December 27, 2012 6:00 am
Base Camp: Playas Del Coco
Status: Surviving well, beginning reconnaissance
Today we set voyage in post-apocalyptic Costa Rica on an adventure to instill our faith in the prudence of oceanic life. We are in search of the majestic Giant Manta Ray. Our day started at the rooster’s call, a morning filled with anxiety and excitement. The feeling we share reminds us all of our youth. Of that morning at school as you wait for the bus to show up and take you to the zoo. The boat is loaded, the lunch is packed, and the group is roaring to go. With a light drizzle brings us two complete rainbows, one on top of the other, a sure sign of luck. After an hour long ride on the Straydog the Catalinas Islands are in sight and we don our SCUBA. The boat pulls in to a small cove, called Catalina Point and the group synchronously back rolls into the water. The cold shock of the deep blue water can’t pierce the warmth of our enthusiasm. And we dive. A nice long dive, with a maximum depth of about 80 ft/24 m, but nothing to see. No sharks, no turtles, and of course no Manta. We surface and wait. The captain brings us around to site number two, The Wall. Our spirits are weakened, by the first dive, but not broken. We still have hope, and hope pulls us through. There is a Manta enjoying a leisurely surface swim around the vessel. The crowd is ecstatic we are beyond ourselves with renewed vigor. With shaky hands and rapid pulses we gear up. With the thought of that Manta fresh in our minds we immerse ourselves and begin dive two. All in all a good dive. We lay with White Tip Reef Sharks, and received a tour from a Hawksbill Turtle. Remember, always follow the turtle. For, the turtle led our weary band of divers right to the end of our dive and we begin our ascent. We pause for a safety stop, disheartened by the fact that this was our last dive of the day, and sure enough the turtle pulled through. I turn around and there is the most magnificent creature I have ever seen. A Giant Manta is heading right for me. I exhale sharply and kick to maneuver out of the Mantas way. And the chase is on. Our group, all below 1000 psi are finning like crazy to keep pace with this gentle giant, and I can reach out and nearly touch its fin tip, but all I can think is to keep swimming. The Manta banks left and disappears into the blue. Faith in the Manta has been restored and we begin to time our safety stop again. The Manta returned for two more visits after the initial shock, to be accompanied by a second Manta and a school of 30 or 40 Devil Rays. The group surfaces, no one has above 500 psi and one of us nearly ran out of air. The sense of surrealism is upon us like a thick fog. The day is won, and this dive will be logged as a favorite for all aboard. We are tired, but we work to pack our gear and return to base camp Suddenly to end our day a Manta pays us one last visit on the surface. We are watching her swim off the side of the boat, when a group of Devil Rays and a school of fish begin leaping from the water all around. This scene is picturesque, and of course no camera is available at the time, but we have the mental image. The captain starts the boat and we push on. Convinced the day is done and our mission is complete we receive one more gift from Mother Ocean, a humpback whale breaches maybe 200 ft. off the port side of the boat. Catalinas Islands way of reminding us of the beauty of the ocean, and the strength of her inhabitants.