancy a go at that there sky diving" and he paused
then added "Before I get too old".
Thank you Llantrisant Divers and thank you Peter Rees. It
was the trip of a lifetime.