Diving Mexico’s Wild Side
Socorro, March 2018
By Vijay Raman
A tiny isolated rock outcropping rises up from the depths. About 300 feet wide and just over 100 feet above the surface of the ocean, Roca Partida is a remote and exposed rock in the middle of the ocean. There is no other land mass within 70 miles. Above the surface is a desolate guano covered rock, where only migratory sea birds reside for short respites along their journey, but below the surface, the rock is a magnet to pelagic marine life. We are in the middle of the Revillagigedos Archipelago about 300 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas and completely out of range of any internet connection and any light or air pollution! Deep breath…Aaaah!
Socorro is well known for its mantas
It’s our second day here and since a couple of boats left the area the night before, we were able to jockey for first position to get into the water, before any of the other liveaboards in the area. The staggering of the dive times with other liveaboards, allowed the groups to enjoy the wonders of Roca Partida in smaller groups, thereby allowing for better encounters and interactions. So in the early morning light, we bounced across the cobalt seas in our panga, to the drop off point, just off of the rock, to see what wonders would await. We descended through the beams of sunlight, that penetrate at low angles, down into the depths of the blue waters, no one else around but our group of seven, plus guide. We head deep into the blue, a good distance away from the rock, in search of the elusive hammerhead sharks that patrol the depths. We could see several sharks, their shadows just into the edge of view, rarely close enough to get a proper shot with our camera’s. On occasion, we were teased as silvertip and large Galapagos sharks make closer passes, yet still not close enough for a sharp image. After fifteen or twenty minutes of exploring the blue, we finned back to the rock to check out the huge schools of jacks and other fish and groups of sleeping white tip sharks. We were buzzed several times by a very large yellowfin tuna. We could have ended the dive happy, but the dive was not yet over.
Huge schools of fish congregate at Roca Partida
We broke away from the rock again and back into the blue, to complete our safety stop. As we ascended to about 30 feet we came upon a couple of silky sharks. At first one or two, but quickly we found ourselves in the middle of a huge pack of hundreds of silky sharks, feeding on a baitball above us. The baitfish were trying to find shelter under the panga and the panga was coming towards us to pick us up when we ascended. Gotta love when the boat crew will even bring over baitballs and huge packs of sharks for you to photograph while on your safety stop. Thanks guys! J
Close passes by silky sharks
A baitball tries to find shelter under the panga, while sharks circle
Hundreds of silky sharks envelope us in a frenzy of action
It was an incredible experience to be in the middle of all of the action. Within three minutes the crazed energy subsided. The remaining baitball had moved on, seeking shelter elsewhere and only a few silkys remained behind. Our computers signaled that our safety stop was over and we were ready to get back into the panga. The mood was electric and no coffee was needed that morning!
Whitetip sharks find a crevice to sleep, sharing the space with a resident moray eel
That was how the day started at Roca Partida and to top it off, the day would finish with one of our groups getting a close fly by, from a beautiful whale shark. So goes the diving here. Wild and unpredictable. A slow day can quickly open up to highly charged dives, the next.
Socorro also has a lot of beautiful reef fish, like this Mexican hogfish
The Revillagigedos Archipelago is comprised of four islands, yet most of the diving takes place on San Benedicto Island, Socorro Island and Roca Partida. Clarion Island is quite a bit beyond, so is usually not visited on a seven-day trip. The general season is from November to May. The earlier and later months are a bit warmer, with water temperatures in the upper 70’s to low 80’s. The months of February and March, into early April, are generally cooler and can be in the low to mid 70’s, but it is the best time to encounter humpback whales. On our trip, the water temps varied from 72 to 78 degrees and a 5mm wetsuit seemed adequate. Some of those in our group liked to wear a hood or hooded vest for extra warmth. Visibility was excellent for most of our dives, exceeding 100 feet. Some of the near shore dives we did in San Benedicto had lesser visibility perhaps as low as 30 or 40 feet at times. Currents can be challenging at times, so this area is best suited for advanced divers.
Pacific bottlenose dolphins at San Benedicto Island
The crossing is usually 24-26 hours to get to the first dive sites from Cabo. We made use of the time to get our gear set up and ready for the following day of diving and the group convened for a few workshops detailing wide-angle photography and working with Adobe Lightroom.
A whitetip shark cruises along the reef
Our first dives began the following afternoon at San Benedicto Island. The first day with check out dives was overall fairly uneventful, with a few white tip sharks, torpedo rays and lots of local reef fish, but still a lot of fun. The following day really heated up when we moved to the other side of the island to dive at the Boiler. We were met with a pod of Pacific bottlenose dolphins, which hung around and played with us on our morning dive and had mantas circling us throughout the day. From San Benedicto, we moved on to Socorro Island to dive Cabo Pierce. We had several encounters with sharks, including Galapagos, silvertips and a few hammerheads.
A pod of bottlenose dolphins spent the morning with us
The second half of the week consisted of two action-packed days at Roca Partida, before finishing off with one last day at San Benedicto, where we had more time with the mantas, schools of tuna and a few of us even had a visit with a tiger shark. All in all, it was an excellent trip, enjoyed by all onboard.
The Bluewater Photo group and crew of Rocio del Mar
The following are several of the amazing photos taken from the guests on our trip. Enjoy!
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