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Dive Review of M/V Valentina in
Mexico (Western)/Socorro Islands

M/V Valentina: "Socorro Islands - mantas, mantas & more mantas!", Nov, 2018,

by Phil Johnston, Bayswater, AU (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 25 reports with 24 Helpful votes). Report 10793 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments My first visit to the Socorros – my expectations were high based on comments from divers I have met who previously dived the Revillegigido Islands. I found the Socorros to be similar to Cocos & Galapagos Islands – highly variable diving, some sites better than others & individual sites being highly changeable in terms of visibility, currents & marine life sighted.
THE BOAT & OPERATOR : my experience with Azul Fun Fleet / MV Valentina’s administration was a little disappointing. I filled out their Liability & Nitrox waiver forms on-line & sent these back via my travel agent some months prior to the cruise, upon boarding I was asked to complete these again. My travel agent was also contacted by Azul Fun Fleet shortly before the cruise & asked to forward a copy of my passport to them, I had already left Australia by that stage so my travel agent had to track me down to ask for a copy to be sent. This was apparently to meet last-minute requirements from the Mexican Navy, who undertake a passport inspection for all boat passengers who arrive at the islands.
The boat itself was in good condition & no breakdowns were experienced. The Valentina is a large boat with a widish beam, so was generally stable despite some rough-ish waters during the 25 hour transit from departure point of Cabo San Lucas to the islands & return.
Nitrox fills were sometimes a little low at 29%, but generally OK. Diving was from 2 RIBS, which appeared to be in good condition & had new-looking engines. Unfortunately, with 19 passengers on board & a max of 7-8 persons per RIB, this meant the 2 RIBS operated a “shuttle service” to take the 3 groups of divers to/from dive sites. The boatsmen operated this system pretty effectively but for safety & convenience I would have preferred a RIB to wait at the dive site for resurfacing divers.
Diving & cabin staff were competent & helpful, although there was some variability in strictness of the 3 divemasters, who rotated between the 3 groups of divers. The main divemaster, Charlie, was quite strict in terms of his group staying close together, one of the other divemasters, a Japanese lady, was a lot more relaxed. One of my group of divers was quite inexperienced, not very fit & a prodigious air user. He was wisely buddied up with the boat skipper for a few days to dive a separate profile to the main groups, when handed to the Japanese divemaster, more attention should have been paid to him – at one stage he drifted far off into the blue in a current, & struggled to return to the group against the current. Diving at Socorros is definitely not for the unskilled diver given the occurrence of strong currents, rough surface conditions & remoteness of some sites such as El Boiler. I actually preferred Charly’s stricter approach given the conditions.
Food was good but not exceptional, beer & soft drinks were free. First wine with dinner was free, with payment required thereafter. Spirits & cocktails were charged for. Snacks were generally provided post-dive.
Accommodations were reasonably spacious & clean, however the top bunk in my cabin was quite high off the floor, with a significant gap between the bottom of the bunk ladder & the floor, making night-time trips from my top bunk to the lavatory a slightly challenging activity during heavier seas.
THE DIVING : highlight of the trip was Manta action. I had heard much about Socorro’s friendly Mantas, at times I was amazed at the closeness of their approaches, some coming close enough to actually make eye contact with me. I sighted Mantas on almost every dive. Dolphins were seen at El Canyon at San Benedicto Island, & most memorably, at Cabo Pierce at Socorro Island where a dolphin literally put its head in the lap of the lady dive next to me, who was able to scratch it under its chin. I’ve not seen an untamed dolphin interact with a person in this way anywhere else. Cabo Pierce is the only place I’ve had dolphins, a manta & a hammerhead within my field of vision.
Most memorable dive was the last diving day, at El Canyon. Backrolling from the Zodiac I almost landed on a couple of silky sharks. A couple of large mantas were already circling a cleaning station, along with 5-6 silvertip sharks, and a couple of larger Galapagos sharks. After watching the mantas for a few minutes the divemaster moved us into blue water away from the reef, where a school of 20-odd hammerheads passed fairly close. We returned to the reef area, to be treated to 35-40 minutes of close passes by 6?7?8? mantas, the mantas just didn’t stop coming. Most mantas were accompanied by jacks swimming underneath – one particularly large manta cruised past with a small school of jacks underneath, followed by a 10 metre trail of following jacks. A large yellowfin tuna chased smaller fish past us, and a free-swimming full-size moray moved over the reef below me. All this occurred in a cloud of creole fish, interspersed with occasional Bluefin trevallies, silvertip sharks & silky sharks. Even as I climbed back into the Zodiac, a large all-black manta made a close pass underneath me. I rated this dive as being in the top 3 dives of my 1000+ dives, an incredible experience.
Not all Socorro diving was equally stellar, 3 of our 4 dives at El Boiler were disappointing with little or no action, only on the 4th & last dive were we entertained by three 12 foot plus wide mantas making repeated passes around us, sometimes all 3 in a line-astern formation. We did 1 unimpressive dive at Punta Tosca, in strong current & surge, with no sightings of large marine life.
Overall, I wouldn’t rate Socorros quite as highly as Wolf Rock or Darwin’s Arch in Galapagos, or Alcyone/Manuelita at Cocos Island. I would certainly rate the Socorros area as being exceptional for pelagic manta interactions.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Australia, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Indonesia/Bali, Cocos, Cozumel, Tonga, Galapagos, Tahiti, Maldives, Mozambique, Bahamas, Red Sea, Roatan, Philippines, Hawaii (Kona, Maui)
Closest Airport San Jose Del Cabo (SJD) Getting There I flew direct flight from LAX

Dive Conditions

Weather windy, cloudy, dry Seas choppy, currents
Water Temp 25-26°C / 77-79°F Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 12-24 M / 39-79 Ft

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions The usual - no deco diving, max 100 foot, 60 minutes, 500 PSi on return
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas Squadrons
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 1 stars Tropical Fish 2 stars
Small Critters 1 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 3 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments No comment as I'm not an UWP
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Report currently has 1 Helpful vote

Subscriber's Comments

By peter bernstein in FL, US at Dec 10, 2018 15:02 EST  
good report
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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