San Benedicto Island was our first visit to the Revillagigedo Archipelago 250 miles south of Cabo San Lucas in the Pacific Ocean. Tallen, my teenage daughter, and I have journeyed here to interact with giant manta rays and swim with scalloped hammerhead sharks. We were aboard a long range live-aboard dive vessel and looked forward to nine days of diving.
“Swimming with mantas has always been a dream of mine,” confesses Tallen, as she exits the boat into the 74° water. “I can’t wait !”
After twenty minutes, we relaxed and began to enjoy a multitude of colorful reef fish, large groupers, jacks and a Mexican hogfish. On our second dive we came across a small ray, later discovering it was an electric ray, thankfully not proving to be afraid of us! While most of the other divers headed deep in hopes of seeing hammerheads, Tallen and I cruised along the top of the reef with our underwater cameras. Lobster, starfish, sea cucumbers, angelfish, eels and the clusters of soft coral filled our frames.
The next day the weather calmed and the pangas headed for another part of the island. After descending to a sandy bottom, Tallen’s eyes widened, followed by a big grin. A large manta with a 15-foot wingspan moved toward us. It seemed to hover, watching us. We were totally into the encounter. Before long other graceful giants joined in. With ease they turned and rolled around us in a dance. I held my hand over my head, as the divemaster had suggested, and one came right over for a “scratch.” Tallen did the same and before long we were their new scratching station. Although they looked similar in color, they were each uniquely marked.
It was wide-angle photo heaven. Warm, clear water with little to no backscatter and bright sun to silhouette my subjects. Forty minutes later I thought we would have to drag Tallen out of the water to feed her lunch. I can see it now, my daughter growing up to be a manta cleaning and scratching station attendant. Throughout the rest of the day, mantas and hammerheads dominated conversations.
Hammerheads were next on the agenda as the boat departed and headed for Isla Socorro. I felt Tallen was ready to accompany me on a deep dive.
Thinking there was safety in numbers, Tallen and I followed the other divers down a descending reef and into blue water (no bottom in sight). The depth was 90-feet as I faintly made out the first hammerhead outline. Since these sharks are shy creatures, we waited for them to come to us. About a dozen lingered at the edge of our sight. They seemed to move in unity, swaying from side to side with their heads. Since it was usually the smaller male sharks on the outside, I had told Tallen to keep an eye out for the larger females towards the center of the school. Soon they were within 20-feet. I felt a tug from Tallen, signaling her air was low, so we departed.
Our last place of exploration was to a steep white-colored rock 86-miles from Isla Socorro. Visibility was well over 100-feet at Roca Partida, and well worth every effort. Millions of schooling fish moved around us as the panga groups slowly descended into blue water and made our way over to the island. Galapagos, Silky, Dusky and white-tip sharks swam around us, some deeper and some close to the pinnacle. There were even sharks of all types and sizes resting on small flat shelves at varying depths. I quickly ran through 36-exposures. Tallen was intrigued with the fish and swore they were creating letters in their formations.
For more information on live-aboard dive trips on the Nautilus Explorer, visit www.nautilusexplorer.com or call 888-434-8322.