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giant manta dive at Isla Socorro
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SOCORRO ISLAND 2014 TRIP REPORT

 

Dive Socorro

 

Looking through my images from our 2014 Socorro Expedition, the problem is obvious. It would be impossible for me to show you all of the amazing encounters that we had in one short trip report!

 

We spent our first day at The Canyon on San Benedicto Island. This tends to be the place where everyone does their checkout dives on expeditions to the Revillagigedo Archipelago.  We saw a few hammerheads cruising around the cleaning station, plus some octopuses, a couple of electric rays, a frogfish and one giant manta, so it was kinda slow by Socorro standards :)

 

Octopus at Socorro Island

 

The Canyon was a good place for me to drop the Deep Cam because there is deep water fairly close shore. It ended up a bit shallower than intended but it was at the perfect depth for all sorts of interesting fishes that live in the 200-400ft range. Here is a frame-grab from the video of a Spotback Scorpionfish Pontinus vaughani; a species that generally inhabits water far too deep for divers to reach:

 

Spotback Scorpionfish at San Benedicto Island

 

On day two we planned to visit the famous 'Boiler' where giant mantas actively seek out divers but the weather was so good that we decide to steam overnight to world famous Roca Partida (Split Rock).

In my humble opinion, Roca Partida is the best dive site for large pelagic marine life in all of North America. A sweeping statement for sure but probably an accurate one.

We spent two days circling that guano covered islet and each dive was better than the last. We started by shooting the colonies of reef whitetip sharks that crowd onto the tiny ledges cut into the monolith.

 

Whitetip Reef Sharks at Roca Partida

 

Then, we kicked frantically into the current to reach an aggregation of Galapagos Sharks, Silvertips and Scalloped Hammerheads while they finned casually past us (as if mocking our efforts).

 

Galapagos shark at Roca Partida

 

While floating around the rock we were visited by a jet black manta and then a more common black and white one. This was a nice treat because manta sightings more often occur at Socorro Island and San Benedicto.

 

Black Manta Ray at Roca Partida

 

On each dive we were accompanied by huge schools of silvery bigeye jacks and many colourful fish species that clung to the relative safety of the rock. Enormous yellowfin tuna hunted among the schools just out of photographic range and every now and then the Galapagos sharks would slip by looking for weaklings to weed out of the gene pool.

 

Moorish Idols at Roca PartidaPufferfish at Roca Partida

Bigeye Jacks schooling at Roca Partida

 

The icing on the cake was a whale shark that spent an entire afternoon lapping the pinnacle. Whale sharks are not uncommon at Roca Partida but they normally arrive later in the summer. Seeing one during humpback and manta season was a rare treat! The whale shark was accompanied by an entourage of skittish Galapagos sharks that repeatedly rubbed themselves on the whale shark's flanks. They may have been using their school bus sized cousin as a scratching pad to remove parasites but I have heard stories from the Galapagos Islands of whale sharks approaching Galapagos sharks in order to get their remoras removed. Perhaps both of these things were taking place.

 

Whale shark at Roca Partida

 

After two glorious days at Roca Partida we awoke at Socorro Island itself and prepared to dive a hammerhead/dolphin/manta site named Cabo Pierce. As if by appointment, we were greeted by the resident pod of bottlenose dolphins that like to play with divers early each morning before heading off to hunt.

 

Dolphins at Cabo Pierce on Socorro Island

 

There were schools of hammerheads off in the blue but we spent our dives hovering at the cleaning stations and enjoyed wonderful interactions with giant mantas. Some of the mantas swam right onto the reef where they would be met by Clarion Angelfish that picked off their parasites and cleaned out their clogged gills.

 

Giant Manta at Cabo Pierce on Socorro Island

 

After just one tantalizingly short day at Socorro we pulled anchor and headed back to San Benedicto to dive the site that really defines the whole Revillagigedo Archipelago. 'The Boiler' is a cleaning station at the end of a long volcanic pinnacle on the south side of the island. The manta interactions one is likely to experience at The Boiler are unparalleled because the mantas like to swim right up to divers so that the diver's bubbles roll over their bellies. This may be part if their process of removing parasites but I'm inclined to believe that they simply like the way it feels.

 

Diver blowing bubbles on a manta at the boiler

 

In very choppy conditions we jumped from the zodiacs into water with great visibility. We were met by more dolphins but we soon made our way to the cleaning station itself and enjoyed dive after dive with 3-4m wide mantas. True to form, the mantas finned from one diver to the next reveling in tickling bubbles. I counted five huge mantas at once but there were many individuals that showed up just for one dive or another.

