Cocos Island (Spanish: Isla del Coco) is an island designated as a National Park off the shore of Costa Rica, that does not allow inhabitants other than Costa Rican Park Rangers. It constitutes the 11th of the 13 districts of Puntarenas Canton of the province of Puntarenas. It is located in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 550 km (340 mi) from the Pacific shore of Costa Rica. With an area of approximately 23.85 km² (9.2 mi²), about 8×3 km (5×1.9 mi) and a perimeter of around 23.3 km, this island is more or less rectangular in shape.
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 extremely wet climate and oceanic character give Cocos an ecological character that is not shared with either the Galapagos Archipelago or any of the other islands (e.g., Malpelo or Coiba) in this region of the world (info wiki)
Cocos Island in Costa Rica is now famous all over the world for several different reasons. It is said that Cocos Island actually used to be a popular hideout spot for pirates in ancient times. Certain historians claim that the inspiration for the acclaimed novel Treasure Island actually came from Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Many legends have been cultivated over the years about how different buccaneers have buried their extensive treasure in the land of Cocos Island. To cash in on this legend, certain people developed treasure maps which nobody has any idea of whether they are authentic or not. Regardless, many people are drawn to the area because of this famed legend of buried treasure on Cocos Island..
Another reason for the fame of Cocos Island is because of the wide range of ocean life present in the surrounding waters. Scuba divers excitedly tour the area on foot and while diving to benefit from this amazing naturally blessed place called Cocos Island. There are many large species found in the waters of Cocos Island, for example hammerhead sharks, different species of rays and dolphins along with some types of whales. Cocos Island possesses an extremely wet climate along with a scenic ocean beauty which is unparalleled by other islands in the region. Cocos Island is said to be in possession of an ‘ecological character’ that is not shared by any other island, no matter how popular it might be. In this respect, Cocos Island appears to be completely unique.
In 1978, an Executive Decree declared Cocos Island as a National Park of Costa Rica. UNESCO (in 1997) marked the Cocos National Park as a World Heritage Site. Cocos National Park is also included in the renowned Wetlands of International Importance. An amazing fact about the island is that Cocos Island was in ranking to be declared as one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature! As compared to the other islands, Cocos Island is listed at second place in the Wonders of Nature, islands category. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) listed Cocos Island as one of the top ten best places in the world for scuba diving. The main reason for this was that Cocos Island is a breathtaking piece of land from the above and the below. It is a jewel of nature if seen only the top part which is composed of jungles and wetland but when you add the wonders of the sea beneath it… It becomes so much more. Cocos Island is a place rich in the jewels of nature and there is so much to be learnt from this place. It is an amazing area for scuba divers and scientists, film makers and photographers. The island provides natural entertainment, along with rare species to be observed, photographed and filmed, not to mention so many interesting facts to learn about the area. Diving experts recommend Cocos Island as a must visit site for all those interested in scuba diving and observing sea life creatures.
For most visitors of Cocos Island, the pelagic ocean life is one of the main attractions of the area. Since there is an interesting point of meeting between shallow and deep water in this area, there are quite a number of these pelagic ocean creatures. One of the most frequently viewed species viewed in the waters are schools of hammerhead sharks. It is said that Cocos Island hosts the largest schools in the world of the hammerhead sharks. Divers common to the area report that there is a large creature to observe in almost every single dive in the waters. They say that no dive goes without an excited viewing of an amazing ocean creature. The waters of Cocos Island are abundant with reefs due to which thousands of brightly colored and patterned fish can also be seen in the area. Some of these fish are so beautiful it takes the viewer’s breath away just looking at their intricate and lovely bodies in the water. Jacques Cousteau is known as a world famous oceanographer. He visited Cocos Island quite frequently in the course of his career. In 1994, he has been recorded as calling Cocos Island “the most beautiful island in the world”. That is quite an achievement compared to the rich and dense beauty many other islands have to offer. Despite its beauty and richness in nature, Cocos Island in Costa Rica faces a lot of threats in the area of poaching and illegal large scale fishing.
It has already been mentioned above that only Costa Rican Park Rangers have permission to take up residence on Cocos Island, visitors cannot stay on it. The visitors are also not allowed to collect any mementos from the island, for example flora, fauna or minerals. Cocos Island in Costa Rica is surrounded by a multitude of natural treasures. Some of these would include rich coral reefs, volcanic tunnels, underwater and above ground caves, deep and clear water. This area is said to be inhabited by more than 30 types of coral, 60 types of crustaceans, 600 types of mollusks, and above 300 types of different kinds of fish. The kinds of ocean creatures that can be found in the waters of Cocos Island include yellow-fin tuna, giant manta rays, sailfish, and different species of sharks. White tip reef sharks and scalloped hammerhead sharks are the most common in this area. The whale shark, considered the largest creature to exist presently can also be found near Cocos Island in Costa Rica. There are many other large creatures found in the area for example humpback whales, pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins, and sea lions. Some reptiles like hawksbill turtles, green turtles and olive ridley turtles have been spotted under these waters.
