We’d been officially warned.
Liz, our dive guide with the dive operator Aqua Center, aboard its boat, the Fun Fisher II, let me and the other handful of divers know in her briefing that our morning dive at Islas Catalinas – a series of rocky outcroppings off of Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast – would provide “whatever nature wants to give us.”
At a sand bank in about 55 feet of water, Mother Nature gave us a special gift: Ten – count ‘em, 10! – white-tip reef sharks. We’re talking more sharks than we could point underwater digital cameras at. My heart surged with excitement as I lay on the sandy bottom, observing, as the sharks appeared to be taking turns between resting and swimming in oval patterns around their group, as if on a reconnaissance patrol. I was silently congratulating myself for picking out my lucky orange swimming trunks to wear on this dive.
Las Islas Catalinas are located near Playa Flamingo, a sleepy coastal resort village that’s about a 90-minute, 45-mile drive southwest of Liberia, Costa Rica’s second largest city and the location of the closest international airport. The lovely Playa Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa, centrally situated in the village, but also just steps away from the beach, was an ideal location for fun.
On this beautiful, balmy morning, we were diving a site called Catalina East, where pelagics and tropical fish show up to sample the tasty nutrients coating and swirling among the rocks. In these waters, coral is rare, but the wildlife is abundant. Before crashing the white-tip party, we were treated to the awe-inspiring sights of three spotted eagle rays and several traffic jams of topical fish.
Islas Catalinas aren’t the only standout dive sites here. Dirty Rock featured a quartet of graceful spotted eagle rays all hunting for food, a jewel moray poking its head out of its home, an octopus hiding among the rocks and a school of king angelfish in session.
Out of the water, there’s no shortage of adventure, including hiking, zip-lining and other activities. Bill Beard’s Costa Rica lined up a refreshing run for me on the rapids of the Rio Colorado, in an inflatable kayak. With neighboring Nicaragua only a two-hour drive north, I asked a Bill Beard’s guide if he could somehow make a day trip there happen. He worked his magic and soon I was enjoying more natural wonders: the rugged Masaya Volcano, and the idyllic islets of Lake Nicaragua.
Whether I was on the surface or under the sea on this trip, whether in Costa Rica or Nicaragua, Mother Nature was generous in her giving.
Gil Griffin, Editor – Scuba Travel Ventures