Narrative Trip Report
6. Isla Socorro
That night we pulled away from Roca Partida and ventured on to Isla Socorro, the largest island and the only one inhabited by people. A small Mexican navy base sits nestled into the soft green foothills. We anchored up offshore and waited for the troops to boards us (a ritual for every visiting tour vessel). Larry and I sat on the chaise lounges on the top deck, soaking up the sun and reading while we tried to steal nonchalant glances at the man in fatigues who posted himself on deck with an M-16 in hand. It was a little unnerving.
With an all clear from the base we moved onto Cabo Pearce, a dive site which gave me a thrill of anticipation. Four years previous, Cabo Pearce gave us a zebra moray and bottlenose dolphins. This time, the big excitement was a school of pompanos at the surfaces and lots of butterflyfish, clarion angels, and other reef fish. Swimming along a gorgeous undulating wall to approach the reef I felt a little tug at my fin. Turning around I found no other divers in sight, only an amused looking hogfish which hovered near me for some time before retreating to the rocks. Rather unattractive fish, I like the hogfish’s amiable personality and apparent sense of humor. As we floated on the surface after the dive waiting for the panga to arrive, Larry casually asked if there were any sharks below us. I looked down to see a silvertip just on his way out of site and kicked myself for not looking sooner.
Of course I didn’t really think that Cabo Pearce would bring us dolphins, but I did hope. We moved from there to El Acuario for more fish. A reef of contiguous jumbled rock, El Acuario is home to schools of striped grunts, lobsters, blennies, and butterflyfish. It was pleasant and I spent some time trying to photograph the quick, shy blennies and the camouflaged groupers lurking in the cracks of the lava flow. Larry and I moved away from the crush of other divers to explore the far side of the reef. Approaching a big boulder at about 65 feet, some motion caught my eye to the right and I looked up to see six dolphins swimming in. Here’s an approximation of what went on in my head at that moment:
“Oh!!!! Whales, there’s a group of small whales! Dolphins! Does Larry see them? Yes! Play, play! Do something interesting, quick!! Wow!!”
Dolphins do not often approach divers and are notoriously difficult to keep interested when they do--divers and snorkelers are hard put to entertain dolphins enough to capture their attention for long. As soon as my mind processed what I was seeing, I started to spin in the water as I moved toward them, turning upside down, nodding my head, and kicking with my fins together like a dolphin. Four of the group quickly disappeared, but two of them swam back and forth in front of us, squealing while we frantically goofed off. These dolphins then moved slowly to the surface to breath, disappearing into the bright haze above.
Already thrilled, I was awed by the return of the two dolphins shortly thereafter. Another pair appeared, then another two until all six dolphins were slowly cruising around us, passing in front and seeking eye contact. I alternated between observing and swimming with them and trying to be entertaining. At one point I twisted around and started to kick like a dolphin. One of the dolphins squealed and pulled away from the others, circling me tight, almost within touching distance and keeping eye contact the whole time. What a joy. When the dolphins finally drifted off, two of them stroked each other with their pectoral fins, classic dolphin behavior. When we played back Larry’s video (some of which is spectacular) we were amazed to discover than the dolphins stayed with us for over three minutes, an exorbitant amount of time for them to spend with divers. And we didn’t just see them, we played with the wild dolphins. It just doesn’t get any better. The Islas de Revillagigedo are one of the few areas where dolphins regularly interact with divers.