Cocos Island is said to be home to a number of tropical wet forests, dense and lively in terms of nature. Research says that Cocos Island is one of a kind in more ways than one. It is apparently the only island with these kinds of rainforests which house special flora and fauna, not found elsewhere in any other island. In this region of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the cloud forests are also called highly unique. All the types of flora and fauna found in the area are not duplicated anywhere else in the world. It is said that the flora and fauna present on Cocos Island is unique only to this specified geographical location and is called indigenous to the area.
Cocos Island is home to almost 230 species of flowering plants that are unique to this area alone. There have been plenty of public works citing the beauty and richness of the flora on this land. Researchers have reported that there are 74 species of fern or fern allies, 128 species of mosses and liverwort, 90 species of fungi and 41 species of slimemolds. They also claim that the research is still going on which means that they expect to find yet some more species on the existing flora. The island hosts three major types of trees namely: Purple Coral Tree, Coconut Palm, and Pond Apple Tree. Surrounding the tree plantations are ferns, shrubs belonging to the families Rubiaceae and Solanaceae, grass and sedges, herbaceous plants of the families Leguminosae and Malvaceae. The forests on the inland are said to be elevated from 50 to 500 meters. The trees found in abundance on Cocos Island are Palo de hierro, avocado, and Cecropia Pittieri. These are all species of canopy trees in the area, out of which only the last tree (Cecropia Pittieri) is indigenous to the island. There are many types of plants in the surroundings near these canopy trees. Some of these plants have been discovered to be orchids, mosses, ferns and bromeliads.
Talking about the fauna, researchers believe that the insects found on Cocos Island Costa Rica are about 16% indigenous of 400 known species. The widest assortment is that found between the Lepidoptera and Formicidae. There have been above 50 discovered species of spiders, centipedes, millipedes and isopods on the island. Two main species of lizards have been discovered on Cocos Island namely anole and a gecko. Both the types have been reported to be indigenous to the area and no amphibians have been found as yet. Researchers on the area have reported that there are approximately 90 types of birds inhabiting the island. Sea birds that migrate from different areas inhabit the large rocks around the island and make large nesting colonies. The sea birds that inhabit the area are Brown Booby, Red footed Booby, Great Frigatebird, White Tern, and Brown Noddy. Cocos Island is home to a number of land based birds which are indigenous to the island. These birds are called the Cocos Cuckoo, Cocos Flycatcher and the Cocos Finch. Five species of mammals have also been found on Cocos Island. These include pigs, deer, rats and cats. The interesting fact is that all these mammals have been brought over by humans, which bred and then reproduced in the land. The government of Costa Rica is planning to control the spreading of these animals because experts claim that they might be a dangerous threat to the local ecosystem.
Experts and tourist companies call Cocos Island the ‘little Galapagos’ of Costa Rica. It is basically the peak of the ancient volcanic mountain which has been isolated by the surrounding waters of the Pacific Ocean. Colonization has occurred over the past thousands of years and now Cocos Island is a hugely changed area. Cocos Island is home to many dense and rich rainforests which host amazing species of flora and fauna which are rarely found elsewhere in other island areas. Experts believe that some species that are found on Cocos Island have gone through the process of evolving after their original arrival on the land and have now changed into distinctive forms that are unique only to Cocos Island. These evolved and new species are called ‘endemics’ or ‘indigenous’ species.
The ocean isolates Cocos Island National Park from the rest of the surrounding area. The nearest land to Cocos is Costa Rica which measures 600 km towards the eastern shore. Towards the southwest border, the Galapagos Islands are neighbor to Cocos Island – a few hundred miles towards the other border. The climate of the area is usually wet and very humid. Experts say that it rains almost throughout the entire year but sometimes dry seasons do occur. These dry seasons may take place from January to March. Towards late September and October, another dry spell occurs but it is distinctly less dry compared to the one in January.
Cocos Island measures about eleven thousand and five hundred acres in size. It is said to be almost 15 times bigger than the central park in New York City. Streams and beaches form part of the attractions of Cocos Island National Park. It is believed that one of the biggest problems in Cocos Island is that the nativity of mammals, birds, flora and fauna has been lost due to the advent of these species brought in by humans.