ISLAND 2016 TRIP REPORT
Socorro 2016 in a
nutshell: Socorro lived up to its reputation as
the best big animal destination in North America yet again!
As usual, after a calm overnight crossing to
Isla San Benedicto, our first dive day started with a couple
of sharky dives at a site called The Canyon. A few
hammerheads and Galapagos sharks came in to investigate and
there were a handful of whitetips, one curious silvertip and
our first giant manta.
After the dives, we found some silkies
hanging around our ship so we slipped in and shot some great
images of them framed against the golden rays of the dying
sun. Not a bad start to a week in the Revillagigedo
Overnight we sailed to Roca Partida. 'The
Rock' is a remote pinnacle in the middle of nowhere that is
a magnet for pelagic predators. Out of the four dives we
conducted that second day, on three we found schooling
All the other shark species were also present
plus a few giant mantas. Most of the guests followed the
dive master deep into the blue to look for more hammers but
I stayed by the pinnacle and played with the reef whitetip
sharks that crowd onto tiny ledges carved by the surge into
the walls of the rock. Why the whitetips huddle on the tiny
ledges instead of spreading out on the bottom is a mystery.
I believe that the relative safety of the shallow ledges
probably affords them some protection from the bigger sharks
that hunt in the depths.
Exposed Roca Partida would not be a god place
to get caught in a storm because there is nowhere to hide.
Underwater, there is an area on one side that is very
slightly concave. In that subtle lea, there is a resident
school of bigeye jacks that swirl and weave incessantly in
an effort to hold position in that one protected spot. There
are also enormous clouds of small snappers and swarms of
tiny baitfish. Periodically, gigantic yellowfin tuna race
through the multitudes of smaller fishes, picking off the
This is my favorite place to off-gas before
surfacing to rejoin the group. After searching for the big
stuff out in the current, I would drift into that fish bowl
and float among those mesmerizing jacks, watching each
species hunting and avoiding predators. Roca Partida is a
very special piece of ocean real estate.
We left Roca Partida that night and awoke at
a dive site called Punta Tosca on Socorro Island. The first
dive there was fairly uneventful unless you count all the
fishes and whitetip sharks. The second turned out to be a
lot more entertaining. Our group came across three Galapagos
sharks that were ripping apart a giant electric ray.
As there is no baiting allowed in Socorro,
the sharks are usually seen passively swimming around. So,
it was quite an eye opener to see them tearing into a the
carcass of a ray. One took a big cresent shaped bite out of
its pectoral fin and then the other two litterally shook it
in half. Quite a show for our divers!
Later that day we dove Rock Oneil. Unlike
most sites in the archipelago that are pinnacles or ridge
tops, Rock Oneil is a raised plateau topped with craggy rock
outcrops. To me it resembles a ruined castle perched on a
There are caves and swim-throughs filled with
fishes, eels, crabs and lobsters and plenty of other marine
life to keep people busy while they wait for the first manta
to show up.
After navigating our way through the swim-throughs
and snapping lots of fish portraits, we rose onto the top of
the shallow plateau and found a manta to accompany us while
we decompressed. After a nice long encounter could have gone
on all afternoon, we left the manta behind and returned
reluctantly to the chase boat.
That evening we relocated to the far side of
Isla Socorro and anchored at Cabo Pierce; a rocky ridge top
that has two deep manta cleaning stations. The next morning,
as if they had been waiting for us to show up, two enormous
mantas rose from the depths to be cleaned as we approached
the ridge. I've never been disappointed with Cabo Pierce. It
seems like there are always one or two mantas that need a
manicure from the busy clarion angelfish that work at the
cleaning station. I assume this means that there actually
must be hundreds of mantas that arrive one by one throughout
That night we sailed back to San Benedicto.
All week the dive masters had been raving about The Boiler;
a famous site for mantas and dolphins. When we plunged in
the next morning, the dolphins were there waiting.
There are lots of places that you can run
into dolphins around the world. Most want nothing to do with
humans. Some are vaguely curious but quickly leave, and then
there are a few spots where the dolphins seem to really
enjoy human company.
The dolphins in Socorro seem to have a pretty
easy life. There are plenty of fish to eat and they don't
appear to have many run-ins with predatory sharks. So they
have a lot of free time and being intelligent animals, they
I've watched them playing 'patty cake' (that
clapping game that little kids play), I've seen them rubbing
each other's fins to make squeaking noises, I've seen them
chasing jacks just for fun, I've seen them playing pass the
sea star. So when the humans show up, its not surprising
that they swim over to hang out. Its not that we are
particularly interesting but there just isn't much else to
So we fell in among the dolphins and they
stayed with us for the majority of the dives we did that
day. They were so much fun to watch as the raced back and
forth through our group that the mantas became almost an
afterthought. The mantas also like to hang out with people
at the boiler. They seem to really enjoy the sensation of
bubbles rolling over their bellies so they returned time
after time to the group.
The next morning (day six) we snuck in two
more dives with the dolphins and mantas before starting the
long crossing back to Cabo San Lucas. Another great week of
diving in the bag, thousands of images and videos saved to
hard drives and many new friendships started. All that was
left was a great night out in Cabo and fond fairwells the
next morning. I love Socorro.
2017 is already getting full so sign up now
if you want to experience this epic destination:
2017 Socorro Diving
OF THE PROCEEDS FROM BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS FUNDS
THE PREDATORS IN