Revillagigedo Archipelago The Mexican Galapagos

Manta Ray in Revillagigedo Archipelago

February 12, 2016…just a word echoes in our ears: Revillagigedo Archipelago. We are at the Rome Fiumicino Airport, looking forward for the 15-hour journey ahead of us to get to La Paz, Mexico. Time seems rowing against us, threatening to make us lose our connecting flight to Mexico City from the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris! After a timeless race, we are finally in La Paz, our first destination on the Mexican coast of Baja California. After a well-deserved rest, struggling with our first boat outings, the exhausting wait to see the humpback whales is becoming harder: under our bodies, we only feel the scent of the sea while we observe astonished the beautiful desert landscape surrounding us. The pinkish mountains and blue sea encourage photographers to seize their cameras, ready to catch indelible memories of this holiday. And here they go…the first breath of a whale and then another one and another…Humpback whales, with their sinuous swimming, open and close the big mouth swallowing tons of plankton, gracefully dancing and showing their fins encrusted by barnacles. Photographing is not easy because the water is green, but the whales’ singing guides us through the waves, searching for the long-awaited perfect shot, those using a go-pro or a camcorder and those with cameras. Later, we decide to go searching for the whale sharks, the largest fish in the world. Finally we see, just below the water surface, the shark’s funny white dots. They are not much big in size, but their slowness in swimming and their tranquility in our presence allow us to film and photograph them at their best. Satisfied with your first day, we take our road back, while a fiery red sun sets behind us. Unaware about what was going to happen, we put back our camera gear but, gee, the humpback whales began to jump out of the water as dancers, showing all their majesty! Splashes raised for several meters out of the water and could be seen everywhere, on each side of the boat. How many emotions! The next day we went a little further to the North, still in the Sea of Cortez, to see the sea lions. Ready to dive, we hear the calls of some pinnipeds lounging on the rocks, in the sun, while others dive in search of prey and leisure. A few meters deep, we meet two cute lion cubs playing and having fun with our bubbles…they turn and turn over on themselves darting as wonderful sirens, grabbing, to nibble, our colored fins and our snorkel! It is now time to leave for the long-awaited expedition toward the Revillagigedo Archipelago: “only” 24 hours by boat await us from the port of San Jose del Cabo, a small town about a hundred kilometers south of La Paz. At the port, we embark on the “Southern Sport”, an excellent boat equipped for diving. We are thrilled with the desire to reach the islands at the earliest. The wind and the sea are in our favor, driving us to destination. After a day sailing, here we are towards our first island, San Benedicto, a huge active volcano that rises from the sea in all its solemnity. Not even the time to drop the rubber dinghy at the sea that the first sharks come toward to us, magnificent specimens of Carcharhinus falciformis, best known under the name of silky sharks. Eager to cross their eyes underwater, we plunge with our diving equipment and cameras watching behind, below and in front of us the sharks, getting closer, accompanied by other smaller species such as white tip sharks (Triaenodon obesus). The biodiversity of this place is amazing: we find enormous jackfishes in schools, giant moray eels, lobsters, tunas and much more. The next day is time to go deeply into the heart of this journey, and we reach the island of Roca Partida…all of you will think that it is an island of normal size…but no…it is a rock of 80 meters in length and ten in height in the middle of the Pacific: an ancient volcano, now almost entirely collapsed. Surprised by the modesty of this little island, aware of the current that we would met and the undertow of several meters, we left for our 3 daily dives. Once we put our heads under water, along the volcano wall, we saw a series of rocky niches that attracted our curiosity. Along these “terraces” we observed dozens of white tip reef sharks, piled on each other, males and females, pregnant or not. Many of them sleep peacefully or rest after an exhausting hunt. Suddenly the current grabbed us, carrying us as “tourists” on a bus along the coast of the tiny rock of Roca Partida, and made us bump into Galapagos sharks (Carcharhinus galapagensis), silky sharks, silver-tip shark (Carcharhinus albimarginatus) and, last but not least…in a school of a hundred hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini). It’s impressive how all move at the same rhythm and maintain all the same distance. But more surprises came unexpected: shoals of jacks, tunas sized often more than sharks and, finally, we had the chance to enjoy the presence of 3 or 4 manta rays (Manta birostris) several meters large, that obscured the sun over our head. These giants of the sea, however, were not alone, but accompanied by remoras of considerable size. All the while, they danced and twirled around us, channeling food with their big cephalic fins located at the end of the head.

These have been the gifts that Roca Partida made us for three amazing days.
At the weekend, we decided to go to Socorro, the largest island of the archipelago, inhabited only by a military base. Here too there was no lack of surprises and, at end of our dive, a cute dolphin greeted us by jumping all the time under the rubber dinghy, guiding us back to the boat. Still not satisfied, we spent our last day again in San Benedicto where, as usual, once the anchor dropped 3 or 4 silky sharks swam for hours around our boat. We dived at Boyler, a shoal off the island where we could enjoy the dance of the giant manta rays and, finally, at Canyon, where we first dived when we arrived, at the beginning of our cruise.
The time comes to return, facing again the Pacific to the mainland…except this time it’s different: adverse winds and sea do not favor our cruise. Still, we are pleased to have captured unique shots of those places so remote as well as fascinating. Exhausted by the journey and unhappy, we spent the last night ashore in Cabo San Lucas, a village a few kilometers from San Jose del Cabo. The joy and satisfaction of our marine encounters was crowned by an excellent dinner at the San Lucas Marina harbor accompanied, as usual, by an exquisite salt-and-lemon Mexican tequila…and by a lot of shopping! The wakeup call of Tuesday, February 23 closed our 12 days expedition.
We are all a bit heartbroken, but happy to have visited one of the most remote, exciting and unique places in the world: the Revillagigedo Archipelago, the “Mexican Galapagos”.

WORDS by Francesca Romana Reinero and PICTURES by Sergio Riccardo

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