Roca Partida: Cathedral of the Sea
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.
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
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
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
ROCA PARTIDA DIVING TIPS
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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