Two remote island groups never fail to inspire our elemental desire for places that remain raw, uninhabited and wild. Above the water, they are polar opposites. The first, the Revillagigedos, about 250 miles south of Cabo San Lucas, rise above the Pacific as barren, inhospitable rocks best viewed in the golden light of sunset and best suited as places of respite for oceanic birds. Lost sailors would lament such a desiccated land, and many have. Farther south, about 375 miles off Costa Rica, Cocos rises out of the sea wrapped in primordial green and fissured with white veins of waterfalls. This large, uninhabited island has been the hideout of many a pirate and a legion of dreamers and ne'er-do-wells, plus a few feral pigs.
While the terrestrial visions of these two Pacific pinnacles reflect worlds with little in common, below the water they teem with thrilling and inspiring life, especially the kind of life that comes large enough for even the least observant among us to see clearly.
The Revillagigedos are most famous for attracting monster-sized manta rays, some reaching 20 feet from wingtip to wingtip. They never tire of basking in divers' bubbles or the gentle caress of a diver's hand across their bellies. Scalloped hammerheads ease through these waters by the hundreds and pause above the rocky, volcanic substrate to wait for vividly colored clarion angelfish to rise and cleanse them of parasites and dead skin. Pods of dolphins come in numbers large enough to fill the water column. Tiger, silky and Galapagos sharks can appear around any corner. The rocky outcroppings of Roca Partida and San Benedicto fall off divers' tongues with deep reverence.
Off Cocos, life comes not in single soldiers, but in battalions. Hundreds of scalloped hammerheads cruise the frequent currents, packs of night-feeding whitetip sharks hunt among the rocks, marbled rays come in numbers that resemble a magic-carpet convention, and schools of jacks can extend for several hundred yards. The big guys, manta rays and whale sharks, can show up at any time, and nothing compares to the electric thrill of jumping into blue water to watch a bait ball get decimated to the last fishy scale by billfish, sea lions, birds and sharks.
Both of these remote outposts are apex destinations that will leave your dive palette spoiled and aching for more.