Socorro onboard the Solmar V December 9-17, 2006
The Archepielago de Revillagigedo consists of four islands-San Benedicto, Socorro, Roca Partido, and Clarion. Since hardly anyone can pronounce, or remember, the real name, this area is usually referred to as "Socorro Islands".
After just beating an ice storm out of Pittsburgh, we landed at the San Jose del Cabo airport. A 45 minute taxi van drive put us at the Siesta Suites, our home for two nights in Cabo San Lucas. Siesta Suites is a great little in-town hotel, close to all the action, but quiet enough to sleep. It has a homey, welcoming feel with basic, clean rooms, all with refrigerators and some with kitchens. There is a restaurant/bar next door, although not owned by Siesta Suites, which is a popular place to eat and hang out. It was a bit pricey, but we had leftovers that lasted two days. There are many other restaurants close by, and lots of establishments for night time fun. It's possible to see pretty much the whole town on foot; some of the beaches would be a drive.
Our group was picked up from Siesta Suites around 1:30pm and taken to the Solmar V, our home for the next week. The Solmar V is an older boat with lots of wood, even on the dive deck benches. The layout is efficient considering there are 22 guests plus staff. It was a full boat with 22 divers, including our celebrity photographers Bonnie Pelnar and Marty Snyderman. We were assigned our tank positions and cabins and got busy unpacking and setting up our dive gear.
The boat left the dock about 3:30pm and motored for the next 23 hours in slightly choppy seas to San Benedicto The boat has three levels, the sun deck, half of which is shaded by a large tarp, the main deck, with the galley, dining area, and dive deck, and the cabins below. The cabins were small; each had a tiny sink and a combination commode/shower. We got used to showering while sort of straddling the commode. A few people never took a shower in their cabin, preferring to use one of the two warm showers on the dive deck.
Meals were very good. Breakfast started out with a buffet of cold cereal, juice, and coffee. Once we were seated, Pepe came around with a plate showing us the available hot meal. Lunch was a hot sit-down meal beginning with soup, and supper was salad, entrée, dessert, and a choice of red or white wine. There were always cookies or left over desserts sitting out. Soda, wine, and beer were included in the price.
The dive deck is spacious, with plenty of room for maneuvering. There are 11 stations on each side of the boat, with the camera table in the middle, which got pretty crowded with all the cameras and cases. Each diver had a large plastic bin to keep personal dive gear organized under their seat. Wet suits were hung on a bar somewhat toward the bow; the 3 people that got assigned to that area always had wetsuits flapping in their faces, or people trying to squeeze between them and the wetsuits to get to the pangas. Each of the 2 pangas carried 11 divers plus two divemasters and the panga driver. After back-rolling off simultaneously and dashing back for cameras, we followed one dive guide while the other took up the rear, making sure we didn't wander or float off.
Our first "check-out" dive was shortly after arriving at San Benedicto Island, at Fondeadero, where we saw one manta and a hole full of lobsters. The next day we did four more dives at San Benedicto, one at the Boiler, and three at El Canon. We did see two mantas at the Boiler, but the visibility was unusually poor-this is where they usually see the mantas in large numbers doing their feeding loops.
The first dive at the Canyon, done off the main boat, was also very poor visibility, but the next dive was a little clearer and we saw several sharks and a giant manta that kept circling over my head. Then he hovered over me while my bubbles tickled his stomach. There were also some inquisitive silky sharks hanging out under the boat. We were psyched for another dive there, but the boat's anchor dragged and we ended up going by panga and not seeing much of anything.
That night we made the crossing to the island of Socorro. The local government officials came aboard to inspect the boat while we were eating breakfast, so it didn't hold us up too much. We did three dives at Socorro that day and saw hammerheads, white-tips, dolphins, Galapagos shark, tuna, silkies, moray eels, and numerous smaller fish. Then it was another overnight crossing to Roca Partida, or Split Rock.
We spent three days diving Split Rock, which is exactly what the name implies. Each group of divers started off at opposite ends of the rock, but usually passed each other or merged at some point during the dive. Because of the deeper depths, we did three dives each day, lasting 50 minutes each, including the safety stop, except for a couple dives that went as long as 75 minutes because the mantas just wouldn't leave us alone! Once we all calmed down and stopped chasing them, one in particular would swim from person to person, eyeballing each diver in turn. As we all ran out of air and time and ascended, the mantas would go up with us, until we were doing our safety stop with the mantas swimming around us. Awesome! The other group saw a whale shark on one dive for a few minutes.
So our last three days were spent going around Roca Partida one way, then the other, and each dive the rock looked the same, but the critters changed-silkies, Galapagos sharks, hammerheads, tuna, mantas, blue runners, mobulas, and more mantas. Bill and I got in the middle of a bait-ball at one point, and got some exciting photos when the silkies began joining us. But when the sixth silky arrived and started bumping us, we decided it was time to leave! We did spend one dive doing nothing but swimming against the current for 35 minutes, not seeing much, which was exhausting. Afterwards, no one could figure out what the point was. Finally our guide apologized and explained he was trying to find a whale shark, but after that he kept us to a more leisurely pace; there was plenty to see without hoping for the elusive Mr. Big.
We were given a choice to go back to San Benedicto to try our luck again at the Boiler, or stay the third day at Roak Partida. Upon the crew's advice we stayed and were satisfied, since there was no way to know if the Boiler would have mantas or still have poor visibility. This meant 30 hours crossing back to port, but one less night doing a crossing. It also meant our last dinner was on the boat instead of in Cabo San Lucas. The crossing was actually quite smooth and we got into port in time for some bar-hopping before hitting the sack and flying out the next morning.
The mantas were awesome, the crew great, the boat OK, Cabo fun; Socorro is definitely on our “re-do” list.