Diving in the Pacific – an adventure 65 million years in the making
With the long-awaited sequel to Stephen Spielberg’s Jurassic Park hitting the screens this year, it seems like the world has once again been swept with jurassic fever. But for me, the original is still the best. The soundtrack, the drama, the slightly dodgy animatronics, and of course the setting. The original story is based in Costa Rica and, flying into the country over miles and miles of sprawling hillside, it’s not hard to see why. From the sky, Costa Rica stretches before you as an untouched paradise, carpeted in green. It takes only the smallest leap of imagination to picture a herd of diplodocus plodding over the verdant terrain, or a pterodactyl circling the mountain peaks.
Below sea-level the drama continues. I arrived in Playas del Coco at the tail end of rainy season, ready to start a three month diving internship. Coming from the clear, Caribbean waters of Roatan, Honduras, I didn’t know what to expect from the Pacific Coast. I’d heard horror stories about freezing water and murky visibility from some, and raving eulogies about giant mantas and imposing bull sharks from others, so it was with excited anticipation that I rolled off the back of the boat for the first time and descended through the haunting blue. As the bottom homed into view and I got my first glimpse of this strange new underwater view, I felt like Dr Grant, speeding towards Jurassic Island for the first time as the landscape unfurled beneath me.
The coral reef and shimmering sand patches that I’d grown used to in Roatan were replaced with striking structures of volcanic rock. These imposing rock formations undulate downwards from severe peaks into solid waves which stretch out beneath you. Eels leer out from between the cracks that have formed over centuries, and crabs scuttle over the ridges and away from the curious eyes of passing divers.
Life here is plentiful and giant schools of fish flit in and out of sight, dithering between curiosity and nervousness. The vast bodies of fish which swarm across the landscape move with uncanny symmetry, as though their snaps and surges of movement are powered by one collective brain.
Venturing further down towards the depths of the seabed, the big boys come out to play. Sleek white-tipped reef sharks are residents here; they prowl the ocean floor, casting sideways glances as they glide mere inches away from you before retreating into the blue with the flick of a tail. Elegant rays fly through the water like paper on the wind, and turtles make their lazy journey through the deep.
Since that first exploratory dive, when the underwater world of Pacific Costa Rica was revealed to me, I’ve been diving almost every day, and still I can’t rid myself of the sensation of travelling back through time. Submerged under the rolling waves is a scene from a bygone era – huge predators trawl the depths while swirling schools of fish swim in their thousands in and around the watery mountains. Whilst dinosaurs may not exist any more, our planet still has impressive relics from its past. Every time I dive here in Costa Rica, I hear the monumental Jurassic Park theme music start up in my head, and can’t help but be amazed by the scale and spectacle unfolding before me. If you want to experience the thrill and drama of journeying through an ancient landscape, forget Chris Pratt, forget Jurassic World, and try diving in Playas del Coco; it’s an adventure 65 million years in the making.
Want to know more about my underwater adventures? You can read all my diving posts here.