Thursday, February 2, 2012

January 20-28, 2012

Greetings! My name is Christina and I am the newest addition to the Rocio del Mar Liveaboard family.  Dora thought it’d be a good idea to experience one of the trips offered through the Rocio del Mar.  I felt honored by this offer and eagerly accepted. 
Diving in the low temperatures of the Pacific Ocean would pose a challenge to my limited scuba diving background.  Up until this point, I’ve only dove in the warm waters of Southeast Asia wearing nothing more than my bikini!  I have done wreak diving, cave diving and have explored many colorful vibrant reefs with minimal sea life.  So far I’ve been satisfied as a diver, minus the fact that I’ve never seen a shark; which is of high interest to me and happens to be on my bucket list.  After a quick Google search I was convinced there would be sharks on the trip, however I had no idea what was in store for me. 
Next thing I knew, I was in Cabo ready to embark on one of the greatest adventures of my life.  Dora and I spent nearly two whole days buying food, drinks and supplies for the coming nine days at sea; we even made an extra stop to pick up homemade tortillas.  Fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and specialty cuts of beef, chicken and fish were carefully stored in the industrial size refrigerator and freezer.  The crew (that I would become so fond of), and I examined the cabins one last time for anything out of place before patiently – yet anxiously waiting for our guests to arrive. 
As expected, all 18 guests were successfully checked in on board, settled in and ready to go.  The diversity of the group ranged from dive masters/instructors from all over the world, head of a HR department, retired research astronaut, screen writer, business owners, sales directors, French chefs, students, IT engineers, tour manager and underwater film makers.  There was Oliver, Richard, Hans, Theresa, Mermaid, Yuko, Xiao, Jessica, Cathy, Kirk and Yishu from China; Jon and Kike from Spain, Thierry from France, Alex from Belgium, Elizabeth from Mexico, and Casey, Dave and myself from the United States.  We ran through the night and for the entirety of the next day where we anchored at San Benedicto Island. 
We woke up at 6AM to a school of playful dolphins welcoming us into the crystal clear blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. The energy was high with diver’s excitement in the brisk morning breeze.  As the sun rose, we suited up quickly and begin our first dive at The Boiler with dolphins circling around us during our descent, posing for photos!  There were thousands of huge red and blue lobsters tucked away all crammed into a long crevice between two boulders.  Immediately we were accompanied by a school of sleek white tip sharks that gave me a whole new sense of appreciation for the beautiful beast.  I was bursting inside with excitement and trying to keep my regulator in my mouth while the sharks slowly cut through the water until out of site.  To top it all off, during the last seconds of our safety stop a gorgeous manta ray of about a 20 foot wing span glided right past us!!! 
At the second dive location, El Canon we fixed our eyes and cameras on hammerhead sharks.  I was mesmerized while holding onto to a rock resisting the current.  Of course, I’ve always known that Hammerheads exist, but to actually see them only five feet away was a special moment that I will cherish forever.  At El Canon, we also saw a twelve foot Galapagos shark hunting close to the reef.  On our way back to the boat, we witnessed a manta ray jump out of the water and back flip into the air – diving ever so gracefully back into the water.
The next day we woke up at Roca Partida, the smallest of the Revillagigedo Islands and a breeding spot for many seabirds.  The island’s remoteness provides a sense of mystery as Roca Partida rose starkly from the wild surface of the deep blue ocean.  Steep walls plunge into the water spotted with several small caves where baby white tipsharks sleep all huddled together.  As we swam farther away from the rock, we saw a school of Hammerheads and silver tip sharks.  The large schools of wahoo and yellow jacks spread long and wide making it impossible to not glide right through and observe the hundreds of fish swimming by.  At our safety stop, we saw giant tuna right below our feet. I had no idea a tuna could get that big!  Once in the panga we saw a bird on top of a sea turtle.  The turtle was old, but wise looking.  I wondered to myself where it was possibly going, all alone is the middle of the endless ocean?
That night we celebrated the Chinese New Year on board.  We were told that in China, the New Year is spent with family preparing food.  Our Chinese guests together (as a family) prepared handmade traditional dumplings from scratch and stuffed with squash, onion and fried egg.  The shape of the dumpling symbolizes the ancient Chinese currency and is made on the New Year to bring prosperity for the coming year.  The dumplings were then boiled, not fried, and served to everyone with soy sauce, garlic chili sauce and spicy pork.  It was also one of our guest’s birthday in which a single extra-long noodle is cooked and served in a bowl with two eggs; representing 100 years of good health.  Dora brought out the champagne making it a proper celebration and welcoming for the Year of the Dragon. 
The next morning we found ourselves at Cabo Pierce, a lava flow that’s spilled thousands of years ago into the ocean and created a long, narrow ridge that falls to about 120 feet.  I was so excited to see the promised Pacific manta rays that I barely ate anything for breakfast.  It was almost instantly once we had descended into the strong current that the mantas appeared above our heads.  I was literally in awe by the size and grace of the manta that I didn’t even realize that my mask was filling with water until I felt the burning of the sea salt!  The mantas come here to be cleaned by the neon orange clarion angelfish.  One of the most spectacular moments was when a group of dolphins curiously and playfully surrounded us and the mantas, twirling and spinning all around us.  The visibility was great, which meant that you had a clear view of everything happening. 
One of the last dives on the trip was an exploration dive around the North end of the Socorro Island.  The terrain was absolutely incredible.  It consisted of large, flat and oblong boulders.  There was a lot to look at: yellow and black moorish idols, trumpet fish, sand rays, octopus’, nudibranches, trigger fish, colorful rainbow fish and balloon fish. 
This pretty much brings me to the end of the trip.  I can’t say enough about how astonished I was by the vast variety of sea life I saw during every single dive.  There wasn’t a dive where it lacked in a school of sharks, manta rays or dolphins.  People from all over the world come here to see the big stuff and that is exactly what you will get if you dive in this area.  The Socorro Islands are not easy to get to, making the diving experience a rare and magical experience that not many people can say they have experienced.  When we weren’t diving, we were in the pangas with crew members that drove us closer to the breaching Humpback whales to get a better look and that priceless photo that your family and friends won’t believe you took.  By the time we were back in Cabo, everyone had shared and exchanged photos, videos and contact info.  It was hard saying goodbye.  The dive masters and crew members were all so helpful and knowledgeable of the dive sites.  We were all spoiled by the gourmet assortment of delicious meals that were prepared by the wonderful chef on board.  Some people you know you will see again, and some never again.  Yet, we will always have our memories together on the beautiful Rocio del Mar that was hand built with love by the captain and his crew so that they could share the treasures of the sea with divers who want to become explorers.