The wild, remote and exhilarating Socorro Islands, Mexico are famous for their big animal encounters.
The Revillagigedos Archipelago - commonly known as the Socorro Islands - is located in the eastern Pacific Ocean, approximately 250 miles south of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, at the tip of the Baja peninsula and about 30 miles south of San Benedicto.
Socorro is the largest of the four islands and was discovered by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Grijalva in 1533. It has been home to a Mexican Naval Station since 1957.
The area is famous for close encounters with the Giant Pacific manta ray, which can grow to 22 feet across. Divers will also see many species of shark and several hammerhead cleaning stations. Whale sharks can be found between November - December and late April - May.
Pods of wild bottlenose dolphin are encountered on a regular basis, and from January – March the islands are home to a large population of humpback whales that visit the islands to breed and calve. Divers also frequently see extremely large tuna (the world record yellowfin is from these waters), wahoo, large schools of jacks and endemic tropicals found nowhere else in the world.
Best Times to Dive
November to May reflects the Socorro liveaboard safari season. The winter months of late January to early April are the best times to see humpback whales. This is when water temperatures are at their lowest (21 to 23°C). Outside of this time it is likely to be warmer (23 to 26°C) and a better time for manta rays and sharks. This is roughly the November to early January period and most of April and May.
The climate is tropical sub humid with summer rains throughout the archipelago. Socorro Island also has a tropical semi-dry climate zone and a subtropical sub humid climate zone with occasional summer rains.
When To Go
The Socorro Islands trips are only available from November - May, due to weather conditions.
The visibility throughout the liveaboard season (November – May) is variable with the lowest visibility occurring during November and December when it can drop from 30-40m to around 15-20m.
Please note that liveaboard itineraries can change without notice. The itinerary will depend on several factors including, but not limited to, weather, diving ability of guests & the number of other boats already present at the various dive sites. All dive sites visited are subject to weather conditions and are at the discretion of your dive guides and vessel captain.
DIVING IN SOCORRO ISLANDS - LIVEABOARDS
The diving in the Socorro Islands is not for novice divers. Before attempting to dive in the Socorro Islands you should be completely comfortable in the water and comfortable with all aspects of your equipment. Having experience of diving in cold water with a thicker wetsuit and hood, as well as experience of diving in strong currents, up currents and down currents is highly recommended. Experience in mixed surface conditions, mixed currents and varying water temperatures, proficient use of a DSMB and the ability to cope in buddy pairs or on your own should you become temporarily separated, is imperative.
Regaldive advise that guests booking on to a Socorro Islands liveaboard should be minimum PADI Advanced or equivalent and have more than 50 logged dives.
Socorro Islands liveaboards embark from Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula and usually take around 24hrs to reach the islands.
SOCORRO ISLANDS LIVEABOARDS
Solmar V Socorro Island Itinerary
Nautilus Socorro Island Itinerary - 8 or 9 nights
Nautilus Socorro Combo Expedition - 10 or 12 nights
For trips to Socorro you will need to fly to San Jose del Cabo in Mexico. There are several flight options connecting via Mexico City or the USA and an overnight in either Atlanta, San Francisco or Los Angeles is required. Direct flights to Cabo San Lucas with AeroMexico are also available.
PASSPORTS & VISAS
British passport holders visiting Mexico as a tourist don’t need a visa, but you do need a tourist card, which you can get on arrival by completing an immigration form available at border crossings or on-board flights to Mexico. Immigration officials at the port of entry may ask to see proof of your departure plans from Mexico before allowing you entry to the country, although this isn’t a formal entry requirement.
All non-US citizens opting to travel via USA will need to obtain a US visa or Electronic System of Travel Authorization (ESTA) at least 72 hours prior to travel. Travellers without the required visa or ESTA may be denied flight boarding. Citizens of 37 countries, including most European nations, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are eligible for the ESTA and can apply for these online. There is a charge of $14 and the issued authorisation is valid for 2 years and allows for multiple entries into US territories within that period.
Always check for last minute changes in entry requirements at the Foreign & Commonwealth website. Nationalities other than British citizens should check with their own consular office.
