#humansofyachting – Ofer Ketter
The submersible pilot at Cookson Adventures on his passion for the big deep.
“I started out as a diving instructor and worked for many years on an island called Cocos off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It’s a total nature reserve – there are no airports, hotels or marinas – just ranger stations. The only way to get there is by boat. I was leading scuba diving trips on liveaboards but the company I was working for also specialised in underwater film production. They had someone come and invest in the development of a submarine and I was chosen to be one of the first pilots to operate it. That was the beginning.
In parallel to that we also started receiving superyachts on Cocos. It was rare, but once in a while one would arrive and they would often need dive instructors. I started guiding guests on dives and some of them inevitably became interested in our submarine, so we started selling dives to visiting superyachts.
Eventually, the manufacturer that built our sub called and told me he’d sold one of his models to a private yacht and they were looking for a pilot. I went to meet the owner and ended up being hired as an external staff member. That evolved quickly into a full-time job. The owner was very adventurous and wanted to go where nobody had gone before. He planned entire expeditions around these dive destinations.
I’ve had so many incredible adventures underwater. Cocos Island is close to my heart – after years of diving at the same site, the sensation of going to depths that nobody had been before was really incredible to me. The island has quite a history – Jacques Cousteau was there in the 70s – and there is so much marine life. We discovered new species of deep water shark, giant jellyfish, sea mounds – the list goes on. Another memorable dive was near an island off Baja California where we found great white sharks at 200m – it had never documented before.
Great white shark
Great white shark
People might not get too excited about the Med anymore, but I just did an amazing trip there with Cookson. When you’re diving in submarines finding ancient shipwrecks that have never been seen before, it gets pretty exciting. We even discovered deep reefs with black and red coral that was thought to be extinct.
I’ve yet to see someone come out of a sub dive feeling indifferent. People tend to come out smiling and snapping their iPhones and saying it was the best experience of their lives. It’s so immersive. You’re sitting in a transparent bubble and everything you see, you are seeing for the first time. It’s impossible not to be amazed. For some people it’s the technology, for others it’s the fish, but everybody is excited. There is often a bit of anxiousness before getting in, but I think people don’t realise how much of a view there is. People imagine a sub being this tight, metal can with small windows, but it’s not. You’re sitting in a 360-degree cinema.
Subs started out as machines. Just like cars and planes, they weren’t initially designed for luxury. They were made by engineers to go down and come back up. There’s been a huge jump since I started; the seats, the Bluetooth speakers, the music, the touchscreens, the air-conditioning. Now that they have perfected the safety and technology side of things, there is space to look at leather stitching of the seats and all that stuff.
There are still some dives on my bucket list. I have been to the Poles but I haven’t been down there in a sub, so I’d like to do that. I’d also like to dive deeper. I have gone down to 500 metres, which sounds a lot, but the deepest point of the ocean is 11,000 metres. Subs are ready for that – they just finished the Five Deeps expedition to the five deepest points in the ocean. The technology is there.
Giant jelly fish
Giant jelly fish
I live in Costa Rica and I think it is a perfect superyacht destination; it should be on every owner’s bucket list. The Pacific coast is stunning year-round, and there’s a north season and a south season, so you can fill 12 months with cruising. There is the biggest wealth of sea life I’ve seen anywhere; everything from the blue whale down. And from a land point of view, we are talking easy access to rainforests, active volcanos, waterfalls, hot springs, wildlife – it’s one of the most bio-diverse places in the world.”