Socorro - Islands of Paradise
This Insider Divers’ trip is unquestionably up there as one of my most memorable dive trips – ever. The trip offered a few days extension over Christmas allowing us to kick off our Mexican adventure in Cabo San Lucas followed by Cabo Pulmo. After that it was time for the main event, aboard the Solmar V and off to Socorro.
Read the trip report of our Christmas extension at the end of the page.
Check out this trip report by videographer Erick Higuera
As we headed out on our voyage, dolphins danced along our bow waves. It comes as no surprise that one needs to travel some distance to reach one of the few remaining untouched wonders of the ocean and travel we did. Some 380 miles out into the Pacific Ocean. The crossing was good and so it took us just 24 hours. No problem whatsoever. For those who are prone to seasickness do come prepared as conditions can be rough and we had a much more lumpy journey on the return home.
A good-looking boat and majestic in her deep green hues, the Solmar V is perfectly equipped for diving out in the Pacific Ocean. More than once during the crossing we appreciated her sturdy designs. The rooms are small, very small, but Simon had warned us of that and besides we didn’t plan to spend more time in our berths than necessary to sleep.
The reference to Socorro Islands is actually a general term – what we are in fact talking about is the Revillagigedo Islands, a group of four volcanic islands: San Benedicto, Socorro and Roco Partida (the inner islands) and the outer island, Clarion (which we didn’t visit). Each island is some distance from the other and the route the boat takes varies dependant on the conditions.
We visited all three of the inner islands over our 6 days in the archipelago. They are volcanic islands with a unique eco-system and each have their over character in terms of topography as well as the dive sites they have to offer.
(check out dive on 28th at Las Cuevas and then full day of diving at the Boiler on 29th and full day of diving at Canyon on 30th). The format differs from liveaboards in other destinations in that you will generally do multiple dives on the same site before moving on to the next site.
Dive Sites at San Benedicto:
Las Cuevas - simple check out dive. It is shallow and has a few swim throughs. A nice easy start. Highlight was seeing electric rays as well as a number of white tips and silver tips very close.
The Boiler – And here the real fun began! The Boiler is the most famous of the sites in this region and one of my favorites. Known for its dramatic thick tower of lava rock providing a wall to dive along. It sets an incredible backdrop for when the pelagic manta rays swoop in.
We had so many interactions with these mantas over the course of a number of dives on this site – it was serious manta-mania. Huge and dominating in their size, it was particularly special seeing the black (chevron) manta. Compared to other places, I found that here the mantas seemed much more willing to stick around and interact. On a number of occasions, we’d watch them sit on top of a diver to enjoy a body scratch from the escaping bubbles.
El Canyon – This site, on the south end of the Island, delivered our first sightings of schooling hammerheads and one of our few current dives. They were in the distance but it was a promising start. We even had a sneaky but brief visit from a tiger shark.
Another truly magnificent experience were the Silky Sharks under the boat. After every dive they would be cruising around us until we exited at water. At first it was an odd feeling but soon we realized they were totally relaxed and just swam around us with no aggression.
A few of the group topped off the day with sightings of a pod of five dolphins. The excitement had well and truly kicked-off!
(one day of diving on 31st).
Roca Partida is literally a small rock in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately I had to miss this day of diving due to an injury (fortunately temporary) but from the boat I could enjoy the remote location and lots of booby birds! The group saw swarms of jacks and tuna including the resident large tuna known as Sam and a number of Silver Tips, Galapagos and Silky Sharks.
(one day of diving Cabo Pearce on 1 Jan)
Cabo Pearce – We welcomed in the New Year with our own underwater fireworks display in the tune of silvertips, mantas, hammerheads, another tiger and … finally DOPHINS. The Dolphins unquestionably stole the show as they swam amongst us, naughtily teasing us to follow them down to the deep.
Back to San Benedicto
(one day of diving El Boiler on 2nd Jan)
We returned to the Boiler for the final day of diving and we had solid manta interactions for all four dives. The highlight was seeing a couple of dolphins cruise in on the tail of the Manta – it seemed we were all out to play that day. This was my best day of interactions with dolphins as they joined our group and we had fun pretending to swim like them and cherishing each interaction. An unforgettable end to an awesome week.
Thank you to the amazing crew of Solmar V – these guys worked so hard and their energy and enthusiasm was infectious.
The Diving in Socorro
Dives per day: 3-4 dives
Entry Method: occasionally off the back of the boat but usually onto the pangas and then gear on and back-roll in
Drinks & Food: included and you are extremely well fed and watered!
Temperature underwater: around 24 degrees
Wifi: don’t even think about it, you’ll be out of contact the whole trip
Join Simon and Insider Divers on their next visit to Socorro in 2020
Cabo San Lucas
Pelagic Safaris: snorkelling with humpbacks and mobulas
We commenced our trio of dives experiences by venturing out with Pelagic Safaris in Cabo San Lucas for a snorkeling safari (snorkeling not diving, for these first couple of days).
Wow this place is hot right now. Barely out of the harbor and we were jumping in with cameras a-ready to experience the mobula “popcorn” bonanza. A huge swarm of mobulas, decent viz and the frequent display of them flying out of the water and landing with a splat. We must have spent two energetic hours finning away in the water with these beautiful creatures.
Next up, hump back whales. I had not dared to believe that I would see whales on this trip. But there they were, breaching, fin slapping and all around us. We had a few sensational opportunities to free dive and come face to face with these magnificent beasts. Absolutely breath-taking.
We also spent some time trying to find silky sharks and the crew went into over-drive in terms of laying a slick of fish oil and guts as well as putting down mirrors and a sound maker. We didn’t see them over the two days we were out on the water but not for want of trying. Still, we were all too happy with two fantastic days of whale and mobula interactions.
The boat was comfortable and fast and I was impressed with our guide, Fernanda, who was passionate about the wildlife and highly knowledgeable. Five stars.
With a great start under our belts we pushed on up the coast to Cabo Pulmo in search of bull sharks.
What a contrast – whereas Cabos San Lucas is this lively buzzy Mexican town, Cabo Pulmo is a wild, remote national park and UNESCO heritage site. You’re not totally off the grid but almost. Behind you the desert and in front of you the Sea of Cortez, you feel close to nature with none of the modern distractions to take away from this tranquility. There are a few restaurants, a few basic stores and a couple of dive operators but other than its just time to settle down and relax (or in our case – go diving with sharks!). In December the sea has just started to turn green but that is why we were there. It’s during the months of December to August that you are most likely to find bull sharks.
October – November is said to be the best time of year to dive here, when the visibility is very good. But we had arrived a few weeks after the water had turned green - supposedly all the better for bull shark spotting.
Dive one disappointment. We clung to the reef, the only living hard coral reef in the Sea of Cortez, but saw little. Its chilly and the visibility isn’t great but on the second dive we went down and there they were, several large bull sharks. The biggest sharks I’d ever been close to. Topped only because we had, in the background, the sound of a humpback singing away in the distance. We were pumped and were lucky to have several more bull shark encounters whilst we were there, hanging out with at least 7 sharks on a cleaning station.
This is hardy experience as you’re getting in and out of the boat in lumpy seas and it isn’t warm. For those who have high expectations for the reef (especially those used to diving in Asia) then be ready to temper those expectations. But for the bull sharks it was worth it (especially when combined with the trip as a whole) and staying in Pulmo was really quite magical. We spent Christmas day there and we were all incredibly happy to be in this special place at that time.