Cocos Islands: The Trip of a Lifetime

  • White-tipped Reef Shark | © Holly Franz
  • Whale Shark | © Holly Franz
  • Hammerhead Shark | © Holly Franz

By David Chervin

To start the year, Holly Franz entertained the club with her recent trip to the Cocos Island.

Holly FranzHolly is an avid diver and photographer who vacations from her regular job as a biologist at Lawrence Livermore Labs to take “a trip of a lifetime” every year.

Holly showed her photos and videos of a wide variety of marine life including fish, sharks, and invertebrates. Holly’s presented her images with a running description that identified marine life species and environments.

A trip to the Cocos starts by flying into Santiago, Costa Rica and taking a two-hour ride to the boat, in this case, the Cocos Aggressor. The boat motors for 36 hours to reach the Cocos.

The Cocos Island lies in a region of the Pacific between temperate and tropical waters. This location means divers see a wide variety of species of fish, sharks, and pelagics. The island receives upwellings that lead to water temperature variations between 62-79 degrees Fahrenheit with a frequent chilly thermocline at depth. The island has a rocky reef with varied invertebrate life.

Holly showed the islands fish that included schools of soldierfish, whipper snappers, jacks and trevallies including black, blue and big eye. Tropical parrot and goat fish abound along with groupers and hogfish. These fish sometimes became prey for the schools of white tip fish, especially at night. Holly showed picture and videos of hammerhead sharks, tiger sharks, various rays and whale sharks that included a small male around 13’ and a large female of 40’.

Unusual species included leather bass groupers, whose coloring looks like your grandma’s couch to rock moving wrasse who in fact move rocks. There are morays and other eels hiding in the rocks.

Holly showed that diving the Cocos Islands is a trip of a lifetime that we all want to take.