Revillagigedo Archipelago Expedition

I’ve just returned from diving at the Revillagigedo Archipelago, also known as the Socorro Islands. This small and widely distributed Pacific island chain lies about 250 nautical miles southwest off the tip of the Baja California peninsula at roughly 18° N 112° W. Known for their unique ecosystem, these islands are sometimes referred to as the “Mexican Galapagos”, serving as hosts to a number of plant and animal species that are found no place else on Earth. Under threat from exotic species, the Mexican government established the islands as a Biosphere Reserve on June 4, 1994 in an effort to protect this natural treasure.

Because of the extremely remote location, only a select few dive boats are even capable of running trips to the Revillagigedo Archipelago, and of these, only two have been granted the licensees required to do so; the Nautilus Explorer and the Solmar 5. Our trip was on the Nautilus Explorer.

While we spent a total of nine nights and seven days aboard the Nautilus, it takes about 24 hours to reach the Northern most island of San Benedicto, meaning that two full days and nights must be spent at sea. This left us with five days of intense diving, usually making four dives per day, and sometimes even snorkeling with the sharks at night. Needless to say everyone slept very well at night!

The diving at these islands is really quite nice. The water temperature was running about 70 degrees F, which matched up perfectly with the 5mm wet-suit I brought with me. While the deepest dive I made was only 160 feet, I chose to dive my Megalodon rebbreather on all the dives except those on Roca Partida, which had so much surge and swell that maintaining counterlung volume became very difficult in water shallower than 30 feet.

The biggest draw to the Revillagigedo Archipelago is, of course the giant Manta rays, but for me the sharks were perhaps the most interesting. We saw countless White and Silver tip Reef Sharks, and Hammerheads were also quite common. The divemasters commented frequently that the Mantas were much more friendly in on prior trips, but a few did allow us to interact with them. For me, the most memorable experience of the trip was a very friendly Bottlenose Dolphin that swam up to me and practically begged me to pet it.

Again, because of the remoteness of the location, as well as the cost of helium in Mexico we did not make this a technical diving expedition. While there were a number of times I desperately wanted to descend below 200 feet, this trip served as a great opportunity for me to really put some hours on my rebreather, and get myself geared up for some more aggressive diving in the coming season. I find that every dive I am trusting the CCR technology more and more, and diving the unit is starting to become second nature.

Stay tuned. In the coming days I will write about each of the dive sites we visited, and the animals we saw there.

Revillagigedo Archipelago Facts

Island (Alternate Name) Length by
width (km)
Area (km²) Highest Peak (m)
Inner Islands (UTC-7, Mountain Time)
San Benedicto (San Tomás) 4.315 by 2.490 5.94 Bárcena (310)
Socorro 16.813 by 15.629 132.06 Mount Evermann (1130)
Roca Partida 0.246 by 0.073 0.014 (34)
(Outer Island) (UTC-8, Pacific Time Zone)
Clarión (Santa Rosa) 8.544 by 3.686 19.80 Monte Gallegos (335)
Revilla Gigedo Islands 420 by 115 157.81 Mount (Cerro) Evermann (1130)

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