San Benedicto Island Manta Ray

Mexico Trip – Part 2 – On The Nautilus Explorer

Day 4:

Despite the Nautilus Explorer being a good sized live-aboard, it’s a long trip out to Socorro (about 240 miles), so our first day was entirely at sea.

Socorro Island is one of four islands that make up the Revillagigedo Islands, the others being Roca Partida, San Benedicto and Clarión.

Socorro Island San Benedicto Roca PartidaMore of a sea mount, Roca Partida is the smallest and Socorro Island is the largest.  Clarion is located too far west to be part of our trip.

We had great weather for the ride out.  The waves were not rough and only a small swell.  The Belle Amie was in the distance, but our primary travelling companions where gannet birds, who occasionally displayed their abilities to dive for food well below the surface.

Day 5:
San Benedicto Island
San Benedicto Island

We woke to a quiet ship.  No engine noise or waves crashing against the hull, so we had arrived someplace.  Peeking out the window before sunrise, we could see our first destination, San Benedicto Island.  The last volcanic eruption there started in August of 1952 and lasted about 7 months.  The island has an almost moon-like appearance due to the ash deposits and subsequent erosion.

The first dive of the day was at a site called Fondeadero.  Just a checkout dive to make sure everyone’s gear was in working order and we were weighted properly.  With water temperatures in the low 70’s, Karen & I were wearing a lot more insulation than we’re used to.  Normally checkout dives are somewhat boring, shallow dives without much action, but not here.  Manta’s, white tip sharks, lobster & eels made their presence known.

A short distance away was the next dive site, The Boiler, which gets it name from the interaction between large sea swells & wave action with an underwater pinnacle that stops short of the surface.  Here we stayed for the afternoon.

DayS 6 & 7:
Roca Partida
Roca Partida

Arriving at a new dive site is always fun, but Roca Partida is different.  Just the tip of this sea mount is exposed at the surface.  Taking a moment to look around, you realize how remote this place is.  Aside from a couple of other live aboards, absolutely nothing else is visible.  Being completely exposed to open ocean currents, getting away from Roca will send you to a destination far, far away.  In case you’re wondering, that’s not snow on top.  Lots of sea birds call Roca home.

The diving was quite challenging.  The ocean swells move you move up and down +/- 10 feet in the water column.  Heavy currents stop you from moving horizontally.  With a huge rock pillar as the only reference, your brain keeps telling saying this is dangerous.  The phrase ‘resistance is futile’ came to mind.  This is the home of pelagic sea life.

We spent two full days to Roca, it was that good (challenging, but good).  We did see large schools of hammerhead and Galapagos sharks here, but they were deep or too far into the blue to capture images.  Amazing memories though.

DAY 8:

The day begins on the east side of Socorro Island.  At the morning dive briefing, Captain Stefan gives us an update on the weather.  Hmm, not sounding good, but lets see how it develops.
Nautilus Explorer Captain Stefan

Anyway, our dive site today is named Cabo Pearce.  Had my first close(30 ft) sighting of a hammerhead shark, but he took off quickly.

Later, we made quick trip to the Mexican navy base on the south side of the island for an inspection.  No issues.  So, we proceeded to the next site, Punta Tosca, which turned out to be a washing machine of a dive site.  Too much current and surge for pictures.  I was in save the camera gear mode.  Karen got to know Garret, our dive master, really well at a point where we had to cross over a rock ledge.  The surge was so bad you could only swim over if your timing was just right.  She was a little late and started to get sucked back.  She looked at me with big saucer eyes about the same time the Garret grabbed her arm and pulled her over.  Phew!  Next!

This is where we saw our only humpback whale sightings.  There was a mother and calf several hundred yards off our bow.  At one point we saw the calf breaching.  Coming back from a dive, we tried to get close in the inflatable boats, but they didn’t come out to play.  Had to settle for pictures from the Explorer.

At dinner we celebrated Karen’s 100th dive!  Congratulations baby!  (Who says diving is a glamor sport?  Uh, nobody.)

Later in the evening the guests had a chance to swim with silky sharks.  We passed, but would do it next time.

DAY 9:

We returned to San Benedicto.  The dive site was Las Cuevas.  I stayed topside for this one, while Karen dove.  Lots of sea birds has nests in the cliffs nearby.  The brown booby’s took particular interest in the dive operations.

At dinner, Captain Stefan filled us in on bad weather heading for Cabo San Lucas, which would impact our return passage to port.  Putting it up for a vote, the guests agreed to leave the area a day early, and head to the Sea of Cortez.  The attraction there is the sea lion colony at Los Islotes.

DAY 10:

Sea day, but much rougher on the return to Cabo.  10+ foot waves kept everyone pretty much in their cabin or the salon area of the boat.  We heard the port in Cabo had been closed.  The crew did a great job keeping everything and everyone safe.

DAY 11:

Not much sleep overnight, but we arrived a Los Islotes early.  The sea lion colony awaited, but there was a price to pay.  The coldest water by far this trip, 68 degrees.  I wish the pictures turned out better, but the sea lions are fast and there was lots of particles in the water, which creates the spots in the images.

DAY 12:

The port in Cabo San Lucas had re-opened and we arrived early morning.

IMG_1946 IMG_1950

We said our goodbye’s to fellow guests and the crew who took great care of us.
IMG_1958Thanks for a great time!

Next stop:  La Paz, Mexico!


Published by

Brian McGowan

Tampa Florida

One thought on “Mexico Trip – Part 2 – On The Nautilus Explorer”

  1. Great photos esp the Mantas. I would have been throwing up on the way home, not good with choppy seas and smaller boats. This is a trip on my bucket list. Thanks for taking the time to write and share your adventure.

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