Many have crowned the Sea Hunter as the paramount, purpose-built live aboard vessel, the gold standard for all other dive boats. She is a superbly stable and robust craft, formerly a commercial dive-support vessel, built to serve the oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico.
Now redesigned and configured as a consummate hybrid, Sea Hunter combines the large platform, functionality and powerful machinery of a workboat with the comfortable and relaxed interior of a modern yacht. She is 115 feet of flexible capacity and convenience, a dedicated dive cruiser with a global reach, specifically designed and built for long-range expeditions to destinations like Cocos and Malpalo islands.
The company purchased the Sea Hunter in 1994 and through eight months of extensive redesign and renovation, turned the boat into the striking vessel she is today. Sea Hunter has 10 guest cabins with private baths, furnishing live-aboard comfort for up to 20 passengers.
This spacious boat is everything that a serious diver or photographer could wish for – individual gear storage, private camera/strobe storage shelves with 110 & 220-volt AC power, zero-speed stabilizers and even a private washer & dryer for client’s towels and bathing suits. Her roominess and user-friendliness has introduced adventure divers, as well as professional photographers and cinematographers, to an entirely new level of live-aboard facility.
Located in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, 300 miles southwest of Cabo Blanco, Costa Rica, lies the renowned Cocos Island Marine Park. A rugged yet incredibly verdant island, this World Heritage Site is the spectacularly beautiful crown jewel of Costa Rica’s many National Parks. In 1994, after several return visits to the island, Jacques Cousteau pronounced Cocos, “The most beautiful island in the world.”
The island has an irregular coastline, which makes precise estimation of its land area more a matter of opinion than a surveyor’s science, but it is roughly five miles by two miles (8 x 3 kilometers).
Cocos Island was formed during a volcanic upheaval about two-and-a-half million years ago and is composed of basaltic rock, labradorite and andesite lava flows. Its landmass is punctuated by four mountain peaks, the highest of which is Cerro Iglesias, at 2,080 feet or 634 meters above the sea.
There are only two bays with safe anchorages and sandy beaches: Chatham is located on the northeast side and Wafer Bay is on the northwest. Just off Cocos are a series of smaller basaltic rocks and islets. The largest satellite is Isla Manuelita (formerly Nuez).
Among Cocos Island’s many attributes is a startling degree of biodiversity. This Island’s world-renowned waters explode with life, including innumerable white tip reef sharks, schooling hammerhead sharks, dolphins, mantas and marbled rays, giant moray eels, sailfish, and of course the occasional whale shark. Other common encounters are large schools of jacks and tuna, silky sharks, silver tip sharks, marlin, Creole fish, green turtles and octopus.
Cocos Island is also home to at least 27 endemic fish species including the exotic rosy-lipped batfish. The terrestrial life at Cocos also exhibits a high number of endemic species. Here are found some 70 of the 235 identified vascular plant species in the world, some 25 species of moss, 27 species of liverwort and 85 species of fungus. There are upwards of 87 bird species, including the famous Cocos Island cuckoo, finch and flycatcher. There are 362 species of insects, of which 64 are endemic. Two native reptiles are found only on the Island.
Beneath the waterfalls and in the rivers, are freshwater fish that mystify scientists by their very existence. Because of its remote location and abundance of fresh water, Cocos has, throughout history, been a favorite re-supply station for pirates, whalers and sailors.
Early visitors left pigs on the island as a self-perpetuating source of fresh meat. To this day feral pigs and deer abound, much to the detriment of the island’s indigenous ground-nesting birds. These animals, introduced by man, are also responsible for hastening soil erosion by their digging, which undermines and degrades the native vegetation.
Malpelo Island and its Surrounding Waters
The stark and forbidding Malpelo Island is located 235 miles (378 Kilometers) from the Pacific coast of Colombia in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. A small Colombian Navy garrison was established in 1986 and ten years later Malpelo was officially recognized as a Colombian Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, with a marine protected area of six miles around the island.
Then, on July 12, 2006 this nationally-protected sanctuary was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. The decision was made by a unanimous vote of the 21 member countries. At the time, only Malpelo and the Giant Panda Sanctuary in China received this prestigious designation, from among 100 proposals presented to the selection committee.
The island consists of a steep, visually barren rock with three peaks that are the crest of a large submarine volcanic ridge stretching 150 miles from northeast to southwest. This ridge rises from a depth of over 13,000 feet (4000 meters) to reveal itself as the tiny, solitary rock of Malpelo. Composed of pillow lavas, breccias and basaltic dykes, the island is understood to be the remnant of a “hot spot” which is now an exposed portion of the oceanic crust.
On closer examination, the rock surfaces are home to algae, lichens, mosses and even some small shrubs and ferns that have taken hold in the nutrient rich guano that is continually replenished by the dense bird population. The maritime weather has eroded the island, forming steep cliffs and sea caves along its jagged coastline. The north and south sides of the island are ornamented by 11 smaller satellite rocks, each with its own unique appeal.
Please note, currently there are no regularly scheduled trips to Malpelo Island. Only full boat requests to visit Malpelo will be accepted.
The submarine environment surrounding Malpelo is defined not only by its isolation but also by its location, which is highly influenced by the convergence of several diverse marine currents. This phenomenon creates a focus in the usual dispersion of marine fauna throughout the Indo and Tropical Eastern Pacific.
