I recently went on vacation to Costa Rica and brought along a recording rig. My main goal was to record capuchin monkeys but I wanted to make sure I got some ambiences while I was there. The resort I was staying in was an extremely noisy environment so capturing an ambience of any kind besides "resort" required getting as far away as I could from the hustle and bustle.
I got my chance when a few of us hired a boat and traveled about 45 minutes away from the resort to go snorkeling in an uninhabited cove. To be honest, the underwater scenery was underwhelming. The water was cloudy and the coral was dying. Also, I got stung from the top of my head down the side of my face and around my throat by a jellyfish - ouch. We did see some interesting fish, but on balance it was a bit of a painful disappointment.
After the snorkeling was done we stopped and had a barbeque lunch on a beautiful mile-long white sand beach. While the others ate, I had time to sneak off down to the end of the beach and capture some ambience of the waves rolling in from the Pacific ocean.
There is a reason that relaxation devices always include the sound of waves; this sound has some kind of instinctual calming effect on people. It's really hard to be stressed and dwell on your problems when the waves are gently rolling in from the ocean. Toronto, where I live, is on the shore of Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes. Three of the largest lakes in the world are included in the Great Lakes system -- they don't call them great for no reason -- they are huge. Yet when the waves roll in from these vast lakes it still has an entirely different quality than waves coming in off the ocean. I am not sure if it is the salt water or just the seemingly infinite size of the ocean, but ocean waves have a sound that is special.
This beach was protected by a chain of small islands just off the shore so the waves rolling in were really small, no crashing or smashing against the shore. Here, take a listen:
Later we pulled the boat up in a much more rocky coastal area. This area was also protected and not getting the full-sized ocean waves, but the sound of the water hitting the rocks was different. After the waves washed over the rocks, they sizzled until the next wave rolled in. Although it was extremely hot out (45 ºC or about 115ºF), I don't think the rocks could have been hot enough to make the water sizzle on their surface. So I am not actually sure what was causing this sound.
Back at the resort I was able hike along the shore a good distance and found another beach that was distinct because it was so shallow. You could walk out a couple hundred yards before the water was even up to your knees. As a result, the waves had lost any power they had by the time the fizzled out on the beach. These are some super-soft gentle waves. These waves could ease you to sleep if you were not careful.
Are you still awake? The last water sounds I'll share from my Costa Rican adventure are from a interesting little cave I stumbled across. It was not much to look at really, just a small opening in the rock face, but upon closer inspection I found out how amazing it was. There were two small tunnels that led deep into the rock and out to the open ocean on the other side of the cliff. The two tunnels were at 90 degree angles from each other, so water would stream in at different rates and times from each tunnel. The waves would crash into the the tiny cave and wash around before being sucked back out again. Then the next surge of water would flow in, in an erratic cycle. It was pretty cool. I wanted to get close and record this, but the current was pretty strong and a log was floating around inside the cave. I didn't want to climb in the water with my Sony D-50 recorder only to have the current pull my feet out from under me and dunk my recorder in salt water. Salt water and electronics don't play well together as we all know. But I was hearing something I had never heard before and knew I had to take the risk and get inside. Every once in a while waves would rush down both tunnels at the same time and collide with a sonic boom-like sound. I had never heard anything like it before. It only happened every couple minutes but when it did it was mind blowing.
I made the decision to climb in the cave with my recorder to capture this crazy cave ambience. Sadly this big booming noise wasn't very accurately captured by the D-50. I think it was just too low a frequency for the little mics on the recorder. This was a sound you could feel as much as hear and I think it was too much for the D-50. Luckily the current in the cave never knocked me over although it came close a couple times. The damn log floating around in there beat up on my shins pretty good though.
Take a listen to the waves in the cave and pay attention to the low boom hits every once in a while. I have included text in the video to identify one of the wave booms.