Trip Report Socorro Islands Trip Report - November 25 to December 4, 2019

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cpace

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For the second year in a row I booked a trip on the Quino El Guardian. Last year it was a seven night southern Sea of Cortez trip. The Sea of Cortez and Socorro trips were my first liveaboard experiences. I traveled solo on both. I am AOW certified with about 170 dives (Roatan, Bonaire, Hawaii, Mexico, Philippines). My wife dives but have not yet talked her into a liveaboard.

TRAVEL
Seattle to Cabo on Alaska Airlines. I was able to fly in and out of Cabo on the days we departed/returned from Socorro (theoretically). The flight home was late leaving Cabo causing the connecting flight in Phoenix to be missed resulting in an overnight stay. I used a taxi to get from SJD to Marina Puerto Los Cabos in La Playita for $40USD. Returned to SJD from the Marina using Uber shared by three for $10USD each.

BOAT
I chose the Quino for the Socorro trip based on my past experience and cost. I believe it is the least expensive option for Socorro. The Quino is a converted fishing boat 90’ long with a 23’ beam accommodating a maximum of 16 divers. The Quino is not a luxury vessel but is well suited for diving.

The Quino has a shaded deck on top for relaxing. The main deck consists of the wheel house, galley, living room and dive deck. The dive deck has a spacious camera table. Four shared bathrooms with showers are also on the dive deck (no bathrooms below deck). There are four cabins with four bunks and one with two bunks below deck. I shared a cabin with three other divers. Our cabin did get stuffy, especially the last few nights (the AC worked fine just too many bodies). The bathrooms being on the dive deck made late night bathroom trips an adventure.

While in transit at night there were at least two crew awake, the captain and a watchman who would roam the boat. Anchored, at least one crew member remained awake. A couple of guests slept most nights on the couches in the living room which was at the head of the stairwell to cabins below deck. I thought of them as additional smoke detectors. We were told not to charge any devices in our cabins.

The crossings to and between the Socorro Islands were fairly rough. Forecast called for swells to 8ft and winds first from the south then the north during our nine day trip. The main crossing to and from the Socorro islands took 28 and 33 hours, respectively. To ward off seasickness a dose of meclizine in the morning and again at night worked well for me. A couple of divers suffered from seasickness at times. One diver was very seasick for the first three days – Yikes!

I thought the food was good to excellent. The menu for the day was posted in the morning. They accommodated portion increases/decreases and substitutions. Plenty of snack were offered between meals. Beer and wine were included. The boat was kept clean and tidy by the crew.

DIVING
I had read that Socorro can get crowded. We did one day of diving at Roca Partida with two other boats present but the crew did an excellent job coordinating dive times with the other liveaboards. Seas were rough and the forecast called for increasing winds so only one day at Roca. At San Benedicto and Socorro Islands we never had more than one other boat present and were often the only boat anchored at a particular site.

There were three groups (6,5,5) of divers using two inflatables. Each group was lead by a dive master. Groups would depart roughly 15 minutes apart. At least one inflatable always remained with the divers below. 21 dives were offered with 3 to 4 dives per day (no night dives). I purchased the nitrox option. We dove loosely as a group and were allowed to explore and/or surface with a buddy. Total dive times were limited to 60 minutes.

Water temps were 79-81F on most dives with the occasional colder pockets down to 75F. I was very comfortable in my 5mm wetsuit. Weather was typically in the 70's with clouds and wind so the 5mm was great after the dive while collecting the other divers and returning to the Quino. Some of the divers in skins and/or 3mm suits eventually got chilly/cold. I would the summarize the diving as “sporty” with negative entry most dives, blue water, current and surge when close to seamounts/rocks.

Days 1, 2 and 6 were at San Benedicto Island, day 3 at Roca Partida and days 4 and 5 at Socorro Island. Dolphins interacted with divers at San Benedictio and Socorro on about half of the dives. Mantas were present at the San Benedictio and Socorro Islands with a half dozen hanging around “The Boiler” on San Benedicto. Sharks were present on every dive. I identified the following species: white tip, silver tip, galapagos, dusky (one), tiger (one), Hammer head and Silky.

CONCLUSION
I had a mind blowing dive adventure with a bunch of great people. Will I return to Socorro? Yes.
 
OP
cpace

cpace

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Here are a few photos extracted from my GoPro 7 and video link.

SnapShot1.jpg SnapShot4.jpg SnapShot6.jpg SnapShot5.jpg SnapShot8.jpg

 

Blues Runner

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Great report and pictures. Thank you for sharing.
 

BAMA6977

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Great report. Perfect timing, I’m on same boat for end of Feb trip. Thanks.
 

drrich2

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Enjoyed your report! Good practical detail. I appreciate you identifying the Quino El Guardian as a lower cost option, which helps people consider it in the context of their options, and understand why you chose it. You chose it twice, which says a lot. Got a question about this piece:

I would the summarize the diving as “sporty” with negative entry most dives, blue water, current and surge when close to seamounts/rocks.

On the 'current' bit...were these drift dives, or did you have to fight current much?

From what I've read, in the Galapagos and at least some of the diving at Cocos Island, it's not unusual to head to the bottom and hold onto (possibly barnacle-encrusted) rocks and watch the sea life around you, but the Socorros (which along with Malpelo rounds out the 'big 4' eastern Pacific big animal destinations I suppose?) I don't read that about...and you said blue water. So current sounds concerning.

Richard.
 

rongoodman

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Nice report. I'll be out there in late April with the Aggressor boat and am psyched. It will be interesting to compare the trip to the ones out to Cocos Island.
 

Hoag

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On the 'current' bit...were these drift dives, or did you have to fight current much?

From what I've read, in the Galapagos and at least some of the diving at Cocos Island, it's not unusual to head to the bottom and hold onto (possibly barnacle-encrusted) rocks and watch the sea life around you, but the Socorros (which along with Malpelo rounds out the 'big 4' eastern Pacific big animal destinations I suppose?) I don't read that about...and you said blue water. So current sounds concerning.

Richard.
On many of the dives at Socorro, you are "offshore" and the water is very deep. If you find the bottom on many of the sites, it will unfortunately be a one way trip.
 
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cpace

cpace

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On the 'current' bit...were these drift dives, or did you have to fight current much?

From what I've read, in the Galapagos and at least some of the diving at Cocos Island, it's not unusual to head to the bottom and hold onto (possibly barnacle-encrusted) rocks and watch the sea life around you, but the Socorros (which along with Malpelo rounds out the 'big 4' eastern Pacific big animal destinations I suppose?) I don't read that about...and you said blue water. So current sounds concerning.

Negative entries were primarily due to the rough surface but in some cases to be placed upstream in the current. The free water currents were typically not too strong but accentuated by topography and/or combined with surge. Blue water was encountered when we dropped in out in the blue or when venturing away from a cleaning station or sea mount in search of hammerheads. At "Punta Tosca" on Socorro we did end up drifting a kilometer or so from the drop off point. At "The Canyons" on San Benedicto and "Cabo Pearce" on Socorro we observed from rocky points where you you had to hang onto barnacle covered rocks (my video has some footage). My fingers were a little raw by the end of the trip. At times swimming into current was required.

Roca Partida was interesting in that there was a prevailing current from the north. The current was split by the island creating a "sweet spot" where a dense column of fish and sharks congregated in little current. Venture to either side of the sweet spot and you experienced the current. Trying to observe the white tip sharks resting on the ledges at Roca was challenging due to surge. It felt as though I rising and falling in 20ft increments which my computer did not appreciate.
 

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