The sun had just risen and was struggling to force its way through the patchwork of fair-weather cumulus that had been following us through the convergence zone. Ahead of us one cloud looked out of place. It was darker than the rest and lower on the horizon. Then it hit me.
“Land HO!”, Everyone was a sleep, so I had to whisper it, which felt about as ineffective as whispering an exclamation like “DUCK!”. After five days at sea there’s a strange elation that comes with seeing land (I imagine it’ll be far more intense after 3+ weeks). Before GPS sighting land must have been a huge relief, proof that your celestial navigation skills were up to snuff. Nowadays its just proof that your electronics work, but its certainly still satisfying.
About 15 hours later we pulled into Chatham Bay on Isla del Coco and grabbed one of the ranger supplied moorings. Like our produce we were getting a bit ripe, so without hesitation we jumped in to swim (read: to bathe). The water around the island was the clearest, bluest water we’d seen yet. We floated around, drifting towards Ustupu until we noticed park rangers in an inflatable coming by to collect our entry fees.
As we swam back towards the boat, they approached Nique and I (Dave Green was closer to Ustupu). “Cuidado, el tiburon tigre anda por aqui” they said over the sound of their outboard as they motioned towards the water.
We turned to each other, “Did they say ‘tiburon’?”. “Como?”
“Tiburon Tigre. Aqui.”, then they motored away.
This time we got it. Tiger Sharks. Below us.
We picked up the pace and both agreed, “Don’t tell Dave Green”. Its better to know these things when safely out of the water. After all, if we were actually in danger wouldn’t they have given us a lift instead of leaving us to swim back to the boat?
Of course, everyone made it back in one piece and soon the rangers came by our boat to collect our park entry fee (rather expensive but worth every penny). The island is known for two things its marine life (in particular schools of hammer heads) and buried treasure (a few caches have been found … but the big ones still out there). Its only real visitors are divers and park rangers with the occasional sailboat crossing from Costa Rica to Ecuador (apparently only 20 sailboats a year).
We spent our two days snorkeling around a nearby mini-island hoping to catch a sighting of Isla del Coco’s famous hammerheads. Sure enough we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a lone one (though not lucky enough to see a full circling school of them). Along with the hammerhead there were reef sharks (white-tipped, black-tipped), galapagos sharks, unidentified sharks, sea turtles, lobster and thousands of brightly colored fish. Very much like swimming around an aquarium. In the afternoons we went for hikes around the island, first to the ranger camp which felt eerily like something form the set of Lost, then to one of the islands impressive waterfalls (its the only cloud-forest island in the eastern pacific).
By the end we all agreed, Isla del Coco was on the top of our list. True paradise.
Now on to the Galapagos for a brief provisioning stop.