Climate change is shuffling the deck of life in the big blue waters of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, where the longest Caribbean dry season in more than a decade is now in full swing. Little to no rain means the rivers are at an ultra-low volume and putting very little sediment into the sea. The oceanic result is crystal-clear water along the coast, with underwater visibility rivaling that of famous offshore islands.
The all-day sunny skies are thrilling tourists seeking balmy bliss on the palm- and jungle-fringed beaches, lapped by clear blue Caribbean waters. The same weather that brought a bumper crop of bananas is keeping divers fully stoked. Surfers are spending time underwater or heading to the Pacific, because this endless summer has had no swell, dude.
With no swell and no rain, the ocean turns the color of the sky. No coastal currents mean the diving is as easy as it gets in Costa Rica. Old folks and toddlers alike can snorkel just off the sand in what appears to be an endless pool.
Just like some people go for a run, put on a mask, fins and snorkel and go for a swim. The conditions are perfect for swimming for kilometers over bright sand and psychedelic reef. Only in this way can you appreciate the true size of the reef area off the southern Caribbean coast. You can literally snorkel every day, all day, for a month and not see the same piece of reef. Not even the locals know the entire reef.
The awesome visibility is revealing places normally hidden in the depths. Stand on the shore with the sun at your back, and the green and yellow hues of the reef stand out among bright sand channels, everything touched by the big blue. Plunge in and swim out, and you are pretty much flying as the bottom drops away beneath you. You can see small shells and little fish clearly defined far below. Try putting your arms out in front of you, Superman style, as the sunbeams dance around you.
The unusual conditions have brought about a change of habits in many sea mammals. Bottlenose dolphins are hunting more frequently off Manzanillo, sometimes gathering a following of people who watch and even catch fish along with the dolphins. More manatee sightings have been reported in the same area. The giant sea cows are taking advantage of a bumper crop of sea grass and are probably visiting from the successful manatee park a short swim away in the San San Lagoon in Panama. People are swimming all day long, as the warm water does not chill.
So, if someone tells you it’s rainy season in Costa Rica right now, go ahead and give a hearty belly laugh and tell them they don’t know the Caribbean. It seems the conditions may last until November or so, when the first fronts from North America’s winter arrive, bringing wind and swell. But with climate change, who really knows when the endless summer will end?