Roca Partida: Cathedral of the Sea
The Solmar V has just returned from our fall, 2007 "Season Opener" to the Socorro Islands. The boat visited all three of the four islands we dive regularly in this area (also known as the Revillagigedos Archipelago); Isla San Benedicto, Isla Socorro, and Roca Partida.

Of the three areas, only San Benedicto and Socorro would usually be considered "islands" in the general sense of the word. Both are fairly large, with towering cliffs that plunge vertically to the sea, and have multiple dive sites on each island.

Roca Partida (Split Rock is the English translation), however, barely grazes the surface of the sea, miles from nowhere. From a distance, "Roca" appears as a small, single, jagged rock formation on the horizon, beckoning divers to stop and explore. Up close, you'll immediately notice the "split" in the rock which gives this magical place its name.

From the surface, Roca is remarkable only by its unusual presence, and of apparent interest only to seabirds. Underwater, it's one of the most unique diving areas in the world, an underwater cathedral, with only the tip of its spire breaching the surface of the sea.

"Roca" is a volcanic seamount, with very steep vertical walls that disappear into the blue depths, sitting alone in its underwater majesty, miles from any other island landfall. A virtual magnet for all kinds of marine life. So small, divers can actually swim around it in a single dive, and yet we visit it every chance we can.

When you enter the water at Roca, you begin to see why we think of it as an underwater cathedral. The walls are immense, much bigger than you expect from the surface, and more incredibly steep. There is a hushed, quiet feeling about this remote underwater place that tells every visitor they've found a very, very special part of the diving world.

On our season opening trip, "Roca Partida" was the star of the show. 

First, it was five different whale sharks, set against a dramatic background of hundreds of schooling Hammerhead Sharks. Four mantas joined in on the action, as well as plenty of large Galapagos and Silvertip Sharks. 

For additional background music, we also enjoyed our regular close encounters with Roca's school of wild dolphins. Plus the ledges on the drop-offs were jammed with up to 20 White Tip Sharks, all nestled closely together.

And this was just two days of diving "The Cathedral of the Sea".


  1. While it's possible to swim around the entire area of Roca Partida on a single dive, there are typically "drift" or "compression" currents that form around the seamount. Very slow moving ocean water tends to speed up a bit around seamounts, and Roca is no exception.
  2. The currents may be mild enough to swim against easily, or strong enough to create a "one way" drift dive situation. Usually the currents are from the north or the south, and you'll be dropped off on either the north or south point of Roca Partida.
  3. When the current is stronger, we'll usually choose one side of Roca for the first part of the dive∑ Then use the "back side" of the seamount (current free) to make our way back to the point. At the end of the dive, your safety stop is usually in blue water, with our tenders hovering to pick you up. Keep your eyes open during your safety stop. We've been VERY pleasantly surprised on many occasions!
  4. Our dive guides know this area very well, and they always have the advantage of diving it the week before you do! It's a good idea to hang out with them, as they'll consistently get you back to the areas where the action is likely to be the best. And, as always, if you "chase" the big stuff (whale sharks, dolphins, sharks), you usually lose. Be patient!
  5. Big stuff will come at you out of the blue, from any direction, so always "scan" ahead and behind you.  The ledges and cracks on the Seamount provide plenty of resting whitetip sharks, plus other marine life for photo and video.

We'll end with a quote from one of our guests who was on the Socorro "Season Opener":

"We had an absolutely fantastic time... My husband has been diving for 55 years and said he had THE most fabulous dive of his life on this trip... The whale sharks, hammerheads and all the other kinds of sharks and mantas were out to play! We want to reserve a trip for 2009!"

And thanks to Marsha B., Pasadena, CA, for the kind words.   

This article is from the Solmar V eNEWS Article Archive

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