Location: Revillagigedos Archipelago
Duration: 8 day offshore expedition
It’s happened to us all. A fond memory of a place we once visited. Remembering the morning smell of the bakery you went to as a child. Reliving the fresh air of the mountain valleys you hiked in your youth. But often times the second time around wevisit these special places from our memories, they don’t live up to our anticipation. The first time was so amazing that it become near impossible to recreate the magic the second time around. Not in Revillagigedos.
4 years ago I joined an expedition as research assisstant. I spent most of my time in the zodiac, taking data and watching marine life and the volcanic islands of the archipelago from the surface. The two days I spent in the water were nothing but magical. My first encounter with a tiger shark, manta ray and dolphins happened in that brief span of time I got to peak behind the curtain of the waves.
The ocean current dynamics, rocky formations and abundance of marine life make Revillagigedos one of biggest hotspots of biodiversity in the Pacific Ocean, and certainly in Mexico. While I was waiting in the lobby of the hotel before boarding the Nautilus Explorer vessel, I watched YouTube videos of previous dive trips of other dive groups that had just gotten back. If you dive, NEVER do that! Let me reiterate, NEVER! You are setting yourself up to be disappointed. Every videa compilation of dive adventures is a highlight reel of combined footage of several individuals. Once you start to watch these videos, your anticipation for seeing dolphins, whales, sharks over the course of the trip changes to: seeing all of it during a single dive.
The primary objective was to find schools of hammerheads to place scientific transmitters and to take biopsy samples of giant manta rays. Scalloped hammerhead sharks have been classified as endangered by the IUCN and they populations have been decimated to less than 10% of their original size. They are highly sought after for their fins, but also They are highly migratory species and extremely difficult to managed, as they move through open ocean corridors in between feeding and breeding sites. Giant manta rays on the other hand are not targeted for their fins, rather for their gill rakes whose demand is increasing in the chinese traditional medicine market. Understanding the behavior patterns in an offshore open ocean marine park like Revillagigedos is crucial in order to adequately enforce the law. It’s just not feasible nor efficient to patrol the entire area, when in fact you can identify hotspots and focus on those.
On one of the dive sessions I was guiding two participants of the expedition along the lava fingers that stretch from the island out and reach below the water surface until they disappear in deep blue. When the current pushes over these rock formations, nutrients are being pushed up and fish activity increases. That’s what I noticed and signaled two my two dive buddies to look around for sharks. Read the instagram post to see what happened next.
There have been few moments in my life, where I couldn’t believe what I saw. I have a skeptic, logic and analytical mindset. For me there has to be an explanation for every magic trick. Today I saw a school of 50 tuna, 100kg each, swimming by. I dropped to 15 meters silently and suddenly a cloud appeared underneath the umbrella of tuna. The cloud, school of 75 scalloped hammerheads, swallowed me. Time stood still. No trick. Just nature. So simple, and yet it changed me right there and then. To this sight I don’t know how I deserved to experience this moment. Speechless. #hammerheads #revillagigedos #expedition #mexico #sharkscience #diving #freediving #sharks #photography #adventure #ocean #nature #wildlife @watermenproject @williamwinram
Diving at Roca Partida, another incredible dive site, maybe the best one I have ever dove, was like standing in front of a scyscraper for the first time in your life. Except tens of thousands of beautiful silver fish were flying around it, only to dissolve their schools when a giant manta was passing through their ranks to check us out, then doing a turn up the rock walls and returning again in marvelous maneuvers.
Roca Partida is a seamount and serves as a navigational beacon for many marine species. Imagine you are in New York trying to find your way without a map, the Empire State and Central Park make it easy to quickly orientate yourself in the city and find the cardinal directions. For migratory species like the hammerhead sharks and tuna this seamount is exactly that, but because it also gives shelter to thousands of small fish it’s a nice swim-in buffet. Diving below the screams of brown boobys, in the swell crashing against the volcanic rock, flying with manta rays… it was epic. Definitely a place worth to protect! #ocean #nature #tuna #sharks #revillagigedos #rocapartida #adventure #expedition #freediving #diving #conservation #travel #science @watermenproject @williamwinram @inkacresswell @andreaasunsolo
Sharing these experiences not only with colleagues, but friends and like minded ocean advocates was a special experience. There is a level of trust when diving together in the open ocean that runs really deep, and when all the hard work and preparation pays off in incredible marine life encounters as well as scientific success, it makes it that much more satisfying.
It was an incredible expedition with The Watermen Project and I can’t wait to embark on future shark and ocean expeditions with such an incredible team!