Is Socorro worth the $$$?

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snowdog61

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so if you haven't been convinced..... uncropped btw. We had a moment, us three.
 

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scrane

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Is it worth it?
I'm glad I did it but I wouldn't do it again.
I prefer warm water reefs and reef fishes.
I didn't enjoy hanging around waiting for something to show up.
 

davehicks

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What are the currents really like? Are reef hooks required? How might they compare to say Cozumel?
No reef hooks needed. It is not drift diving, but a number of the dives are in the blue or with no bottom. You will be swimming and kicking a lot at times.
 

Dan

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What are the currents really like? Are reef hooks required? How might they compare to say Cozumel?
Here's what I wrote about currents in Socorro in my trip report:

Dive 8 to Dive 14 were all done in Roca Partida with depth around 97 to 128 feet, 80 feet visibility, medium surf, a bit of choppy, typical ocean diving. There were some horizontal currents that our DM swam against, as he spotted something good to see. We tried to follow him to no avail, finning like crazy, but going no where. Some of us tried to swim to the sheer vertical wall of Roca Partida to hide from the current, to use nook and cranny of the wall to hide and push ourselves forward against the current to the other end of the corner, using our naked hands (gloves were not allowed there), but the surging ended up shearing some of the skin off our hands. We were warned and told not to do this, but swimming with big cameras won’t be as streamline as the divers without cameras, and our regular fins won’t be as fast as the DM’s long skindiver-type fins. So some of us (myself included) just gave up, started to drift with the current and left behind. There was an upwelling too, where I just couldn’t swim against it even by deflating all the air out of my BCD. It bought me near to the surface, but the upwelling somehow died down near the surface and I was able to descend back to the deep in relatively short of time. What a ride that was.

Luckily, currents bring pelagic fish. We saw another pod of bottlenose dolphins, schooling of yellowfin tunas, schooling of hammerheads, and juvenile whaleshark, as shown in Figure 26 to 29, respectively, below.
 

Dan

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Deleted due to a duplicate post. (internet problem at home).
 

Dan

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Figure 26: Schooling of yellowfin tuna in Roca Partida

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Figure 27: Yellowfin tuna in Roca Partida

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Figure 28: Schooling of hammerheads in Roca Partida (courtesy of Nicholas)

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Figure 29: Juvenile whaleshark in Roca Partida (courtesy of Matt Niesen)

Another interesting site to see in Roca Partida is the Balcony, where local resident of whitetip reef shark sleep during the day, as shown in Figure 30 and 31, below.

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Figure 30: First local resident of The Balcony of Roca Partida (courtesy of Bela Asztalos)

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Figure 31: Second local resident of The Balcony of Roca Partida (courtesy of Bela Asztalos)
 

Dan

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Thanks Dan. You make a good point, this may be the cheapest of the "Big 3 Eastern Pacific" destinations, and I'm reasonably sure that I will not go to either Galapagos or Cocos, the price is just prohibitive for me.

I have a reservation for January 2023, so I looked at that video of yours with particular interest, to try to figure out what is "in season." So you saw whale sharks on your January 2021 trip? I thought that wasn't the season for whale sharks, but maybe nobody told the whale sharks that. :)

@Palawan also saw whaleshark in Socorro in December 2021. So, I think you would have a good chance to see them in January 2023. I saw 2 whalesharks in January 2021, a pregnant big mama whaleshark ion Cabo Pearce and a juvenile one in Roca Partida.

Below are his trip report and video:
Socorro | Revillagigedos | Vortex

 

Manuel Sam

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A very lengthy reply. You have been warned.

Your point about having seen most if not all of everything that there is to see in Socorro is valid. Most of us have constraints – be it time, money, obligations or all of the above – so it makes sense to spend our time and money wisely.

I also hope to see something new wherever I go and focus my travel plans that way – it is definitely not for the sake of being able to say that I have been there so as to check off yet another geographical location. So, if seeing something new is your goal, then at the risk of taking this off on a tangent, I would suggest going to places where you can target stuff that perhaps you haven’t seen or that you did not list. Here are a few: Bimini for Great Hammers, Bulls, and Spinner Dolphins, unless you have already seen all of those in Florida. The Tuamotus in French Polynesia (aka Tahiti) for lots of Grey Reefs as well as many other sharks, including Great Hammers and Tigers.

Here in the US, there are Blues and Makos off of Montauk and Rhode Island in the summer. And off of Morehead City in North Carolina, there are Sand Tiger sharks. For something more exotic, there is the Philippines for Threshers…….and if it were to interest you, a whole new world of diving is open for small stuff in the Indo-Pacific, because with macro, the possibilities are almost endless. I’ve done Lembeh 5 times and I see new stuff every time I go. And now with the advent of black water diving, a totally new dimension has been added for small, weird stuff.

As for costs, I think that you have to factor lodging, food, local transportation, and 3-4 dives a day to your land-based diving costs in order to truly compare apples and apples with liveaboard. In addition, even tho your question is about comparing places to see specific animals, there is a value to being able to dive in Socorro, a place where the day boat masses cannot get to.

But getting back to your question – is Socorros worth it. I’ve been there 9 times. It would be 11 had two of my planned trips there not been diverted due to storms. Next April will be #10. Does that say enough as far as whether I think it is worth it? If not, here are my long-winded reasons:

1. All-In-One Place. The animals that you listed were probably sighted over a span of several trips and several years, and many more thousands of miles traveled….. just thinking of Hawaii at one extreme and the Red Sea at the other extreme. In Socorro, which is 3 to 8 hours away for most in North America, you can see most of those in just one trip, albeit the 24 hour crossings each way. Maybe not the most compelling reason for you, given what you have already seen, but for many, there would be many firsts just in one trip.

