Archipiélago de Revillagigedo
The Archipiélago de Revillagigedo comprises four remote Pacific islands known for their biodiversity and geological features.
The area is a transition zone, provides important stepping-stones for migratory species and has a high level of endemism. The designated area also includes the surrounding waters with their largely undisturbed marine ecosystems.
Isla San Benedicto, Isla Socorro, Isla Roca Partida and Isla Clarión are uninhabited apart from two small naval bases. They are islands of volcanic origin, and some of the volcanoes are still very active.
Map of Archipiélago de RevillagigedoLoad map
Trying to pronounce "Revillagigedo" isn't easy so most people will say Socorro even though it is only one of the four islands in the archipelago, albeit it is the biggest of them all and has the navi base. Even if you look for dive trips they will use the name Socorro.
The only obvious way to get out there is by liveaboard. It takes over 24h just to reach the first spot from the marina in Cabo so most diving tours will be out for at least a week and that's excluding Isla Clarión because it's just so much further out than the others. You need to book a special trip just to get that on your itinerary. Having said all that we did have a private yacht in the area so that would be your second option ;)
First stop is usually San Benedicto. It has 2 dive sites but El Boiler can get a bit rough so boats might all be in the same area. The tour operators sync their schedules and it is first come first in the water, with no other drivers in the water at the same time. If you ever dive and see bubbles and hordes more often than large fish then you will know why this is the best practice for diving with large animals.
The biggest draw of diving in Revillagigedo are the giant oceanic mantas, oceanic meaning they get laaaarge, much larger than the smaller ones you can come across shore areas. Think 6m, 18feet wingspan. Before people could bond with them, ride on their backs gliding through the ocean, yes I kid you not, but the magic carpet of the ocean is now not allowed to even be touched. Mantas have a large brain and are extremely smart (they recognize themselves in the mirror, not many animals can do that and all that in a fish!!) Mantas have evolved from sharks and graced our planet for 5 million years. The problem is that they get shy if divers don't behave and stay clear. One has to let the manta come to you, and if you do let it play with you it will check you out for as long as your air/bottom time lasts, enjoying massages from your air bubbles and circling around your head. Each manta has unique patterns and research is being done to track their movements in Revillagigedo and the Sea of Cortez.
So I've rambled on long enough about the magnificent mantas. There are also whalesharks, although there are spots around the world to see them much easier than the occasional "drive-by". Friendly dolphins like to say hi, silky sharks play in the darkness of the boat (you can snorkel with them and whereas you aren't allowed to touch them they will certainly touch you and this is an encounter worth the trip alone). Nowhere in the world have I seen so many sharks enjoying peaceful lifes, silvertips, whitetips, tigersharks are shy in this area of the world, once in a decade a great white will get lost from Isla Guadalupe, Galapagos sharks are very common, eventually you will also be able to tell them apart from Dusky sharks, I probably missed some. So whereas you can see all these animals in other parts of the world the congregation here is truly unique.
What else is unique is the competition for space. At Roca Partida, basically a divided rock strutting out of the deep, deep part of the ocean that descends down almost vertically, reef animals have to compete and learn to live together at "balconies". Sharks are now friends with moray eels, if only more balconies would be cleared of spiny sea urchins they might not have to. The eels tend to hide inside rocks but the crack in the rock doesn't give them the luxury here. Additional, strong currents are not uncommon around the rock so if you can't hide you get swept away. Staying at Roca Partida also means it can potentially get rough as there is absolutely no shelter from the open sea. My trip was very lucky with the weather.
If you are into birds you will like Roca Partida. The only spot available for nesting and resting for miles and miles is obviously filled up at every corner, the guano (that's bird poo) is proof of that because the rock is not snow-capped. On the other islands it wasn't as easy to observe birds as they have land to live on, and one cannot step on land. Isla Benedicto erupted in 1952/53 and most is still covered with grey lava rock. In fact dive sites are often lava rock under the water, creating new reefs. One dive site at Socorro is called "The Finger" as there is a lava stream into the ocean to 47m below (or something like that).
Even with dive operators and the Mexican navy in the area it is shocking that fishing vessels still enter the area. Encountering one doesn't exactly mean they will get arrested either because the report goes to somewhere in Mexico City and by the time they act the vessel will already be back in China...oh whoops did I just say that?! Sad though, Sharkfin Soup is NOT delicious!! It's just chicken stock anyway!
2 more interesting facts: a) the protection zone previously only covered the four islands and was only expanded into a large marine park in 2017 after the WH inscription. Additionally, b) there are at least 2 world heritage plaques. One is at El Boiler ~12m below surface and the other one at The Finger (Cabo Pierce) leading down from the lava stream around 15m below the water surface. The former has a neat spot at the corner of the rock but the latter was rather rudely placed/thrown into the rubble at a 30 percentage angle. I'm guessing there is a third plaque at Isla Clarión but none of the crew knew for sure.
A truly unique experience.
The site has 4 locations
The site has 14 connections