Socorro Islands Trip Report March 2015 - Bluewater Dive Travel
Socorro Islands Trip Report March 2015

Socorro Islands Trip Report March 2015



Bluewater Socorro Islands underwater photo workshop trip report


By Mark Strickland

photos by Alan NIghorn, Debbie Karimoto, Larry Garvey, Pedro Ramos, Petronel "Alin" Miu AND JIM & ANITA MCCHESNEY




The Rocio Del Mar getting ready to embark on another memorable journey to Socorro Islands 

Day 1: After we were treated our first of many tasty breakfasts, the majestic Rocio Del Mar started on its voyage to the Socorro Islands around 9 am. The weather was beautiful with light winds and sunny skies, but a steady swell reminded us that we’re on the open-sea. The adventure had barely begun when humpback whales surfaced nearby--definitely a good omen and a sign of things to come!




Friendly mantas of the Socorro Islands 

Day 2: We awoke to see San Benedicto Island on the horizon! With arrival time predicted just before lunch, I took the opportunity to conduct my first underwater photo seminar where we discussed camera settings and shooting strategies for the trip. The first dve was at Las Cuevitas or Little Caves. Easy conditions and moderate depth made for an excellent checkout dive, but this site also featured a great assortment of marine life including lobsters, stingrays and a turtle. The terrain was intriguing, consisting of rocky slopes punctuated by several swim-throughs that were home to schooling burrito grunts and a cluster of whitetip reef sharks. Before long it was time to ascend, but the highlight was yet to come, as a pair of friendly mantas arrived and entertained us for the remainder of our dive.  


A clutser of whitetip sharks

Mantas stayed with us throughout the dive


After lunch we moved around to The Boiler, one of the area’s premier sites that is especially known for mantas. Rising vertically to within a few feet of the surface, this isolated pinnacle is a natural magnet for marine life, including yellowtail surgeonfish, red-tail triggerfish, longnose butterflies, Clarion angelfish, creolefish and bluefin trevallies. The real stars, however, were a trio of giant mantas, which showed up within the first few minutes and stayed with us throughout the entire dive. I had heard that mantas here are exceptionally friendly, but was nonetheless amazed at how very relaxed these animals were. Not only were they tolerant of our close approaches, they actually seemed to seek us out, circling back again and again and often hovering within inches of our dome ports.


Colorful tropical fish were also abundant



Large school of trevally.

Day 3: Today we awoke to the sight of Socorro Island, which is surprisingly lush and green compared to the stark and barren landscape of San Benedicto. We dived Roca O’Neil and Punta Tosca and saw several species of sharks including whitetip reef, a pair of small silkies, a juvenile silvertip and a scalloped hammerhead. In the afternoon the crew gave us the option of whale watching instead of a third dive and the group jumped at the opportunity. Within just a few minutes of departure we sighted humpback whales just a few hundred feet off shore. They appeared quite relaxed, cruising very slowly, and in no time we were in the water with a mother, calf and escort. 



We had Humpback Whales all throughout the trip. 

A manta and her companions. 


Day 4: Roca Partida - Yaay! Rising dramatically from great depths, Roca Partida is an isolated pinnacle that drops precipitously on all sides. Visibility was excellent, easily 100 feet. Dense schools of creole fish and cotton-mouth jacks parted ranks as we descended the near-vertical walls. Our first stop was a set of narrow ledges at 50 feet, where over a dozen white-tip reef sharks were resting, snuggling like peas in a pod. From there, we spent the rest of the dive hanging in open water away from the rock, hoping for something big to appear out of the blue. We were treated with sightings of silky and silvertip sharks, bottlenose dolphins and yellowfin tuna. In most cases these animals kept their distance, but a few lucky divers had encounters within photo range.



 Roca Partida topside.



 Dense schools of fish in Roca Partida.

Gradually working our way upwards, we finished the dive with a drifting safety stop, during which a curious wahoo did a couple of casual laps around us. The second dive brought similar attractions, including several yellowtails, schooling bigeye jacks and a repeat visit by the dolphins. On the third and final dive for the day the activity level picked up considerably, as a wall of bonitos parted to reveal several silky sharks, followed by a squadron of hefty yellowfin tuna.


