Costa Rica; My first Shark encounter


Seeing this time around both Johnny F and Nick weren’t able to attend, it left myself, my brother Johnny and Renato to venture the volcanic seabed of Costa Rica.  Off we went in May of 2009.  We booked the Occidental Resort Papagayo which was nestled along the side of a mountain with its great view. The elevation did indeed prove exhausting every time we displaced ourselves, but look at the bright side, we kept in shape.  The room was surprisingly small, the staff very hospitable and the grounds were filled with iguanas.  Great tropical setting.

As we try to find a balance of both scuba dives and other activities, we decided to try ziplining. Not to far from our resort, we taxi to the Papagayo Peninsula and head to a rain forest with cables suspended from one side of the river to another.  Lush green trees all around with different bird sounds echoing, make up for a true forest feeling.  Helmet, thick blackened leather gloves and harness all in place and ready to “Zip” across a swamp that may have crocodiles. We’re still not sure if the guide was telling the truth but in any case, we didn’t want to find out.  We all take our turn and after the first run, we become quite comfortable and fly through the web of iron cables.


The whizzing sounds of the pulleys on these cables increase in pitch as the person arrives to his final mark. The ziplining adventure couldn’t be complete without spotting the largest moth I have ever seen.

Next day ” Operation Costa Rica” is in full gear with a boat ride to several islands in the middle of the Papagayo Peninsula.  We spot the Monkey’s Head Island and amazed on how similar it reflects the name.  We also see a flock of eagles circling above the boat and were wondering what type of carcass they are waiting to scavenge.  We’re lucky that the crew arranged our scuba equipment and we simply had to put our vest on and giant stride into the ocean.


Descending slowly to our initial depth, we all equalize quickly and follow our dive master.


The coral was alive with many different species.  The seabed had many rock formations giving the landscape many peaks and valleys.  We come across a beautiful bright red starfish and not too far, a thick slimy moray eel.  There have been reports that one should never dangle their fingers near them for they can dismember it in one razor sharp swipe.  While hovering at a depth between 75-90 feet, we notice that the sunlight that was generally supplying us with light, became obstructed.  We look up in total disbelief.  The largest manta ray that I have ever seen.  This majestic monster slowly gliding past us.  They make it seem so effortless.

The master diver motions that we start heading back and after a good 25 minutes of bottom time our tanks are about 50-60% empty.  As we follow behind, the master abruptly turns to us and signals that a shark is present.  The instant the master moved his hand towards his forehead with his fingers vertically straight, the fin signal made me suck in more air than I needed.  I have the tendency in emptying my air cylinder much more rapidly than the others, and this shark would further speed up the process.  Although totally afraid and with my heart pounding, the calmness in the shark’s behaviour actually calmed me down.  A diver’s delight is to swim within close proximity of the most terrifying fish and in Costa Rica,  we were under 10 feet away from it.  Albeit not a great white, the 6 foot white tip reef shark gave me another perspective on these evil labelled fish.  They are not what they’re perceived to be.


We followed it for a while and seemed the shark was in fact more afraid of us than we of it.  Quickly checking my air, it was time for me to surface.  Scuba diving may definitely be an extreme sport, but when following basic common sense, proper training and safety, this sport makes you realize the true beauty of the sea and all its creatures.


Back on deck, settle on the sides of the boat with our gear and all in shock of what just happened. What a successful dive.  While we start heading back, the skies darken so quickly that we end up being hit with a massive down pour.  They felt like pellets on our skin and as the boat was picking up speed, they were sinking deeper.  Renato sees his cap fly away and with no intention of getting it back, the boat slows to the coastal area.  Moments later, we’re at shore with the volcanic dark sand, sun is out, and a great memory was made.

We pack our gear and head to our room with the torturous incline.  Making sure our equipment dries for our journey back home, we lay it out in the bathroom tub.  The scent of wetsuits and diving gear, although rinsed out, still reeks awful.  Coupled with the fact that it is a bathroom and we all used it, it didn’t necessarily smell like a botanical garden.  We did feel bad for Ana Lisa, the maid, since she would eventually have to prep up the room for another guest when we’d depart.  We did make an effort in leaving a great tip.


















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