For those brave souls who are looking to swim or dive with sharks in their natural habitat, there are plenty of excellent areas around the world to fulfill this bucket list item.
Among the best locations is Costa Rica’s Isla del Coco.
According to Travelers Today even if you’re not looking to swim with sharks, the uninhabited location of Cocos Island is still a terrific travel destination with its breathtaking waterfalls.
Scuba divers come here to jump in the water with hammerheads, manta rays, whitetip reef sharks, and more. It is said to have the largest schools of hammerhead sharks. This spot in 300 miles off the west coast of Costa, so a 36-hour boat ride is required to get to this shark hot spot, but it’s worth it for shark fanatics!
The Isla del Coco (not to be confused with Playas del Coco) is an uninhabited island (except for a permanent ranger station) located off the shore of Costa Rica. It constitutes the 11th district of Puntarenas Canton of the province of Puntarenas.
It is one of the National Parks of Costa Rica, located in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 550 km (340 mi) from the Pacific shore of Costa Rica, at 05°31′08″N 087°04′18″W Coordinates: 05°31′08″N 087°04′18″W. With an area of approximately 23.85 km² (9.2 mi²), about 8×3 km (5×1.9 mi) and a perimeter of around 23.3 km, this island is more or less rectangular in shape.
Surrounded by deep waters with counter-currents, Cocos Island is admired by scuba divers for its populations of Hammerhead sharks, rays, dolphins and other large marine species. The extremely wet climate and oceanic character give Cocos an ecological character that is not shared with either the Galapagos Archipelago or any of the other islands (e.g., Malpelo or Coiba) in this region of the world.
The climate of the island is mostly determined by the latitudinal movement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone which creates cloudiness and precipitation that is constant throughout the year. This makes the climate in the island humid and tropical with an average annual temperature of 23.6 °C (74.5 °F) and an average annual rainfall of over 7,000 mm (275 in). Rainfall is high throughout the year, although lower from January through March and slightly lower during late September and October. Numerous oceanic currents from the central Pacific Ocean that converge on the island also have an important influence.
Cocos Island is home to dense and exuberant tropical moist forests. It is the only oceanic island in the eastern Pacific region with such rain forests and their characteristic types of flora and fauna. The cloud forests at higher elevations are also unique in the eastern Pacific. The island was never linked to a continent, so the flora and fauna arrived via long distance dispersal from the Americas. The island has therefore a high proportion of endemic species.
Piracy and hidden treasures
The first claims of treasure buried on the island came from a woman named Mary Welsh, who claimed 350 tons of gold raided from Spanish galleons had been buried on the island. She had been a member of a pirate crew lead by Captain Bennett Graham, and was transported to an Australian penal colony for her crimes. She possessed a chart showing where Graham’s treasure was supposed to be hidden. On her release she returned to the island with an expedition, which had no success in finding anything, with the points of reference in the chart having disappeared.
Another pirate supposed to have buried treasure on the island was the Portuguese Benito Bonito. Though Bonito was hunted down and executed, his treasure was never retrieved.
The best known of the treasure legends tied to the island is that of the Treasure of Lima. In 1820, with the army of José de San Martín approaching Lima, Viceroy José de la Serna is supposed to have entrusted treasure from the city to British trader Captain William Thompson for safekeeping until the Spaniards could secure the country. Instead of waiting in the harbor as they were instructed, Thompson and his crew killed the Viceroy’s men and sailed to Cocos, where they buried the treasure. Shortly afterwards, they were apprehended by a Spanish warship. All of the crew bar Thompson and his first mate were executed for piracy. The two said they would show the Spaniards where they had hidden the treasure in return for their lives – but after landing on Cocos, they escaped away into the forest.
Hundreds of attempts to find treasure on the island have failed. Several early expeditions were mounted on the basis of claims by a man named Keating, who was supposed to have befriended Thompson. On one trip, Keating was said to have retrieved gold and jewels from the treasure. Prussian adventurer August Gissler lived on the island for most of the period from 1889 until 1908, hunting the treasure with the small success of finding six gold coins.
Discovery and early cartography
J. Lines (Diario de Costa Rica, May 12, 1940) cites Fernández de Oviedo who claims that the first discoverer of the island was Johan Cabeças. Other sources claim that Joan Cabezas de Grado was not a Portuguese sailor but an Asturian. D. Lievre, Una isla desierta en el Pacífico; la isla del Coco in Los viajes de Cockburn y Lievre por Costa Rica (1962: 134) tells that the first document with the name “Isle de Coques” is a map painted on parchment, called that of Henry II that appeared in 1542 during the reign of Francis I of France. The planisphere of Nicolás Desliens (1556, Dieppe) places this Ysle de Coques about one and half degrees north of the Equator. (See also Mario A. Boza and Rolando Mendoza, Los parques nacionales de Costa Rica, Madrid, 1981.) Blaeu’s Grand Atlas, originally published in 1662, has a colour world map on the back of its front cover which shows I. de Cocos right on the Equator. Frederik De Witt’s Atlas, 1680 shows it similarly. The Hondius Broadside map of 1590 shows I. de Cocos at the latitude of 2 degrees and 30 minutes northern latitude, while in 1596 Theodore de Bry shows the Galapagos Islands near 6 degrees north of the Equator. Emanuel Bowen, A Complete system of Geography, Volume II (London, 1747: 586) states that the Galapagos stretch 5 degrees north of the Equator
Cocos Island in fiction
The book Desert Island proposed the highly detailed theory that Daniel Defoe used the Isla dell Cocoze as an accurate model for his descriptions of the island inhabited by the marooned Robinson Crusoe. However Defoe placed Crusoe’s island not in the Pacific, but rather off the coast of Venezuela in the Atlantic Ocean.
