Big Animal Encounters

December 2005

As the Holiday Season gears up to full speed, our thoughts naturally turn to our family and loved ones. For the crew of the Solmar V, our thoughts also turn to you, our valued customers and friends, and we'd like to start this special Holiday version of the Solmar V eNEWS with a couple of small "gifts" to you in the way of sharing some of our professional diving experiences of 12 years in the Socorro Islands. You may use them in Socorro or at any time that you are lucky enough to be in the water with "big animals", some of the most exciting diving anywhere, anytime.

1. WHALES: If you'd like to see them underwater, it's probably going to be a snorkeling experience (although we do see them on SCUBA as well). Use as little movement as possible in the water (no splashing with your fins), and make as little sound as possible (getting into the water from the tender or the Solmar V). They react to sound and quick movement much more than your presence. Best time to see them in Socorro is late January thru early April.

2. WHALE SHARKS: Easy to suggest, a bit harder to do. When we find them, it is nearly always by facing into the current, and finding the area where the ocean currents actually meet the island. So, if you want to increase your chances of seeing a big one, move into the current at the beginning of the dive. (since there's often no perceptible current, you may have to watch your bubbles to determine the right direction). Our guides will certainly help you with this, and diving into the current is never a bad tip to begin a dive with, anyway. Best time is November, December, and late April and May.

3. SHARKS: We see six different types on a regular basis, Galapagos, Silky, White Tip, Silver Tip, Hammerhead, and Tiger. Again, "stealth" is key. Fin movement and quick movements are only designed to make them swim away from you. "SLOWLY" move the camera to get the shot (one of the hardest things to do when you're having a once in a lifetime encounter). Stay close to the bottom or close to the wall. When you swim right out at them in blue water they tend to get a bit "spooked" (particularly the hammerheads).

4. MANTAS: Our giant mantas simply love to interact with divers, AS LONG AS THEY SET THE PACE. If you're patient, and comfortable, the mantas will come to you. First, stay at the cleaning stations whenever possible. Next, good buoyancy helps, and a great tip is to make sure you stay relatively shallow, and certainly no deeper than the cleaning stations. The mantas will approach you at any depth, but by staying shallow you increase your bottom time, get better pics, and enjoy more mantas. We have tested this, and it works, as long as everyone diving stays shallow. We've had many occasions when the mantas followed the last divers right up to the boat.

Each year, we learn more about the "big animals" which make Socorro one of the most unique diving areas of the world. And our fondest "Happy New Year" will be to see you enjoying them with us sometime in 2006.


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