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Revillagigedo Archipelago (Socorro Island)

Located in the eastern Pacific Ocean approximately 250 miles south of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – at the tip of the Baja peninsula – these islands have been compared to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador or Cocos Island in Costa Rica because of the big animal encounters they provide.
Shock&Awe Big Animal Diving focus on trips to the Revillagigedo Archipelago (Socorro Islands) because we truly believe that this is some of the best Big Animal diving on the planet. Normal times of the year to visit Socorro Islands are November - June because we have found these months to be the best for favourable weather conditions and to encounter the large pelagic’s that roam this area.
Specifically from mid January through mid April the Socorro Islands are home to a large population of humpback whales that come here to breed and calve. Whale sharks are a special treat at the islands; they find us in late April/May/June. The giant Pacific manta, pods of wild bottlenose dolphin, extremely large tuna (the world record yellowfin is from these waters), wahoo and thick schools of jacks are all encountered underwater on a regular basis throughout the entire season. Add to the mix visiting hammerhead cleaning stations plus sometimes encountering up to seven species of sharks on a single dive, and you have the opportunity to experience some of the best big animal diving in the world!


Geology

Socorro island is a shield volcano and rises abruptly from the sea floor to 1,050 meters (3,440 feet) in elevation at its summit.
The island is part of the northern Mathematicians Ridge, a mid-ocean ridge that became largely inactive 3.5 million years ago when activity moved to the East Pacific Rise. All four islands along with the many seamounts on the ridge are post-abandonment alkaline volcanoes. Socorro Island is unusual in that it is the only dominantly silicic peralkaline volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean.
It most recently erupted in late January-early February, 1993. The island's surface is broken by furrows, small craters, and numerous ravines, and covered in lava domes, lava flows and cinder cones.

Ecology

Location of Socorro Island and the rest of the Revillagigedo Archipelago, and extent of Mexico's western EEZ in the Pacific
The Revillagigedo Islands or Revillagigedo Archipelago are a group of four volcanic islands ( Socorro Island, Roca Partida, Isla San Benedicto and Isla Clarion) in the Pacific Ocean, known for their unique ecosystem. They lie approximately 390 kilometres (240 mi) southwest of Cabo San Lucas, the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula. Technically part of the Mexican state of Colima, the islands are under Mexican federal jurisdiction.
In July 2016, the Revillagigedo Archipelago were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in November 2017 they were declared to be a marine reserve and a national park of Mexico.
The lowlands of Socorro – except on the northern, more humid side – are covered with thick shrub land, consisting mainly of endemic Croton masonii and a cactus. Above 650 metres (2,130 ft) and on the northern side, a richer vegetation occurs. This includes small trees, black cherry, and the endemic Guettarda insularis, which bear epiphytic orchids.
The native land fauna is depauperate, with birds predominating and mammals absent. There is one endemic species of iguanid lizard and the land crab which occurs on islands throughout the region.
Sheep, cats and rodents were introduced to the island by human activity; more recently, the locust has also established itself on the island. Unlike the mammals on Guadalupe Island or Clarión, their impact on the local flora was minor, but cat predation has had a drastic effect since the mid-1970s due to the fauna's island tameness, and the locusts that swarm twice a year seriously damage vegetation during that time. There have been no recorded extinctions of plants on Socorro; several birds have been drastically affected by cat predation however, and one taxon, the Socorro dove, has gone extinct in the wild.
Socorro is an important breeding location for several seabirds, many of which have here one of their north(east)ernmost breeding colonies. The present status of these birds is not well known, and they presumably have suffered from cat predation.

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Diving Socorro Islands


Humpback Whale

Socorro Island, and the dive site Punta Tosca in particular, is one of the only places in the world to swim with humpback whales. You’ll see several.


Giant Manta Rays at Cabo Pierce

As a lonely seamount far offshore, Socorro Island attracts a number of pelagic species, among them are large groups of giant manta rays.


The Friendly Dolphins of Cabo Pierce

Rather than swim away at the sight of divers, the dolphins of Socorro Island are known to curiously approach divers and remain for several minutes.


Schooling Hammerhead Sharks

Among the parade of pelagic species seen at Socorro Island are schools of hammerhead sharks. They are most often spotted at the dive site Roca O’Neal.


© Pete Mesley's Lust4Rust and Shock&Awe Big Animal Diving - Auckland, New Zealand, 2103