Robinson’s neighbouring Terra Firma is shown on the colour map of Joannes Jansson (Amsterdam) depicting the northeastern corner of South America, entitled Terra Firma et Novum Regnum Granatense et Popayan. It belongs to the early group of plates printed by William Blaeu from 1630 onwards. The properly called Terra Firma was the Isthmus of Darien. Crusoe’s two references to Mexico are against a South American island as well.
The Michael Crichton novel Jurassic Park centers on the fictitious Isla Nublar that is off of the west coast of Costa Rica. Isla del Coco may be the inspiration for this island. Supporting this argument is the Dreamworks Interactive game Jurassic Park: Trespasser (1998) which used Cocos Island’s topography as a substitute for the fictional island on which it takes place. Also, “Isla Nublar” is intended to mean “Cloudy Island”, and Cocos Island is the only island with cloud forests in the eastern Pacific. The book The Silent Sea (2010) of Clive Cussler, uses the mystic pirate tales but puts the island in US north Pacific cost.
The online travel magazine also recommends the other places like:
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is home to some of the most outstanding underwater wildlife. Those who snorkel or scuba dive here can find black tip and white tip sharks, as well as wobbegongs,a carpet shark named for its tapestry-like skin. The reef, which spans more than 1,400 miles is also home to 360 species of coral and over 1,500 species of fish.
Guadalupe Island, Mexico
Guadalupe, 160 miles off the coast of California, is a beautiful location to go shark diving. Its crystal-clear blue waters make it the perfect place to photograph and film the sharks that you encounter. The sharks that dwell here: Great Whites. This is an amazing location to get up close and personal with a Great white, while in the safety of a cage of course. These warm waters are also home to several species of tropical fish.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapgos Islands, 600 miles west of Ecuador, is home to colorful wildlife including iguanas, birds, and turtles, but it’s waters are also full of sharks. Here you can swim with hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, white tip sharks, and the gentle and ginormous whale shark. You will also find dolphins, whales, and seals in this location with thousands of different animals.
Gansbaai, South Africa
This fishing village, located near Cape Town at the tip of South Africa, is known for its dense population of Great white sharks. In fact, it is called The World’s Great White Shark Capital. The land is surrounded by seals which attract the sharp-toothed predators. Shark dives take place in an area known as Shark Alley. Another excellent, and less crowded shark diving spot in South Africa is False Bay.
The Bahamas are a terrific location for shark divers at all levels of experience and this place has the greatest variety of shark species. First-time divers can dive with 30 Caribbean reef sharks at a time in New Providence while the braver souls can head to Tiger Beach off Grand Bahama to get up close with dangerous tiger sharks. Species range from Great whites to some of the tiniest shark species on earth. Some tours allow swimmers to dive with sharks without using a cage, while others, like those with tiger sharks, require cages.
Southern California, USA
Southern California is a great place for new, casual shark divers. Divers can take a cruise out on the water, usually around San Diego and they’ll be dropped off in areas where blue sharks, horn shark, and Pacific angel sharks reside. The waters off the Channel Islands are also an excellent location to explore shipwrecks, caves and other wildlife.
Palau Shark Sanctuary, Palau, Pacific Islands
This place was created as a safe haven for sharks to stop the practice of shark finning, or removing the sharks’ fins and discarding the body. This is the first shark sanctuary in the world. Commercial fishing isn’t allowed here, but shark diving is encouraged as it is a better way to boost tourism. Palau gives divers the opportunity to get close to whale sharks, tiger sharks, hammerheads, oceanic white tips, silver sharks, bull and silky sharks.
Maldives, Indian Ocean
These exotic islands aren’t one of the biggest travel destinations in the world, but it should be. The resorts offer plenty of activites for tourists to do including shark swims. Divers have the opportunity to swim with the largest shark in the world, the whale shark. Luckily, these fish, which grow up to 36-feet long, are among some of the most gentle creatures in the sea.
Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt
Many wouldn’t thing of Egypt as a great shark diving location, with the pyrmaids being the most famous attraction, but this city along the Red Sea is a popular site for divers due to its diverse shark population. Around this area, you can find hammerheads, black tip reef sharks, grey reef sharks, silky sharks and more.