Malpelo is home to an important coral formation as well as a large variety and quantity of marine creatures. Of special interest are hammerhead sharks with awe-inspiring schools of 300 hundred individuals commonly encountered. The two most outstanding phenomena in Malpelo are the huge numbers of free swimming and cluster moray eels along with the colossal congregations of silky sharks that often join with hammerheads to form enormous mixed schools. Extraordinarily, Malpelo is one of the few places that a diver may chance upon the elusive Small Tooth Sand Tiger, which is also known as the Spotted Ragged-tooth shark (Odontaspis ferox).
Other common sights are the white tip shark, Galapagos shark, giant schools of angel fish, Creole fish, jacks, tuna, several ray species including the giant Manta and occasionally a sail fish, whale shark and even Humpback Whale.
The island is visited by some 12 species of migratory birds, including the Red-billed Tropic bird, Red-footed Booby, Black Noddy and the Great or Magnificent Frigate bird (Fregata magnificens). Endemic to the island are one crab species, two sea-stars, various species of coralline fish, and two reptiles.
Algae, moss and lichens cover the rugged cliffs of Malpelo, which host the second largest Masked Booby colony in the world, consisting of approximately 25,000 birds.
Dive Experience for Cocos & Malpelo
Cocos Island presents the same diving challenges as any other Pacific, Indian or Red Sea diving location. Cocos, however, is not recommended for inexperienced divers because it is an open ocean destination that requires advanced open water diving skills.
Please note, the minimum required level of certification to dive at Cocos is Open Water with the additional Specialties of Deep & Night Diver. We also recommend having a minimum of 25 hours of diving experience.
Most dives are at depths deeper than 60 feet / 18 meters. At Cocos currents and visibility can be entirely different in just a few hours. Please note, the dive guide will always be the final authority as to whether a passenger can do any specific dive.
Malpelo Island can offer more challenging conditions. Please note, at this time we are not scheduling regular trips to Malpelo.
Most of the action is at 60-90 feet /18-27 meters, and most dives are between 60-130 feet / 18-40 meters. The safety limit is set at 130 feet / 40 meters and a dive computer is necessary. Visibility averages 60-100ft/18-30m.
Average temperature is 79 F to 84 F (26 C to 29 C), although it can be a few degrees lower under the occasional thermocline.
Please note Malpelo can have significantly cooler temperatures.
All divers must bring proof of certification by a national certifying agency. The certification must allow the diver to dive to the recreational dive limit of 130 feet (40 meters). The Dive Master will request to see your certification before you are allowed to dive. If you are certified for Nitrox and rebreathers as well, then remember to also bring those certifications.
To increase safety and bottom time while maintaining safe non-decompression dives the use of Nitrox is recommended. The vessel offers full onboard TDI training in Nitrox, with rental of Nitrox computers. Nitrox fills are free for Nitrox certified divers.
Please check directly with our office if you are bringing a rebreather with you. We can supply you with tanks, scrubber material and any further assistance you need, and can provide you with the costs of these items.
Please note, at this time we are no longer teaching the rebreather course and we do not have any units available to rent. Check for further rebreather information on this website at PRICES & SCHEDULES – Rental Gear
When all passengers are boarded, the vessel will take 32-36 hours to reach Cocos Island (check specific itinerary of Malpelo/Cocos trips for further details on those trips). Crossings are normally calm, but to prevent motion sickness we advise you to take the necessary precautions. At the conclusion of your trip, we will return to Puntarenas where a bus will be waiting to return you to your San Jose hotel.
Gear to Bring With You
You will need the following gear: 3-5 mm (1/8″ to 3/16″) wetsuit, mask, fins, snorkel, regulator with visible pressure gauge, a mandatory dive computer, buoyancy compensator, depth gauge, dive gloves, weight belt (without weights), dive light, and dive watch. It is recommended that you mark each piece of gear with waterproof paint or tape. We suggest you put all or most of the above items in a carry-on bag. There is ample storage space for your diving equipment, including your own personal locker.
Equipment Provided Onboard
We provide you with weights for your weight belt: 2, 3, 4, and 6 lbs. (1, 1.5, 2 and 3 kilos). We also provide you with air or Nitrox tanks — 80 cubic ft. aluminum (12 liters).
Please note, our tanks are standard yoke (INT), not DIN. Please notify our offices in advance if you need an adaptor.
Rental Equipment Onboard
You can rent a complete line of ScubaPro dive gear: BCD, regulator, wetsuit, mask, fins, snorkel, and Aladin Nitrox dive computers.
We have a limited supply of 15 Liter steel tanks. If you would like to rent one, make sure to reserve it well ahead of time.
Meals & Beverages
The menu aboard offers a delicious combination of American and local cuisine. Meals are varied and well balanced, and we also offer delicious snacks between dives. Food is abundant with plenty of fresh tropical fruit and salads and is served buffet style. Please let us know of any special dietary needs or requests, but try to be lenient, as storage and preparation space is limited.
Soft drinks: Free, Bottle of wine: $15 – $35. Hard liquor is not available on board but our guests are welcome to bring their own, which should be purchased prior to boarding.
We recommend casual and cool cotton attire while on board. Nights can be chilly and/or drizzly so bringing a sweater, light jacket or windbreaker is recommended. In San Jose dress is slightly more conservative, like long jeans and collared shirts. For women, we recommend holding off wearing shorts and beach type clothing till you are aboard the vessel. We suggest packing in a soft duffel bag for easy luggage storage. Booties or hiking shoes are recommended if you want to visit the island.
Visiting the Island
We will usually make one or two visits to the island itself during a trip.