A black jack cruises by.


Playful dolphins were a treat.

Day 5: Roca Partida – Staying overnight at this open-sea location is often out of the question, but Neptune was kind to us with moderate wind and seas, allowing a second day at this renowned site. From the moment we back-rolled on the first dive it was clearly worth it, as we were serenaded by the unmistakable song of humpback whales. Silky and Galapagos sharks continuously cruised past, as did sizable yellowfin tuna. Before long, a squadron of bottlenose dolphin showed up, making several passes within easy photo range.




Socorro Islands are a great destination for sharks.



On the second dive several scalloped hammerheads, silvertips and wahoo came by to check us out. Dive three offered the same exciting marine life, highlighted by large moray out in the open, an unusually close pass by a squadron of Galapagos sharks, as well as intermittent appearances of big yellowfin tuna off in the blue. To cap it off, just as the last diver boarded the panga, a lone sea lion popped its head up to greet us!



We got manta encounters on almost every dive.


Day 6: San Benedicto Island, The Boiler – Surface conditions were choppier and visibility less than our previous visit, but marine life was as prolific as ever. As with nearly every morning, humpback whales spouted in the near-distance as we prepared for the first dive. Today The Boiler lived up to its name, as sizable swells churned the shallow waters above the pinnacle into froth. Once we got below 70 feet, however, visibility opened up to 60 feet allowing for quality photos. Within a few minutes, we were visited by a pair of exceptionally curious bottlenose dolphins. Not only did they cruise by at a leisurely pace, but twice they hung vertically in mid-water within just a few feet of a lucky photographer, happily posing for photos!




Curious dolphins came close enough for close up shots.



No sooner did the dolphins disappear than a contingent of mantas took their place, swooping and circling amongst us. The manta action continued steadily throughout the morning, reminding everyone why this place is so widely celebrated. Even surface intervals were a showcase of marine wildlife, as there was rarely a moment when dolphins or whales were not in view, and brown and red-footed boobies sailed past at close range. Dinner was also a special event, as we took advantage of our sheltered anchorage, dining under the stars on the top deck.


Lots of wildlife topside too.



We were treated to gorgeous sunsets every evening from the top deck of the Rocio.

Day 7: Tucked into a sheltered bay beneath San Benedicto’s iconic cinder cone, the boat was already in position for the day’s diving at The Canyon. A large plateau that slopes steeply on three sides, this site is especially known for scalloped hammerheads, as well as silky, silvertip and occasional tiger sharks. Above water, the action was virtually non-stop as humpback after humpback passed by at close range. Breaching also continued regularly throughout the day, including one incredible triple-breach by mother, calf and escort. Underwater visibility improved as the day went on, allowing many divers to get a glimpse of scalloped hammerheads, along with a wide variety of reef fish.



There were lots of colorful reef fish in the Socorro Islands.


And lots of interesting geographical formations underwater.


All too soon it was time to get underway for Cabo San Lucas, but everyone on board agreed that they hoped to return sometime soon!  

                 - Mark Strickland                                                                        



 Huge smiles from everyone on the Bluewater workshop. Thanks for a memorable trip. 


Socorro 2015 from Chrissle Wizzle on Vimeo.





Join Bluewater and the Rocio Del Mar in Socorro Islands April 19 - 27, 2016 for an underwater photo workshop featuring daily seminars, photo reviews and one-on-one sessions. 

Email us at to reserve your spot today.



Join Bluewater and Mark Strickland in the Andaman Islands on the exclusive Infiniti Liveabaord February 25 - March 6, 2016 for an underwater photo workshop in one of his favorite dive destinations in the world. 


Email us at to reserve your spot today.


Bluewater Travel can book you on a trip to Socorro Islands diving from any liveaboard for the same cost or less than booking any other way. We know the routes, cabins, marine life and when to go better than anyone else!


Email us at to start your adventure.



For more photos, view the slideshow at the top of the page



Sign up for the mailing list today