Downey Duck






Our latest trip to Islas Revillagigedo, also known as Socorro Island was yet again awesome, although the rough seas affected the diving.

We spent two nights at the marina-side Wyndham in Cabo San Lucas, walking the boardwalk and relaxing by the pool. The weather was cooler than normal, but still warmer than Pittsburgh!

Getting on the Nautilus Explorer was a little bit of a homecoming, with Captain Al and Hostess Carmen, along with divemasters JJ and Nelson, engineer Marve, super-chef Juan Carlos, always-smiling deckhand Danny, and a few crew new to us—Hostess Laurentina, engineer Juraj, 1st mate Shaun, and divemaster Joel; the entire staff was excellent and went out of their way to keep us happy.

The boat left the dock about 9:30am and the crossing out to San Benedicto took about 24 hours. A few people were seasick and a lot of us wore patches, but the seas weren’t too bad. As we approached the island we were greeted by dolphins on our bow. Our dives at the Canyon produced several big green moray eels, a few white tip sharks and a huge lobster. We didn’t see any hammerheads, but the water was 80 degrees, toasty for Socorro.

During a day at the Boiler, a dive site at San Benedicto, we were rewarded with great manta ray interactions and good visibility. They come to this site to be cleaned by Clarion angelfish; as the manta ray approaches the underwater rocks, the angelfish race out to peck debri and bacteria from the manta’s skin. The Seascape was also there, so we used skiffs instead of jumping directly from the Nautilus Explorer, and alternating dive times so only one group of divers was in the water at a time.

We actually got to the island of Socorro this time around, unlike our last two trips. Roca O’Neill had quite a bit of current; we explored the arch, and during our dive were visited by two mantas, a couple of dolphins, and a silvertip shark.

At Cabo Pierce, a long underwater ridge, there are two manta cleaning stations, but no mantas apparently needed cleaned; a cleaner fish came over and pecked at my camera lens. There’s also a hammerhead cleaning station deeper, but we saw no hammers. Over the course of four dives, we spotted small spawning fish, one small silvertip, one tiger shark, a couple mantas, a couple dolphins, and a couple hammers. The seas picked up throughout the day, so we headed to more protected water at the Aquarium, a big underwater rock shaped like Pacman. The second dive, toward dusk, was the more interesting; a free swimming green moray stopped and poked at my fin, a small pod of dolphins swam by, two of them quickly mating, and dozens of redtail triggers were courting. I would have been tempted to do a night dive here, but that is not on the boat’s permit.

Roca Partida, pretty much a big rock sticking out of the water in the middle of nowhere offered even rougher seas, but it was worth it for the day that we were there.  We saw hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, silky sharks, huge tuna, and of course lots of white tips. There was a pretty good current so all the fish and critters were huddled together in any nooks and crannies they could find. Unfortunately the bulk of the sharks were far from the rock and deeper than our Nitrox allowed us to go.

To escape the rough seas, we headed back to the Boiler for the last day and shared the dive site with the Solmar V, again alternating dives. The mantas were there, and the third dive of the day was simply magical—up to four mantas at a time, continually interacting up close and personal with each diver, even following us up to the surface when our time and air ran out. This was my best manta experience ever.

The Nautilus Explorer was as comfortable as ever, with nice sized cabins and plenty of storage. There’s seating in the separate dining and sitting areas for everyone and Chef Juan Carlos kept huge amounts of fabulous meals and snacks coming out of the small galley. We’re already booked to return in 2015