A three-seater submarine ride reveals marine life off the Costa Rican coast
There’s a bubbling, sucking sound, and the sky disappears. Suddenly, I’m seeing the waves of the Pacific from beneath as I float down into the ever-darkening blue. The transparent acrylic sphere I’m sitting in is so small that I bang my head when I lean forward to gaze into the endless vastness ahead.
We are a couple of kilometers off Isla del Coco, an uninhabited island way out in the ocean off the coast of Costa Rica, aboard Undersea Hunter’s mini-submarine; it has space for just one other passenger alongside pilot David Engel and myself. Without a sound, it sinks down to the ocean bed. Only when Engel opens the tanks to let out air, does our futuristic vessel puff and hiss as though under steam.
Halfway down, a massive silvertip shark passes our window, followed by a giant devil ray. As the blue turns to deep blue, we descend into eternal darkness, gliding past coral landscapes gleaming milky-white in the beam of our headlights.
One hundred meters, 200 … hardly a word is spoken. When we touch the bottom at 300 meters, it seems we’ve been years getting here, but it was barely an hour. Engel switches off the light. Silence. Blackness. Uncertainty.
“There surely can’t be any life down here,” I speculate. Then Engel switches the light back on. Up ahead, a strange scene teeming with life meets our eyes: Squid, virtually transparent, gliding by, pale moray eels, their jaws stretched wide, a hybrid maritime creature – front part fish, back part eel – combing the sand with its barbels. Lost for words, I can only gaze in wonder.