Granted, not all trips to Socorro are going to deliver. In May last year, I had a dud of a trip…..the worst of my 9. I guess even mantas and dolphins take vacations too. But my trip this past December more than made up for May, with lots of mantas, dolphins, and 7 species of sharks: Reef white tips, Silvertips, schooling Scalloped Hammerheads, Galapagos, Silkies, Black Tip, and Tiger. Which says that, at least to me, it isn’t about whether to go or not…..to me, going just once doesn’t do the place enough justice.

Socorro is one of those destinations along with Cocos, Galapagos and Malpelo in this hemisphere that people sometimes tag with the phrase “trip of a lifetime” after a good trip. That’s not a phrase I hear used for trips to the Caribbean or to Cozumel. My own Socorros ToaLT was in November 2011 when I had 34 whaleshark sightings. I know: that probably means 2-3 whalesharks doing circle after circle around Roca Partida, but we also saw whalesharks at The Boiler and in Cabo Pearce, which is not so common. That along with everything else that Socorro is known for.

2. Unique sightings and behaviors. If you are a shooter, you probably have many giga if not terabytes worth of individual and schooling animal shots – shots that with a few variations, are the same shots that everyone has. But what Socorro offers the shooter is not just the opportunity for up-close shots of rather shy and elusive animals, but also to frame a manta with dolphins, whaleshark with manta, whaleshark with dolphins, manta with sharks, etc..….you get the picture (pardon the pun).. That does not happen just anywhere.

The mantas in Socorro are Oceanic Mantas (M. Birostris) which are different than the Reef Mantas (M. Alfredi) seen in the Kona manta night dive. The Socorro mantas invite interaction with divers – a behavior that I have yet to see elsewhere. In terms of numbers, I know of no other place where you can see as many Oceanic mantas in one glimpse. This allows you to position yourself so as to frame multiple mantas in your shot.

Where I have seen more mantas in my field of view, they were Reef Mantas – up to 60 in a manta cyclone and 15-20 in a choo-choo train in Hanifaru in the Maldives. Komodo and in Bali in Indonesia are other destinations where large numbers have been reported – probably Reef Mantas as well. The most I have seen in Socorros within my field of view were 8 this past December (the dive guide counted 10). Normally it would be 3-6 – which is still pretty good. Also, have you ever seen a manta sneeze? Or take a dump? I’ve seen them in Socorro.

Similarly, the Bottlenose Dolphins in Socorro invite interaction and sometimes a dozen and more show up. In most other places, bottlenose dolphins just fly by, showing casual but usually minimal interest in divers. Some interactions are going to be better than others – for example, it wasn’t until this 9th trip that I got to touch one in Socorro for the first time. The only other place where I have been able to touch them was in Rangiroa in French Polynesia. Cocos and Galapagos are other places where I have seen interaction with us divers, but it was brief. Also unique to Socorro is their assuming an upright attitude while blowing bubbles – perhaps to emulate us divers (see Dan’s posted video), as well as their having apparently learned from mantas to position themselves to invite cleaning by Clarion Angels.

Beyond the above, there are still things that I have yet to see in Socorro…..and every additional trip there is another opportunity to salivate at the prospects of seeing them. Let’s be clear: for many years, there have been rumored sightings of Oceanic White Tip, Threshers, and Ragged Tooth Sharks in Socorro…….I’m not talking about those – you’d have to live there, dive practically every day and grow four-leaf clovers in your ears to maybe see those in Socorro. And until I see documented evidence, I’ll be a doubting Tom. But I still haven’t had in-water encounters with baitballs, Orcas, False Killer Whales, and Humpback Whales in Socorro. Heck, even the measly Dusky shark has remained elusive to me, altho maybe if I did see it, it was too far or quick for me to make out if it was Dusky or Silkie.

So what all of the above says is that every trip there offers the opportunity to see or experience something new – be it a new specie or a different behavior by the same animals.

3. Lastly, a Socorro trip is a good "main course" to other side trips that allow you to get more bang for your airfare dollars; and Cabo San Lucas (CSL), where you board most Socorro liveaboards, is a good launching point to these other places.

There is Magdalena Bay (5 hours by car from CSL) on the Pacific side of Baja, for the seasonal (usually late Fall) Mexican Sardine Run with Striped Marlin and other animals that prey on the sardines, as well seeing Gray Whales from a boat in the winter months.

Going on day trips out of Cabo San Lucas (CSL), Blues and Makos can be seen in the winter months. In the Sea of Cortes, and within reasonable reach of CSL, is Cabo Pulmo, with its Bull Sharks and arguably the largest school of big-eye jacks anywhere.

La Paz, 3 hours by car from CSL, has its sea lion colonies at Los Islotes. The seasonal (but not necessarily yearly) arrival of sardines in the Fall takes it to another level. La Paz also has whaleshark snorkeling in the bay in the Fall. Not the best whaleshark venue due to poor viz, but if you are in the area anyway….. As for whalesharks in Socorro, I’ve seen them in 4 of my 9 trips: 3 times on November trips, once on an April trip. Never on a winter month, but as you sort of said in a different way, they probably don’t know how to read calendars.

And also in the Sea of Cortes, in the Spring and early Summer, there are the schooling mobulas in the thousands, and maybe the Orcas that feed on them, and which I am doing in early May in conjunction with the Socorro trip. Would that interest you? If so, let me know.
 
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