Report on a Classic Destination:


One of the consequences of a diving destination achieving fame is that it can become crowded with divers. Some of my favorite places from the olden days are now dotted with countless buoys, which have a different dive boat on each one every hour.

Sorry. Just not my kind of place.

Some years ago, I had the good fortune to revisit Malpelo, a remote, rocky spire that explodes vertically out of the eastern Pacific 300 miles off the coast of Colombia. It is a destination I have treasured since my first visit there five years ago.

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Carl's latest Raggie comes out to be photographed!

What makes Malpelo so incredible is the series of obstacles it presents to the vast majority of divers. A flight to Costa Rica with a forced hotel overnight. An early-morning flight to the southern seaport of Golfito. Then a thirty-hour cruise to reach the island. Finally, when you arrive there you can't even step ashore (sheer thousand-foot cliffs!), there are just no beaches!

OK. Now there is nobody left reading this but the most serious divers. Welcome aboard!! If you can reach Malpelo,You are going to experience some of the most sensational diving you have ever known!

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Malpelo at Dawn

A Calico Bass hides amid Cup Coral.

Schooling Goatfish!

White Striped Angelfish!

Malpelo at Dawn

A Spotted Grouer hides amid Cup Coral.

Schooling Goatfish!
White Stripped Angelfish
Malpelo Lobster and Shaddowy fish
Malpelo Hammerheads In Bad Visibility
Yellow Pufferfish Arothron!
Main Island of Malpelo
Lobster with Shadowy Fish left
Hammerhead Shark rest in placid water!

Yellow Pufferfish (Arothron)

Main Island of Malpelo

What you need is an expeditionary vessel which can also act as a platform for Malpelo's pinpoint dive sites.I used that term 'pinpoint' because each site requires that three, or all six, divers leap into the water at precisely the right spot. OR you just miss it and all the animals are after you!!!

. . . And what animals they are!! On my visit we began by enjoying the thrill of huge schools of hammerhead sharks in depths of only 20 to 50 feet! Those of you who who reach this amazing place will jump into the water at "Carl's Corner" and practically be run over by a herd of hammerheads! Time and again they swim right up to you for easy photo opportunities.

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Mapelo Hammerhead Among Creole Fish

Mapelo Oncoming Hammerhead

Mapelo Confident Hammerhead

Malpelo Tropical Fish And Hammerheads

Between dives with the hammerheads we occasionally were stunned by huge, fast-moving bait balls, usually signified by hundreds of seabirds dive-bombing hapless schools of baitfish, while dozens to hundreds of sharks and other predators savagely attacked the baitfish from below.

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Mapelo Baitball Near Malpelo Islands

Mapelo Baitball In Open Sea

Mapelo Birds Dive-bombing Baitfish

A seething "BAITBALL" with the main island in the distance.

Birds attack Baitfish with Sharks below!!!!!

Birds dive-bombing Baitfish!!

Another astounding sight were the moray eel "condos," where ten to a dozen huge morays peer at you in intimidating numbers, especially when you are fluttering in those interesting Malpelo currents. I have seen moray eels in many parts of the world, and I tell you frankly, I have simply never seen anything even remotely close to this.

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Mapelo Spaghetti Tangle Of Moray Eels

Mapelo Two Moray Portrait

Mapelo Tangle Of Huge Morays

Mapelo Reef Fish with Moray Eel trailing Mapelo Green Moray Threatening

A swarm of Moray Eels at the "Eel Condo"!

A pair of large Moray Eels!

A dozen Moray Eels at the "Eel Condo". . .

Reef Fish with Moray Eel trailing
Green Moray Threateing
This trip, there was a monumental new thrill at Malpelo, a stunner recently found at The Inzan Tiger's secret seamount. This remote site was for eight years The Inzan Tiger's private treasure-trove, and Capt. Heinz and his wife Zan once made a profound discovery there.

The secret sea-mount is the home of what surely seems an entirely new species of large shark. Dubbed the Tiger ragged-toothed shark and tentatively classed as Tiburon Odontaspis ferox del Tiger, these behemoths can be 12 to 18 feet in length! To anyone's knowledge, they have never before been observed or filmed anywhere!

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Mapelo Confident Hammerhead

Tony Wu With Ragged-Tooth Shark

Mapelo Confident Hammerhead

Captain Heinz At 200 Feet With Gian tDeep Raggie

Zan films the Tiger Ragged-Toothed Shark.

Tony Wu at 210 feet with a Tiger Ragged-Toothed Shark.

Captain Heinz with a large Tiger Ragged-Toothed Shark!

Captain Heinz at 200 feet with a large Tiger Ragged-Toothed Shark!

One significant difficulty with these massive sharks is that they seem to spend their daylight hours well below the depth limits of sport diving. Some of our probes to film them took us below 200 feet in cold (59 degree F.) water. I was frankly expecting my Nikonos III to flood, but it performed heroically. The risk of this diving is that when you see the Raggies you dive to them without ever thinking of your increasing depth. Lectures on the boat don't seem to count when you're down there in the presence of these dark colossi...

Given all this and the remoteness of their seamount I feel very fortunate to have been among the very first divers to spend time with them. Another unforgettable adventure!!

The Inzan Tiger supported research efforts for a Discovery Channel special to bring these leviathans to the notice of scientists. I expect a lot of interest in this spectacular find!

Meanwhile, I will surely never forget my brief encounters with these titans of the neither world. Malpelo and The Inzan Tigerhave never failed to thrill me--and now they've done it on a bigger scale than ever!! My heartfelt thanks to Heinz, Zan and their dedicated crew.

The era of The Inzan Tiger in Malpelo was a Golden Age for divers at this unique location. Over the years, other boats will eventually make regular trips to Malpelo, but its treasures will guard their secrets. For those of us who dove there, it will always be a place of magic!
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Destination Malpelo Aboard The Inzan Tiger

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