Roca Partida from the bow of the Solmar V
5. Roca Paritda
The next day took us to Roca Partida...the name alone brings chills and a twinge of excitement. Isolated from the larger islands by many miles of open ocean, Roca Partida is the narrow plug of an old volcano. One hundred yards wide, the rock plunges straight to the bottom a few hundred feet down before descending more gradually into the abyss. The surf crashes against the rock which is whitewashed with the droppings of terns, nobbies and boobies. Brisk currents make circumnavigating the island tricky, and any approach to the rock face is rewarded with washing machine-like surge impossible to fight.
Here too the water was a flawless, deep blue. Immense schools of silvery jacks and fat bonitas shimmered in the ocean like a shafts of northern lights, enough for a diver to get lost in, glinting in the sun at the surface and descending into the depths. Swimming away from the rock and into the blue early in the dive I spotted a silvertip shark and a hammerhead swimming at edge of the vast schools. (Great) white-tip reef sharks lay massed together in the few indentations in the sheer rock, waiting for the night time hunt. A manta showed up out of the blue. Spectacular. To top things off, as Larry clambered aboard the panga at the end of the dive, a slender silky shark showed up and buzzed me a few times before I had to ascend.
On the second dive Larry and I were heavily distracted by the three or four mantas that swooped about the divers in the clear blue. One scarred chevron manta seemed to particularly enjoy my (our) attention. Maybe I was the only diver in her neck of the woods, but this lovely creature kept turning back to me over and over again. She hovered in front of my mask to make eye contact and invited me for extended rubs of her belly, turning around to come back as soon as she outpaced me. I was tickled. Once, turning around to see how far from the Roca Partida I’d wandered, I spotted a silvertip shark cruising below the divers. For our safety stop, Larry and I allowed ourselves to drift far from the wall and into the big blue in the hopes of encountering more sharks away from the groups of divers. Though no sharks appeared, we did have a manta accompany us half a mile offshore, and was still circling below as we reluctantly climbed into the panga. I remember the tips of his elegant wings glinting in the sunlight as he cruised below the surface.
During the third dive at Roca Partida, Larry and I found ourselves alone on one side of the rock. With nothing engaging nearby, I started goofing off, turning somersaults, drifting upside down and being generally silly. Suddenly a large figure emerged nearby and I immediately thought “shark!” The curious figure instead turned out to be a large almaco jack, much like the friendly amberjacks of the Caribbean. Eyes swiveling to take us in, he circled several times within reach, then drifted off to investigate the school of his more sheep-like cousin jacks nearby.
At the end of the dive Larry and I drifted with four other divers away from the pounding surf for our safety stop, again in the hope of encountering sharks. The other divers slowly climbed into the boat, and Larry began to follow. A few wahoos paced nearby (the Pacific version of the Caribbean's great barracuda), approaching within about 20 feet. Just as I was about to reluctantly ascend myself, I turned to find a silky shark coming straight toward me, her pale chin and the undersides of her pectoral fins gleaming white as she closed in. Stunning! I do not fear sharks but I admit that I get a bit of a thrill seeing them approach, especially surrounded by nothing but blue water! She circled me a few times, buzzed underneath Larry at the surface, and disappeared into the blue. I sighed with pleasure and started to ascend when I turned to see that she’d returned, followed by another, and another, and another, all darting out of the blue in my direction! About six silkies all circled me before disappearing just as quickly. What a day.