Diving with 2 great big manatees !!!

Puerto Viejo Travel Blog

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2 smaller manatess (archive photo)

I took the first bus down to Pueto Viejo after seeing the Sloths. This city was as touristy as it can get, but after having read about this place I was prepared for it. ..

Puerto Viejo still has a pretty idyllic setting, almost surrounded by ocean and great beaches. I just felt like having a few days of not doing anything much on the beaches before going back to real life. I`ve been in Central America 5 weeks, and hardly have a tan….there’s just been so much to see and do that I’ve hardly had a day to just chill in the sun.

So here I did just that…exept that I was chillin`on the beach in pouring rain. Good thing was that I could have the beach for myself, bad thing was that it was cold!

I don`t think I`ve ever seen more of a crazy lightning show then here, and there was a new show every evening !

The reason I came here was basically just to see the coral reefs here, which are supposed to be the biggest one in Costa Rica.

pretty sunset
To get to them I rented a bike, and started trucking towards a village 15 km south called Amzanillo. This was the place to be if you want to see reefs.

The road to get there was your typical bumpy dirt road with more holes then something with lots of holes(nice analogy!?).

The funny thing was that with my bike I could manage to slalom my way between the holes so I was actually getting there faster then the cars.

When I got to the beach I found a diving center run by an american guy who was living there with his family. I arranged to go diving with him, it would be only us two, and the price was a very nice 25 $.

Before the dive I went on a hike through the local national park by the ocean. It had some really decent beaches, but not much in the way of wildlife.

pretty place

When I got back we got ready with our equipment and walked straight out from the beach. Possibly the most hassle free dive ever, didn’t even have a suit on. He said that we would limit our dive based on my air consumption…I knew then that it would be a very long dive..

The visibility was poor, about 2-3 meters, but it was expected. The rain and the uncalm sea is never a good thing for visibility.

The dive was quite OK the first 40 minutes. No schools of fish, or enormous coral formations, but at least a good deal ov biodiversity. Lots of fish I have never seen before, small and large. Different ecosystems throughout the dive, and the occasional crustacean. There was a few small caves under the rock formations, I put my big head into each of them looking for sleeping fishies ! A little tingle of fear of meeting a swarm of large, angry sharks in the darkness though…

At some points we went on top of the rock formations and let the waves carry us further, that was fun , much like a circus attraction.

Gonna go for a night-time cycle soon..
Up there we met a 1,5 meter shark. Really amazing to see it swimming around, hunting smaller fish(not a big fat fish with scuba gear ,hopefully). It came so close to me, so fast that I saw straight into its fearless eyes. I pulled back slowly , as I have all the respect and awe which is necessary when meeting these amazing predators.

Then we kept swimming over the rock and to the other side where there was only sandy bottom with some sea grass.

That was where we saw them. I first saw the American instructor go wild with his camera, and then I noticed that he was surrounded by two enormous creatures. I think it took actually like a minute before I even understood what we where experiencing.

There were 2 sea mammals amongst us, each of which was probably 3-4 meter long, and about 1500-2000 kg.

the beach
I had never seen anything even remotely close to this, I was staring in the face of a sea cow, or Manatee, which was equally curious of me. I could feel myself blackening out, as I held my breath for the first minute or so. I wouldn’t want to scare them away by all the noise caused by expiration through the regulator. I was breathing like a guinea pig, short and fast..

We spent probably like 30 minutes together with this charming couple. They didn’t try to escape from us, only the occasional trip to the surface to breathe. Their movement was slow, and calculated, I got so close to its face that I could have kissed it, but I didn’t. I don’t think the world is ready for a relationship between man and manatee yet, and by the way both her and me are already in steady relationships.

Checking out the forest

I did however touch it without receiving any major protests. The two giants were just playing around with us really, giving us a glimpse of their world of sea grass feeding and regular surfacing.

I got the time to really study them, and I felt like I was in the company of dinosaurs, as they look incredibly primitive. It`s just a big, beautiful blob with an enormous tail, but no fins !

These animals where the first mammals to return to the oceans, several million years before whales and dolphins even remotely got the same bright idea.

They are herbivores, living on grass , just like the cows on land. They are considered an endangered species, mostly because of hunting, and accidents. There are some major colonies of these animals on the American coast, around Florida.

Hidden beach in national reserve
A lot of them are killed every year from the propellers of motorboats when they surface to breathe. It’s quite horrible.

When we surfaced after at least one and half hours under water, we were both totally ecstatic ! I never had imagined the dive to be like it was, and neither had my dive master buddy !

He told me he had more then 10 000 (!!) dives in the region, and this was the best beach dive he had ever done. And on all those dives, it was even the first one where he had seen Manatees !

I only have 500 dives, all over the world, but this is definitively amongst the coolest experience I`ve ever had under water. Just imagine getting so close to such big animals, for such an extended period !

We obviously wanted more !!

He even gave me another dive for free in the excitement, so I ran straight back to the shop and threw on another scuba tank, and got back into the sea.

beach
The American instructor had already alerted his family, and 10 minutes later I was in the water with him, his wife and 10 year old daughter.

The search was on ! As we got out to the spot I saw the tails of the great big animals, and submerged immediately. I felt I had to wait for the family though, as I wasn’t sure if he liked me diving alone….so I lost track of the manatees. . That was a pity, because we never found them again, even after searching the bottom for 40 minutes…and by now it was getting dark.

Before the second dive I had chosen to ignore some facts that would yield consequences later. Like the fact that the bicycle operator wanted the bike back by 5.30 , and the fact that it was pretty much pitch black after 5.30, and I had 15 km to cycle on a dirt road full of holes.

the dive shop from wich we walked to the beach to dive

It was five in the evening before we got out of the water, and I had to wait another hour to get the films from the instructor( he evidently gave me a film featuring a blurry vision of his own diving suit for 2 minutes….which I think was the wrong one, as I asked for the one with me and the Manatee.).

I’ve never regretted more about not bringing my own dive camera on this trip !

The bicycle trip back was another one of those crazy situations I keep falling into ; me on a bicycle without gear in the utter darkness on a pitted “road” through a jungle.

I kept a really good pace, even though I couldn’t see where I was cycling! I was going up and down into holes and off the road. I had a car behind me for some kilometres. That was great, as I could use its light to see the road, but I had to cycle a little slower so that I wouldn’t race away from the car and the light.

The divemasters

I got back in a good time, but not good enough as the bicycle shop was closed for the day…..which ended up in me loosing my early bus the day after, as I had to wait for the place to open (in the Caribbean people don’t get up early).

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2 smaller manatess (archive photo)
2 smaller manatess (archive photo)
pretty sunset
pretty sunset
pretty place
pretty place
Gonna go for a night-time cycle so…
Gonna go for a night-time cycle s…
the beach
the beach
Checking out the forest
Checking out the forest
Hidden beach in national reserve
Hidden beach in national reserve
beach
beach
the dive shop from wich we walked …
the dive shop from wich we walked…
The divemasters
The divemasters