It was a dream come true, I’d been accepted to go to Cocos Island for 5 weeks as a volunteer research assistant after an internship at Go Pro. It didn’t really feel real until I was on the boat and on my way over. The boat trip to the island was one of excitement, and thankfully not to rough seas. Everyone on the boat was really friendly (and a bit crazy too), and we had many laughs on the way out.
Upon arrival to the island, we were taken into the rangers’ station to meet the team and our companions for the next 5 weeks. There was a warm welcome, with a breakfast of Gallo pinto (the daily breakfast, my favourite!), and we spent our first day being introduced to the base and island and getting settled in. The accommodation was basic, but comfortable and more than enough to call home for our time on the island.
The next 5 weeks on the island was comprised with a variety of work. The majority was dive based work (much to my liking), with the main focus on the tourism monitoring program. We would accompany the tourist groups of divers during some of their dives, carrying out tasks such as focal species surveys, monitoring diver-animal interactions, and counting the amount and types of sea floor contact made by the divers. We also had the opportunity to assist in the field work on a Master’s thesis, looking at trophic modelling in the marine ecosystem around Cocos Island. This work involved diving to collect and measure various invertebrates, free diving for lobsters, and collecting sand cores. I even managed to collect a species of slipper lobster that had never before been recorded in Cocos Island. Originally thought to be endemic to the Galapagos, the Galapagos slipper lobster is now recorded for Cocos Island (I am currently co-authoring a scientific paper to report this finding).
I was also lucky to be able to go out a couple of days with some of the live-aboard boats and accompany and monitor the divers at some of the best dive sites around the island. The diving was amazing, with an abundance of sharks, rays and large pelagic fish. Roca Sucia (Dirty Rock), was definitely my favourite dive site, with sightings of big schools of hammerhead sharks and bigeye trevally, Galapagos sharks, tuna, eagle rays, and plenty more. Those days were my favourite on the island.
Other work also included trail maintenance, cleaning/upkeep of the base, assisting on seabird surveys, and data entry in the office. I will definitely admit that those days spent in the office entering data made me quite restless, but it was all part of the work, and interesting to analyse some of the data being collected.
And on top of all of that, there was also plenty of time to have some fun and enjoy the island. We explored some beautiful trails, visited plenty of waterfalls, went snorkelling and kayaking, and had a good few fun dives. We were also lucky on our last day to do a lap around the island in one of the boats. The island is an incredible sight, with waterfall after waterfall falling off steep, high cliffs covered in vegetation and landing on the shore or straight into the ocean.
Overall my time on Cocos Island was one that I will never forget. The diving was the best I have ever done, the island is enchantingly beautiful, the work was both interesting and a lot of fun, the food was great, and the people that I spent my time with were really friendly and fun to be with. It was an experience that I will never forget, and I really hope that I can return in the future!