A Trip to the Revillagigedo Islands and back
If you’re looking to spend your diving holiday in a place that’s well and truly away from the commercial centres of mass tourism, you should consider a trip to the Revillagigedo Archipelago. A remote location, and world class diving in a unique marine environment combine to make a trip to the islands an unforgettable experience.
Where is the Revillagigedo Archipelago?
The Revillagigedo is a group of islands, located 390 kilometres southwest of Cabo San Lucas, the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico. Even the largest of these islands, Isla Socorro measures only 16.5 by 11.5 km. The remoteness of the Revillagigedo, the lack of any land based tourist accommodation and the fact that there is only one very small airport combine to make the islands more difficult to get to than many places. What makes the trip worthwhile is not just the islands themselves but the waters around them. The archipelago has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since July 2016, and since 2017 the archipelago has been classed as a marine reserve and a national park of Mexico. The prohibition of mining, fishing and mass tourist activity on or near the islands will, it is hoped, help to preserve the area so that it can continue to make its unique contribution to global biodiversity.
Reasons to Dive Around Socorro
The crystal clear waters are most famed for the large population of pacific giant manta rays. Unlike some ray species these have no sting, something which adds to their attraction. The giant mantras thrive in the plankton rich environment, along with several species of sharks, including Silky, Hammerhead, Galapagos and whale sharks. Bottlenose dolphins, tuna, turtles, humpback whales and five different species of mackerel also inhabit the waters here, while blue lobsters live on the sea bed. There are few places offering such a diversity of marine wildlife in such a compact area, and as if that wasn’t enough to tempt, the generally good visibility and the sparsity of other visitors add to the attraction of the package.
How to Get to Socorro
With no flights available, and no hotels on the islands, the way to experience the Revillagigedo islands is by boat. Given that the trip from the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula to Isla Socorro takes over 24 hours, it’s far too remote for a day trip. The only realistic option is a liveaboard expedition. Typically such tours last in excess of a week with the opportunity for three to four dives a day.
Who Dives in the Revillagigedo Archipelago?
The Revillagigedo appeals to more experienced divers who won’t find the pace of four dives a day for over a week too exhausting to enjoy. Open seas, currents, sometimes choppy conditions and cooler water temperatures than you’d find just off the Mexican coast also add challenges which are welcomed by advanced divers looking for an opportunity to use the full range of their skills.
Dive Sites Around the Revillagigedo Islands
Cabo Pearce – Is a reef that extends into the currents just off Socorro island. From the surface all you’ll see is a finger of rock stretching out from the east coast. This site is noted as one of the best places to hang out with dolphins. They have a reputation of being friendly towards divers here, often greeting the dive tender and staying with divers as they move through the water. Cabo Pearce is also a good place to meet silky sharks, especially if you’re diving here later in the day. You also stand a good chance of seeing manta rays and maybe even a humpback whale.
Roca O’Neal. This is the place to dive if you want to see Hammerhead sharks in large numbers. Other sharks, including Galapagos and silky can also be spotted here, along with schools of smaller reef fish and lobsters. Diving at Roca O’Neal also grants the opportunity to explore an interesting cavern, one of the few in the vicinity.
Punta Tosca. Located off the west coast of Socorro this is another site where dolphins are often found. It’s also a place where at the right time of year you stand a good chance of seeing humpback whales.
Roca Partida. Is probably the most famed site around the Revillagigedo for spotting big marine life. The name means split rock and the body in question extends from 50 meters below sea level to above the surface. It’s located some 64 km from Socorro. The rocks themselves are a favourite site for gulls and boobies, and as they leave deposits on the rocks it can be a somewhat odorous site! Despite this Roca Partida is regarded as an essential part of the Revillagigedo experience and has been likened to diving Wolf and Darwin islands in the Galapagos. Expect to see marlin, manta rays, tuna and mackerel. Sharks of several species, dolphins and whales can also be found here. With vertical walls extending down more than 40 metres, and often current to factor in, diving Roca Partida can present some challenges but is generally within the capacity of experienced divers.
San Benedicto. Is the third largest island of the Revillagigedo archipelago and is often the first location visited on liveaboard expeditions. It’s most famed for the quality of interaction divers enjoy with giant pacific mantra rays. These giants of the ocean visit the area to be cleaned by Clarion angelfish. The best dive site near San Benedicto is known as ‘the boiler’ and can be identified by swell and surf on the surface of the ocean.
When to Visit the Revillagigedo
The dive season here extends right through the winter from November through to May. January to April when the water is cooler is the best time to see humpback whales, while the early and later winter months when the water is warmer is better for mantra and sharks. Places on liveaboard vessels are limited and often booked up well in advance of departure dates, so this is one dive trip that you really need to plan well in advance.