The Beacon

Sandy's Journal: Arrival at Cocos Island

We're here! We are at Cocos. We first saw the island, a gray splotch on the horizon, yesterday morning, and by the afternoon we could see its rocky crags, the lush green hills, and two MarViva boats anchored in the bay. Everyone was excited. We had Juan Pablo (director of VOEA and one of Ranger's divemasters) high up on the masts to film, swinging in the rigging like a spider monkey. Our two temporary guests (Marcela, director of communications for MarViva, and Alex, from FAICO) work every day to protect the island but had never seen it, so for everyone on board -- divers, biologists, Costa Ricans, Europeans, and Americans -- this was the opportunity of a lifetime.

At the twelve-mile border of the marine park we passed a long-line boat, just sitting there. There was a crew of five or six, a tangle of green and black flags rising from the boat (they are used to mark the long-line buoys), and "Punta Arenas" -- the boat's home port -- painted on the stern. Marcela says that the boats always wait on the border for a moment to enter, or use their knowledge of currents to let their lines drift into park territory even while the boat is legally outside.

It's obvious enough why they would. No sooner had we entered park waters than two dolphins joined us at the bow. Marcela said, "This is how you know you're getting to Cocos."

We anchored in the bay. In just a few days at sea you learn to dispense with petty luxuries -- like showers. Since we left Golfito, none of us have taken personal hygiene to a much greater extent than an occasional splash of fresh water over the face, and, once safely anchored, we tumbled off the Ranger's stern into the blue, blue water. A few of the professional divers on board -- Nuno, our fearless captain; Juan Pablo; Aitor; and Hussein -- went diving on the anchor in masks and fins, disappearing into the depths for longer than I would have thought possible, incredibly graceful and looking very much at home.

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