Opening Day At Socorro

October 2005

While it is still several weeks till the SOLMAR V begins another new season in the Socorro Islands, every return to this unique and fascinating area brings new diving opportunities.

It's been five months since we last "crossed" to the islands of San Benedicto, Socorro, and Roca Partida, and there are some interesting facts about the islands that many folks aren't aware of...

One, because of prevailing weather patterns, no vessel visits the Socorro Islands from June through October of each year. They usually get a summer storm or two out that way, so we make sure to give ourselves at least a month on each end of that short season to ensure that diving and traveling conditions are pristine.

Two, although the islands see few divers to begin with, they see absolutely NO divers during this period. Even compared with other "remote" liveaboard destinations like Cocos Island and the Galapagos, this is particularly unique. It is the constant pressure of divers, built up over time, that has caused shifts in marine life and coral damage in some more popular areas of the diving world. That simply does not happen in Socorro, as the conditions for marine life are much as they have been since the islands were formed.

You'll hear a frequent lament from experienced, well traveled divers about how sharks "used to be plentiful" in "such a such" location... Or that the reefs have changed, or that the schools of fish have become much smaller. Most of these complaints can be traced to over development on land, over fishing on the water, or just too many divers in the water for the sharks to feel comfortable. So even in the best of conditions, the animals shift to areas where the divers don't go.

Yet, year after year, the giant mantas meet us in Socorro at their familiar cleaning stations, and interact with divers in one of the most unique, if not THE unique, manta dives in the world. These are giant mantas, with the big "bombers" nearly 20 feet from tip to tip, and they're interacting with you in blue water, and with any amount of patience, simply as close to you as you can possibly get. The sharks swim by (up to seven species on any single dive), yet no chum has ever been used by divers to lure them in. Whale sharks are also oblivious to divers, more intent on following the oceanic currents which sustain them than the occasional flash from a divers digital camera.

While all of this is predictable, we really never know, from year to year, just exactly what we'll find. The mantas are always there, yet seem to change in number and behavior from year to year. The last two years have been fantastic with the mantas, and with dolphins. The year before last was a bit slow in the Whale Shark department, but made up for it with Humpbacks.

This story repeats itself with schooling fish. We know the jacks will be there at Roca Partida, but will it be 1,000 or 10,000, or even more? We've seen all kinds of sizes of schooling fish.

As lucky as we are to enjoy our 15th "Opening Day" of returning to the Socorro Islands, we do pause from time to time and realize that while much of the world might view us as experts on diving in the Socorro Islands, this mystical group of islands still holds tightly to many underwater secrets, and we have barely begun to find all of the keys to unlocking the magic of this pristine world.

And doubly determined, each year, to continue our efforts to keep the Socorro Islands (the Archipelago de Revillagigedo) a marine preserve that future generations will enjoy.

This article is from the Solmar V eNEWS Article Archive

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