Please always check your own entry requirements, regardless of your nationality.
Passengers travelling to Mexico must have a minimum of six months validity on their passport from the date of entry into Mexico.
Note: If you are travelling to Mexico via the US, even if you are only transiting, you must check the US entry requirements. If you do not have the correct authorisation you will not be allowed to travel to or transit through the US.
There’s a departure tax of circa £45 when leaving the country by air. Some airlines include this in ticket prices.
VACCINATIONS & HEALTH INFORMATION
There are no compulsory vaccinations, but we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A and rabies. The risk of malaria in Mexico is generally very low and therefore anti-malarials are not required for travel to the Playa del Carmen or Cozumel area.
However, there is a moderate risk in some south western parts of the country. If you intend to travel beyond the Yucatan Peninsula we would recommend that you contact a travel clinic for the most up to date advice.
Vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed before departure. For the most up to date advice please consult your travel clinic.
Further information regarding vaccinations for travel to this country can be found at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk and from your local healthcare provider.
Nautilus Under Sea Socorro
Whatever you do, you have GOT to go to Socorro!
"There are times when all of us will realise that we have witnessed something very special indeed. One of those times for me was my recent trip to The Revillagigedo Islands, 250 miles into the Pacific off the west coast of Mexico. The name might not mean too much to you, don't worry I don't know how to pronounce it either, so they are more often referred to by the name of one of the four islands, Socorro.
The first dive was at The Canyon, at our first island, San Benedicto. We all knew straight away that it was going to be a great week for sharks, as we saw four different species on that first dive, Silkies, Whitetips, a couple of Silvertips and a lone Hammerhead patrolling the reef edge. Not bad for a check dive!
We made another, shorter, transit to an even more remote location, Roca Partida. The rock continues almost vertically downwards for about 80 metres, it's like diving an underwater church spire. After we descended to about 25 metres we got our first glimpse of two huge Manta Rays heading our way, they came in nice and close and demanded our attention for at least 20 minutes of our dive. On the second dive, we came very close to Whitetips on the ledges, resting in packs of eight or 10. Then, what I'd been waiting for, my first look at a Galapagos Shark, well three actually, circling with a huge school of Jacks.
For the following day we moved to the other side of Socorro to a site called Cabo Pearce for four more dives. On the first and second we encountered our first Black Mantas, not as big as they come, but they still looked great gently gliding around us. Also a lone Tiger Shark passed by a couple of times, not the biggest I've seen, but still a lovely sight to see and the talk of the dive deck when we got back on the boat. What can I say about the third dive that day, to give you a clue my dive log starts with "Best Dive Ever!!". That's from nearly 500 dives and 15 years of diving. We had two big Mantas interacting with us for 20 mins, a huge Galapagos shark cruising around, lots more Silkies and even a playful Dolphin.
Our last day’s diving was spent back at San Benedicto and at an iconic site, The Boiler. We had four dives there and all were different. We were informed by the dive guides (who were very good by the way) that the Mantas more consistently turn up at the first dive on this site and sure enough they did. I am tempted to write in my dive log "No, this was the best dive ever!!", but cannot decide between the two. First two large Mantas arrived and at one point there were four. They moved back and forward between the two groups of divers that were 30 metres apart and spent the whole dive ducking and diving around us. As I'm sure you have heard about the Mantas at Socorro, they seem to love playing in the exhaled bubbles of the divers, just hanging above you, letting the bubbles run over their bellies and wing tips. Often close enough to touch (but we obviously didn't) and eye to eye, you can't help wondering what they were thinking.
The last three dives of the trip were pretty spectacular too, with another Manta, two Dolphins, three Hammerheads and a big Tiger Shark on the 2nd and a school of 40+ Hammerheads on the 3rd dive. I'm very pleased to say that I had a great bunch of fellow divers from around the world to share this with and we had a lot to talk about and plenty of impressive pictures and video to go through on the trip back to Baja.
You can read John's full trip report here: http://www.regal-diving.co.uk/blog/john-butlands-socorro-islands-trip-report"
- Peterborough UK | 09 February 2017