Socorro 2023 Trip Report - Bluewater Dive Travel
Socorro 2023 Trip Report

Socorro 2023 Trip Report

Socorro, Mexico (Revillagigedo Archipelago) Trip Report

February 2023

A BLUEWATER TRAVEL Underwater Photo workshop

Trip Leader: Mark B. Hatter

Photos by Mark B. Hatter (using a Nikon D850 in a Subal housing, with 13mm & 20-35mm Nikonos R-UW lenses, and dual Ikelite DS230 strobes), and workshop guest Linda ZathVideos by workshop guests Tim Johnson & Bobby Arnold


In what has become an annual signature trip for Bluewater Travel, our February 2023 photo workshop in Socorro was, once again, an epic adventure.


 Socorro 2023 Manta 


One measure of success for a diving destination is the number of repeat guests who are so impressed with a voyage, that they book the same trip more than once.  In our case, this year’s 2023 adventure on the Rocio Del Mar demonstrated just how popular and successful the Bluewater Socorro trips have become.  Indeed, a third of our divers in February 2023 were repeat guests, just from the previous year!

Socorro 2023 Socorro 2023


And for 2023, we were fortunate from the small to the large.  From the beginning, our voyage was problem free; all the guests arrived as scheduled with no delays and with full kits to dive and shoot in the remote islands off the west coast of Mexico.  Our good juju continued after a moderate crossing with relatively quiet seas and clear skies for most of the week at the dive sites.  Our guests had no issues with photo and video gear (pretty much unheard of) throughout the course of the trip and, most importantly, the main event animals showed up and preformed spectacularly…in numbers!  


Socorro 2023 Socorro 2023

February is an important month for diving the Revillagigedo Archipelago, the formal name of the island set more commonly known as Socorro.  Recognized as a transition month where transient oceanic creatures such as humpback whales and whale sharks might be encountered simultaneously, Bluewater has perennially blocked a week in February each year to offer guests the highest probability of transient encounters.


 Socorro 2023 Whale Shark Socorro 2023 White Tip Shark 


For example, last year’s trip was fortunate to have an underwater encounter with a humpback whale mother and calf.  On our trip, the humpback families were nearby almost daily, with little newborns playfully breaching throughout the day.  Yet, in Socorro, an underwater encounter is always on the whale’s terms, and that was a lottery ticket we missed in 2023.  On the flip side, our whale shark lottery ticket was a winner at Roca Partida (Split Rock), an iconic dive sight where “anything can happen.”  


Socorro 2023 White Tip Shark Socorro 2023 Jacks 


On our first dive of the day, we were thrilled to have a small whale shark remain with all three dive groups, parading back and forth off the rock wall, for the better half of our bottom time.  Under bright sunshine, we collected stills and video clips of an encounter that many still dream of having.  Roca Partida continued to produce on our subsequent dives with giant schools of jackfish, a 200-pound yellowfin tuna patrolling the rock wall for a meal, and the iconic ledge where a dozen or more whitetip sharks can be found sleeping during daylight hours.

Of course, whale sharks and humpbacks are always welcomed side shows in Socorro, but it was the top billing animals, oceanic manta rays, schooling scalloped head sharks, Galapagos sharks, silvertip sharks, and silky sharks, that stood out on our 2023 excursion.        


  Socorro 2023 Hammerheads  


The Canyon, a dive site with a deep cleaning station off San Benedicto Island, offered the most in variety and opportunity.  Cleaning stations are where oceanic animals gather to have parasites removed from their bodies by obliging fish.  In Socorro, the fish which engage in cleaning behavior include the Barber fish, a variety of butterflyfish, and the Clarion Angelfish, a spectacularly colored animal found only in the Revillagigedo Archipelago.   


 Socorro 2023 Clarion Angel Fish Manta Socorro 2023 Clarion Angel Fish 

At the Canyon, our guests photographed and videoed something I had personally hoped to witness; dozens of Clarion Angelfish, working in unison, actively cleaning a giant oceanic manta.  The bright orange-yellow Clarions contrasting against the black or black and white bodied mantas as they cleaned the giants, was a memorable photo/video graphic experience.  


Tim Johnson shares his underwater footage from Bluewater Travel's Socorro 2023 Underwater Photo Workshop


 Socorro 2023 Manta by Linda Zath Socorro 2023 Manta by Linda Zath Socorro 2023 Manta by Linda Zath Socorro 2023 Manta by Linda Zath 

'The Chase' - a photo series by Linda Zath (click to zoom) from Bluewater Travel's Socorro 2023 Underwater Photo Workshop


It would seem that a manta encounter at a cleaning station would be the highlight of any dive site.  At the Canyon, you’d be wrong.  The cleaning station gave us more species of sharks in higher numbers than I have ever encountered.  By my count, the silvertips and co-mingling Galapagos sharks, with an occasionally silky, approached a dozen at the cleaning station on every dive.  Better yet, off the drop-off, twice as many schooling scalloped hammerhead sharks cruised deep in “drive-by” fashion.  Indeed, at the end of each dive, the chorus from the guests seems to always return to the same question; “Did you see all of those hammerheads?”  


 Socorro 2023 Socorro 2023  


The yardstick to measure success is fluid if not debatable.  That said, depending on one’s previous experience, measuring the current encounter at least has a benchmark from that previous event.  

I’m pretty sure that the yardstick for Socorro, at least with regard to manta encounters, just got a bit longer after an epic day at the Boiler off San Benedicto Island.  I say this because one repeat guest from the previous year gushed at the number of giants we experienced on each of four dives that day, which were more than they’d encountered the previous year.  At the end of the day, to quote Forest Gump, Socorro dives “are like a box of chocolates…”  At least for me, the box was filled with nougat and truffles, my favorites!


 Socorro 2023 Socorro 2023  


Certainly, the reputation of a great diving destination goes a long way in drawing new and repeat guests.  But it takes more than epic animal encounters to “make” a memorable voyage.  This is where the Rocio Del Mar fills the void.  The crew is excellent, from the captain, who is always on deck to help with dive gear, to the skilled and personable dive guides, to the professional dingy drivers, deck and galley crew, to the chef.  

Socorro 2023 completed my third adventure on the Rocio Del Mar and I was only partially kidding at our guest introductions when I said; “Hello, my name is Mark Hatter and I’m here for the food, not the diving!”   

Enjoy the images and the videos that accompany our trip report and don’t wait too long to book Socorro Underwater Photo Workshop 2024, it will undoubtedly fill up fast with repeat guests. 


Bobby Arnold shares his underwater footage from Bluewater Travel's Socorro 2023 Underwater Photo Workshop 



FEBRUARY 15 - 24, 2024

9 Nights for $4,095, double occupancy 

Trip Leader: Mark Strickland

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