Isla Coco, Costa Rica

Isla del Coco is both ordinary and extraordinary. Ordinary because the rainforest is just like any rainforest on the Costa Rican mainland; Extraordinary because, stuck out in the middle of the ocean, there should not be rain nor a rain forest. Aparently, we were told afterwards, we nearly did not get to land here. After we left the Costa Rica mainland, the government withdrew our permissions to land, and it took a day's worth of negotiations at a high level to get our permission to land restored before we got to the island.

Isla del Coco is an oceanic island of both volcanic and tectonic origin. It is the only emergent island of the Cocos Plate. It is administered by Costa Rica, approximately 550 km southwest of the Costa Rican mainland. With an area of approximately 24 km2 the island is more or less rectangular in shape. Cocos Island has been designated a Costa Rican National Park since 1978, and has no permanent inhabitants other than Costa Rican park rangers. 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 wet climate and oceanic qualities give Cocos an ecological character that is not shared with either the Galápagos Archipelago or any of the other islands (for example, Malpelo, Gorgona or Coiba) in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The climate of Cocos 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 humid and tropical with an average annual temperature of 26.6 °C and an average annual rainfall of over 7,000 mm. Numerous oceanic currents from the central Pacific Ocean, particularly the North Equatorial Countercurrent, converge on the island and also have an important influence

The island is also very popular in pirate lore. It is said that over 300 expeditions have searched for buried treasure there, such as the hoard of Benito Bonito, the Treasure of Lima, and many others. Some small caches have been discovered, leading many to believe that the stories of vast pirate treasures are true, though the majority of searches have been unsuccessful. Treasure hunting is now forbidden on Cocos Island, a Unesco world heritage site, because of its unique and exotic marine and land ecosystem, although some adventurers have tried to gain access under the guise of scientific research. How much remains buried is a mystery, but an old, enigmatic, but undated, carving on a tree suggests some of the pirates may have managed to retrieve their plunder. It reads simply: “The bird has flown.”

The bridge "El Copey" at the Ranger Station at Wafer Bay was apparently built from fishing lines and buoys seized from poachers that entered the waters of the Island. Built by an artist Francisco "Pancho" Quesada, as a protest at the constant threat of illegal fishing in the park. It is designed so that, with the passage of time, it will be integrated into the environment, so that gradually greenery covers it. It is impossible to research the bridge as only one sentence on its design and construction exists, and this has been repeatedly cut and pasted dozens of times

Famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau visited the island several times and in 1994 called it "the most beautiful island in the world". Such accolades have highlighted the urgent need to protect Cocos Island and its surrounding waters from illegal large-scale fishing, poaching and other threats. Cousteau left his name as grafffiti carved onto a rock on one of the beaches

After seeing the area round the Ranger Station, we relocated to Chatham Bay

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Then on to Chatham Bay further round the island, where we came ashore to look at the carved grafitti on the beach. The custom seems to have been stopped in the last 20 years, but prior to that anyone and his friend coming to Cocos was sure to inscribe their ship's name on the beach, including Cousteau in 1987. With the earliest carving being from about 1840s

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On to next port, Isla de Plata, Ecuador

Silver Explorer Oct 2019