The Socorros, as the Isles are popularly known, are 220 miles due south of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Small and loosely scattered, seldom appearing as more than tiny dots of ink on most navigational charts, the volcanic landmasses rise sharply from the abyssal plains thousands of feet down. In addition to Mantas, the variety of marine life is extensive, from small reef fish to huge schools of jacks, tuna and, of course, dolphins, whalesand sharks – most notably schooling hammerheads, similar to Cocos, Malpelo and the Galapagos Islands.
San Benedicto Mantas
The island is a small, relatively young volcanic cone that still smokes and occasionally shakes. Surrounding it are several stony reefs that create eddies over the shallow sandy floor of the ocean that for some reason attract manta rays. The mantas come in to be scratched, to play with snorkelers on the surface, and generally to circle the boat until you pull up anchor. One of the least notable places from the surface, and most remarkable in the water.
Best Diving Destinations in Socorros
The Pinnacles are a series of small seamounts, or granitic extrusions, slightly northeast of Cabo’s harbor. This site is considerably less sheltered and currents can really blow up here. Descending hand over hand on the anchor line is not that unusual, but the same currents pull in a large amount of tropical fish and the odd pelagic or two. Pinnacles is a good spot for novices who have been diving around the arch and want to get a small taste of open-water diving before heading home.
The Point is the southernmost dive around Cabo and is simply an extension of the same wall dive that runs all along the arch. As the point is fairly exposed, currents can be a problem, but on the bright side a sea lion, sharks, or a manta ray might show up too. There is a large moray in the wall that can be harassed out of its hole, and a somewhat desultory shipwreck in the area. The wreck, which rests on the sandy bottom, is small and closed¬you can circle it, but you can’t go inside
The “world famouso” sand falls are listed on every operator’s dive itinerary in Cabo. Reportedly discovered by Jacques Cousteau, the falls are underwater accretions of sand that periodically “kick loose” and spill into the depths like a waterfall. The best falls are deeper than Cabo’s 95-foot limit and so visitors only get to see the smaller ones. Even these are at 90 feet and when the visibility is low, you’ll just be shivering and staring into the gloom wondering what all the fuss is about.
Pelican Rock is a popular inshore Cabo dive site and is often crowded with boats. There are plenty of shallow areas with sandy bottoms that are perfect for novice divers that haven’t yet mastered their buoyancy. The dive then drops off to deeper depths where there is a small sand fall, and a number of gorgonians and tropical fish. The highlight of the dive is “Willy,” a damselfish who local divemasters have trained to “play fetch” with a starfish.
Only a few boat trips a year make it to this isolated granitic pinnacle. In harsh weather, waves sweep over the top of the pinnacle, making it invisible. We were on one lucky trip and managed to anchor in open waters for almost two days of diving. Galapagos sharks and whitetip reef sharks make their home on this solitary, unique piece of rock. There are also resident populations of leather bass, jacks, and green morays that live impossibly jammed into the cracks of the granite. Silvertip sharks also visit occasionally
Socorro has several dive sites, the most interesting of which are around volcanic cones on the western side. We saw whales breaching at all times, and dolphin schools doing the same. The island is so large that it has the ability to limit visibility due to water runoff, a real problem because it receives significant rainfall.
When to Visit Socorros
Water visibility and temperatures are dramatically variable. In winter and spring there’s a thermocline with 70-80°F (21-26°C) water on the surface and 50-60°F(10-16°C) water below 30-40ft (10-12m). Plankton blooms determining the visibility. In mid-summer it’s low, about 25-40ft (7-12m), but generally improves to 80-100ft (25-30m) by late summer. Winds kick up the water from December – May, making diving difficult. Wear a wetsuit even in warm water for protection from jellyfish. Whale watching season is from December – March.