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D2D New Years 2006: Revillagigedos

December 27, 2005 through January 5, 2006
Revillagigedo Archipelago


The what?

The Revillagigedo Archipelago is south of Baja California (by more than 100 miles). Currently leaving out of La Paz, Mexico, the Nautilus Explorer takes more than a day to make it to San Benedicto. After a couple of days at San Benedicto, the trip continues on to Socorro, the largest of the islands (a mandatory stop – the archipelago is considered environmentally protected, and the only two commercial vessels allowed in the area must check in each visit to the Navy base at Socorro). After a day or so at Socorro, we continued on to Roca Partida, a rock sticking out of the water that barely qualifies as an “island” (if it’s larger than the Nautilus Explorer, it’s barely so). There is a fourth island that is considered part of the archipelago, but I can’t remember the name – we didn’t visit it because it’s considerably farther away from the other three than they are from each other. Aside from the Hammerhead Sharks and giant Manta Rays (10+ feet), Silvertip and Whitetip sharks are plentiful, along with nightly sightings (from the boat – no night diving) of Silky Sharks and the odd Galapagos Shark. Dolphin sightings are possible, as are the odd Whale Shark. We even saw some other whales breaching in the distance, but they didn’t come close enough to see under water. The giant Mantas in the area are occasionally very sociable with divers – they enjoy swimming through bubble streams and have been known to swim over outstretched hands, allowing a diver to stroke the middle of the body. While riding (or even touching) the backs of the mantas are now forbidden, divers can carefully draft with them. During our New Years trip, the water was a solid 73 F.

About the boat

The Nautilus Explorer is a 116’ Canadian boat that has two itineraries: Its summer itinerary is up near the pacific coast of Canada. The winter itinerary is the Revillagigedo Archipelago. The Revillagigedo itinerary is flexible; given enough hammerhead or manta activity at a given site, the Nautilus Explorer will stay. The rooms aboard the boat are reminiscent of the Nekton Pilot, but better. The beds feel more solid, and the hot water is always hot. The owner/captain Mike was very conscientious and safety minded – if you didn’t attend the nightly site briefings, you couldn’t dive. The minimum SIT was 90 minutes. Considering the advanced nature of the diving (walls or pinnacles that disappear into the deep, or opportunities for “blue water” diving, where it’s just you and the fish, no reef in sight), and the possibility of an inexperienced diver moving off of the reef, chasing after something, and loosing sight of the reef and being swept away by current), Mike’s obsession with safety was not at all annoying – it was welcome. However, things were not all rosy; I’m not sure how many seasons the Nautilus Explorer has been doing the Revillagigedo itinerary; some of the folks I traveled with had some comments:
  • The crew seemed somewhat inexperienced with the dive deck operations. This may have been an issue with a couple of new key people (the dive masters and skiff drivers).
  • Gear stations are not benches – they’re stand up. This can make putting your wetsuit on an issue, as there aren’t many places to sit down and put your booties on. This could be because the boat was designed for drysuit divers – I don’t know. Part of this design also probably had to do with the aluminum skiff that the boat used - it was transported over the two crossings in the same area as the tank stations, and adding seats may have impacted the allowable size of said skiff.
  • Mike’s safety concerns, while welcome, reflected some of the annoying issues with the gear stations. The bungies for strapping the gear in were very hard to get on and off of the gear, and were usually strapped completely over the gear – not just the first stage. This caused at least one cut on my finger when I scraped it across the top of my inflator hose while attempting to bungee my gear in.
  • There were concerns with o-rings – I went through two, and a cohort went through three – one of which blew at 60 feet. It did cramp one day of diving for him. We’re not sure why; if it’s the conditions of the fill whips or the age of the tanks. It's also possible that when the crew would fill the tank and put the first stages back on, they wouldn't tighten them enough.
  • Geared for cold weather, there was no top sheet for the beds - just a bottom sheet and a comforter. The air conditioning was not cold enough to keep you from sweating under the comforter. Most of us needed something on top of us to sleep, but the comforter was just too warm.
Again – don’t judge the boat based on these comments alone; the crew was professional and courteous (if a bit green), the rooms – pretty much the best I’ve seen (save for the lack of a top sheet).

Getting There

I flew into Los Cabos on December 27th. I bumped into some of the D2D contingent in the airport; everyone’s flight was delayed, as Los Cabos was a busy airport that day – my flight was at least 45 minutes late leaving Houston, and spent a little more time in the air than expected. The Nautilus Explorer had arranged for transport – we stopped off at a hotel, met pretty much everyone there (after a couple of more airport trips, or including the folks who had arrived the day or two before).

Gear Considerations

The water temperatures can dip into the 60’s F. You’ll want to make sure you have sufficient thermal protection. At this time I can safely say my Pinnacle Fusion 5/4 and 3/7 vested hood (with Merino wool lining in both, and a seal system where the neck of the hood meshed with the neck of the jump suit) kept me comfortable once my body warmed up the water in it.

On To The Dives

  • December 29, 2005 (Canyon (San Benedicto))
  • The first island we visited was San Benedicto.
  • December 30, 2005 (Canyon (San Benedicto) - Boiler (San Benedicto))
  • Manta encounter!
  • December 31, 2005 (Navy Base (Socorro) - Cabo Pearce (Socorro) - Blue Water (Socorro) - Cabo Pearce (Socorro))
  • Moving on to Socorro, the largest island ...
  • January 1, 2006 (Blue Water (Socorro) - Aquarium (Socorro))
  • First dives of the New Year! And of course, we develop some ear issues ...
  • January 2, 2006 (Roca Partida)
  • On to the "Split Rock".
  • January 3, 2006 (Roca Partida)
  • The last day ... more Manta encounters!


[VIDEO LINK] This is what happens on our trips when you go to bed before New Years. It's amazing the planning (and plotting and scheming) you can do in, oh, about 3 minutes.


Taken as we left Roca Partida - even though it's a bit cut off, what you can see is really all there is of the "island". From surface to 250' below is pretty much straight down.
Taken as we headed back to Cabo - we had several excellent sunsets this trip. This was the only one I got because the camera was almost always in the housing ...
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