In the heavily depleted ocean that covers a mere 71% of our globe there is always a momentous sigh of relief to be felt when you visit somewhere that lives up to its reputation. I recently visited the Revillagigedo Islands with the intention of experiencing some of the magic these islands have to offer. It was the peak of baitball season, the time of year that some of the best pelagic activity is expected for these islands; notorious for year-round shark and manta action. Expectations were high.
Flying via LA to Los Cabos on the Mexican peninsula of Baja California, the journey was fairly straightforward and took around 16 hours. Arriving into Cabo San Lucas I checked in to the Tesoro Los Cabos, a well situated hotel from the Marina - I was due to embark the Nautilus Belle-Amie the following day. It is around 26 hours' sailing from Los Cabos to the islands around Socorro. I was there around the time of Hurricane Blanca but thankfully it had faded after it reached land, though the seas were fairly choppy… I fell out of my bed several times that first night!
The first day was spent acclimatising to the rolling vessel, preparing our kit in the generously spacious 'wet area' and being briefed on how we would be spending the next 9 days; teased by all the wonderful things we were going to see. There were many occasions to socialise and meet fellow divers and the crew, who came from various walks of life, although there was a strong San Diegan theme to this party. Not to lie, I enjoyed being one of the only Brits, with my 'funny accent'.
I buddied up with Will, originally from London and now an expat teaching rebreather and tech diving in the Gilis and Komodo; generally living the dream. It turned out he was also a world record holder for the longest underwater dive of 48 hours and one of the deepest closed circuit dives, recorded at 294m. It seemed like a good idea as we were headed for some pretty advanced diving and especially as his buddy, Frank, who was part of his support team for the record dive; was to be our third bandito.
The first day we dived 'The Boiler' at San Benedicto. Three times. The visibility was fairly bad on the first dive due to the volcanic silt being whipped up by the hurricane, however, The Boiler did not disappoint. Not only did we see a giant manta on every dive, we saw multiple on most and had some of the most amazing interactions with the majestic beasts that I have ever experienced. White tip reef sharks, giant lobster; even dolphins were in abundance around this giant cleaning station pinnacle. The currents did whip you around the rock a fair bit, however, and were very unpredictable too.
It is always a delight watching a Manta miraculously glide past you, stroking the ripping swell with its wings, cautiously checking you out. These giant mantas are celebrities and recently featured on the BBC's shark series, filmed at this dive site and visited by numerous marine biologists and philanthropists. They enjoy bubbles being purged from divers' regulators, dispersing parasites on their bellies, for their entourage to eat. They are very comfortable with gentle interaction and enjoy playing out in the blue… needless to say our safety stops were generally spent playing with the mantas!
Stay tuned for part II when we reach Socorro Island for Spiderman-esque manoeuvres, snorkelling with Silkies and diving with whale sharks.