Central America

Cocos Island

If you are searching for true wilderness and marine fun then Cocos Island is a good bet.This virgin stretch of land is located on Costa Rica in the province of Puntarenas. To protect its ecology and varied biodiversity it has been included in the National Park. This rectangular shaped Island is surrounded by water and there are strong counter currents running through this part of the Pacific. It is a favorite marine destination and scuba divers throng here for its population of Hammerhead sharks, rays, and dolphins. Its climate is peculiar and extremely wet, something that is quite unlike the Galapagos Archipelago.

Cocos Island was established as a Costa Rican National Park in 1978 and in 1997 it was listed under the UNESCO World Heritage site for the ecological preservation of its flora and fauna. . It is also included under the list of “Wetlands of International Importance”.According to diving experts this place is a must do. Its marine population is breathtaking to say the least. The huge pelagic species are quite endemic to the region. Marine biologists throng this area for it is also the area where you the largest accumulation of hammerhead sharks in the world. You don’t even have to wait to view them as in other destinations which promise you the view of these elusive sea creatures. This South eastern Pacific region also has the most colorful reefs. Jacques Cousteau regarded it as the most beautiful Island in this world. Security is high here as illegal fishing of these marine species has been reported in the past. Tourists finds the legentd of the lost treasure fascinating and often you would find one tourists cashing in on this tale while casually speaking to other tourists. About 300 expeditions have been undertaken for this treasure hunt. The Treasure of Lima makes a fascinating story. Some caches which have been discovered here strengthened the belief.

The Cocos Island is uninhabited except the Costa Rican Park Rangers who guard it against all odds. The tourists and travelers from the cruises are allowed on the park with proper permit by these rangers. However there are stringent rules that one have to follow like it is no camp area, no tourists can collect any flora or fauna here, no corals should be uprooted from the reefs. The origin of the Island is Volcanic and tectonic. It is the only existing Island of the Cocos Plate. The rock is composed of basalt. The topography here is uneven mountainous terrain. The area has small rivers and streams. The Genio and the Pittier are the two largest rivers here. There are over 200 small and medium sized waterfalls in this Island.
Flora and Fauna in Cocos Island:

There are almost 235 species of flowering plant here.70 of them are endemic to the region. The Purple Coral tree, pond apple, and Coconut palm are quite common here. You can also see a wide variety of ferns, and shrubs. The huriki are the common canopy trees here. The island has a rich and diverse wildlife population with 400 insect species, and 90 species of birds. Migratory sea birds can be seen here like the Brown Bobby, Red footed Bobby, Great Frigatebird, White Tern etc. Mammal population includes pigs, deer, rats, and cats. However these are not natural to the reason and were introduced by humans. The most interesting thing here is its marine population with 30 species of coral, 60 kind of crustaceans, 600 species of molluscs and over 300 species of fish. Rare marine species like the humpback whales, pilot whales, bottlenose dolphinsand Olive Ridley turtles thrive here.

Even though Cocos Island have been labeled as a National Park, and there are stringest rules to visit the Island, a lot of illegal activities takes place here due to which marine population suffers the most. The Government of Costa Rica has been accused of passivity when handling topics of poaching and security here. The sharks are at risk as the demand of shark fin soup is growing worldwide especially in South Asian countries like China. Efforts by the Government for environmental laws are being successful to a certain extent but much needs to be done.