 

Manta at the boiler on San Benedicto Island

 

Every now and then a manta would approach the cleaning station itself as if remembering briefly that they were actually there to get rid of parasites but then they would quickly turn back and rejoin the divers. It was a dreamy scene that I doubt any of our guests will forget.

 

Diver and manta at the boiler on San Benedicto

 

Late in the day we hopped on the zodiacs for a spot of humpback watching. The encounters were brief as they often are here but some of our divers were rewarded with great views of the moms and calves as they swam by.

 

Humpback mother and calf at San Benedicto Island

 

The next morning (our sixth and final day at the islands) we snuck in another dive at The Canyon where we saw more hammerheads and quite a few silky sharks. Then (in order to avoid a mutiny) we returned to The Boiler for a final farewell dive before heading back to Cabo San Lucas.

 

Two mantas swimming at the boiler at San Benedicto Island.

 

Happy divers at Roca Partida

Some of our very happy guests from this year's Socorro trip.

 

Great interactions, great weather, a great crew, great food and a great group of guests. This year's Socorro Expedition will be very hard to top but I'm more than happy to try :)

 

SOME OF THE COMMENTS FROM THIS YEAR'S GUESTS:

 

In today's day and age words like awesome and amazing are thrown around to all too often to describe normal everyday events. Big Fish Expeditions' Manta Trip to Socorro was anything but normal. This trip was quite simply EPIC to the truest definition of the word. You could sense the careful planning in every detail of the trip from the boat, crew, and timing of the trip. The team at Big Fish delivered an unforgettable, world class diving trip! Everything we hoped to see made an appearance including the white tips and hammerheads at Roca Pardita, the infamous playful Socorro dolphins and scuba-loving mantas at the Boiler. The breaching humpbacks and an unexpected whale shark were amazing additional bonuses. There was nothing more we could have asked for from either the marine life or the boat and crew. We'll definitely be looking to book with Big Fish Expeditions again in the future.
Alex & Andrea Covelli, Ontario, Canada.

 

(Only) my second trip with Andy, but what a trip!!!

Unlike a number of the divers on these trips, I'm more a diver than a photographer, so my approach might be slightly different. I have been diving on all continents (except the cold one..:-))
but this trip completely changed my references. On the diving side it was just better than anything I've done in French Polynesia, Madagascar, New Zealand et cetera.
But Andy's way of being a guide you exchange with makes such a difference to the 'stars' that organize equivalent trips and this makes the atmosphere on board just great. I feel I have 16 new friends that I know I'll cross paths with again soon.
Thanks Laura and Andy and see you soon!

Kjeld Ibsen, Marseille, France.

 

Thank you for a fantastic, wonderful adventure! The Socorro trip was absolutely the best dive trip for me yet! Diving and interacting with the Mantas, dolphins, hammerheads and multiple different kinds of sharks, whale sharks and whales was magical! Thanks again! I will sign up soon for my next dive with you!

Gary McClain, USA

 

 

Join us next March for our 2015 Socorro Expedition

 

See you there!

Andy Murch

 

Humpback Whale breaching at San Benedicto Island in the Revillagigedo Archipelago

 

 

A PORTION OF THE PROCEEDS FROM BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS FUNDS

THE PREDATORS IN PERIL PROJECT

predatorsinperil.org

 

 

Snorkel with Japanese Giant Salamanders

American crocodile diving

 

 

READ THE LATEST:

Sardine Run Trip Report

 

Andy Murch Trip Leader

Andy Murch

EXPEDITION LEADER

Andy Murch is a fanatical big animal diver.

He has photographed and dived with more sharks than most people on this planet and he's very good at it.

Andy's images and shark stories have appeared in hundreds of books and magazines around the world from titles as varied as Canadian Geographic, Scuba Diving, FHM, Digital Photography,  and the Journal of Zoology.

Andy is the Creator of the ever expanding Shark and Ray Field Guide on Elasmodiver.com 

 

When not running big animal expeditions or on photographic assignments, Andy lives and dives on Vancouver Island, Canada

 

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Predators in Peril

Andy is also the driving force behind the PREDATORS IN PERIL PROJECT which shines a spotlight on many endangered species of sharks and rays that are largely overlooked by mainstream conservation groups. Predators In Peril is entirely funded by Big Fish Expeditions.

 

Find out more here:

PredatorsInPeril.org

 

Predators in Peril Project