Catalina’s Islands – Guanacaste/ Costa Rica
30 minutes from the bay of Playas del Coco, and 10 minutes from the harbor of Flamingo lie the scatted islands of the Catalina’s. This group of islands are famed diving destination throughout Costa Rica for their myriad of marine biodiversity, and seasonal fluctuation in life.
During the dry season (November to May) these islands experience colder waters that fluctuate between 19 – 25 degrees Celsius (66 – 77 Fahrenheit) and visibility is often temperamental due to algae and plankton blooms that bring a throng of life. Humpback whales, Mobula rays, southern pacific sting rays, round stingrays, and a plethora of moray eel species can be seen during this season, however the most famous visitor are the giants rays of the ocean, the Manta.
The main island of the Catalina’s has two main dive sites, The Point and The Wall. Both sites give divers a great chances to encounter the manta ray throughout the year, yet especially in the months of January and February. Orcas and Humpback whales have also been spotted underwater off the main island, while cow nose rays leap from the water during the surface interval. At the Catalina’s it is often hard to exceed a maximum depth of 30 metres (100 feet), however usually the shallows are where the majority of reef fish congregate.
There are in the vicinity of 20 islands that make up the Catalina’s islands, yet the perennial favourites for returning divers are The Widow and Los Sombreros. The Widow so called due to its sole pinnacle pointing out of surface. The pinnacle descends to 28 metres (95 feet) where divers have the opportunity to encounter octopus, Whitetip reef sharks and more than five species of ray including the torpedo ray. Los Sombreros is a site, which is a favourite with both experienced divers and students alike due to the sandy bottom and wall drop offs where eagle rays cruise in the wet season. The wet season runs between May and November, the water begins to clean up turning blue, and the water can reach temperatures as warm as 30 degrees Celsius (88 Fahrenheit). Shovelnose Gutairfish are a rare yet stunning elasmobranch species found at the site, this species lie inert on the sandy bottom and divers can approach within close proximity.
While divers have had the privilege of encountering whale sharks around the islands they are a rare pleasure, yet dolphins and turtles are a more common alternative. The Catalina’s are part of Costa Rica’s pacific group of nutrient rich islands which make the country one of the worlds premier scuba diving locations.