Solo DolphinA lone dolphin breaks from the pack to get a closer look at the divers.
Blog entry #2
April 24, 2011: El Canyon
The Baja Aggressor motored south in the morning, and we woke up in a calm bay on San Benedicto’s southwest side. Another live-aboard, Solmar V, was already anchored at the site. The plan was to dive before breakfast to get decent light and have a good chance to see the hammerheads at El Canyon. On the ride over in the panga, I asked a guy who looked like Lee Marvin’s doppelganger, Texan radio DJ Ken, which was his favorite dive site (He’s been to Socorro twice already). His answer: The Boiler. However, he changed his tune after this dive.
We jumped in at the “shallow” end of the El Canyon site, which is a ridge that starts at Manta Rock (22 to 65 feet) and goes deeper to 95 feet. Both sides of the ridge plateau into rocky rubble. Swam for 5 minutes to 90 ft., where we gathered at a ridge that ran horizontal to the main ridge and lined up to watch the hammerhead show. A lone bottlenose dolphin swam in amongst the two hammers that were swimming into our little amphitheater. There, we saw 4 to 5 large hammers that would swim in, some from the top, some from below the ridge. They came within 7 to10 feet, always circling around. Big schools of large trevally mixed in with giant trevally, some reaching four-feet long. A squadron of tuna swam over 10 minutes into the dive. After 25 minutes of the hammer spectacle, a family of 7 dolphins dive-bombed us from the surface, and swam around for a minute.
We headed shallower and finished off the dive in the blue, doing our surface interval with a large manta that could very well have been the same manta from The Boiler yesterday. But it wasn’t the same one, as I learned there’s a large family of mantas, all of which have the same white arrow pattern on their bellies just like the one we saw yesterday. But no matter, the experience was just as personal. We emerged from the dive to gasps of amazement. Belinda, the cruise director, said it was the best conditions and best dive they’d ever had at El Canyon. I certainly couldn’t argue with the viz (120 feet), lack of current and surge. Lee Marvin actually said it was the best dive he’d ever done.
Our second dive was more of the same, except we didn’t have get a hammer encounter. We passed a manta on the way down to the hammers, and he tried to get our attention by making several passes, but we were focused on finding the sharks. On the way back, he waited to appear, almost as if punishing us for ignoring him on the way down. But he and another manta finally played with us at the safety stop for 25 minutes, going up with us all the way until we were at the surface sucking our tanks dry.
Third dive we tried our luck at the hammerhead spot, but aside from a few brief sightings, we struck out. So we hightailed it back to Manta Rock, and played with four mantas, including one small black juvenile.
For the last dive, only eight of us went out. The Solmar V had left by now, heading north for The Boiler. We made a plan to jump in at Manta Rock and spend our dive there instead of heading deeper — we’re all on nitrox, but there was no point messing around. Spent an hour at the rock, never going deeper than 65 feet. First one manta, then three mantas appeared and put on a show for us. After 20 minutes, the two latecomers moved off.
An interesting event occurred at the end of this dive. I saw an octopus pop out from under a rock. It was being attacked by hundreds of fish. I swam closer to shoo the fish away, and saw that something had bitten off six of the octo’s arms. It was still alive, trying desperately to swim to safety. I shielded it from the marauders with one of my fins, but it wasn’t able to safely tuck itself in. I was getting low on air, so I had to leave it to its own devices. It didn’t last long. As soon as my fin lifted, large triggers and jacks pelted in to bite pieces off. It was nature at its most violent and unforgiving.
People are getting cold already. All, that is, except for us three drysuit divers. The Bare SB System has been fantastic. It’s slightly too big for me at size L, but it’s allowed me to mix and match with the undergarments. Temps haven’t gotten lower than 73 degrees F, so I haven’t gone beyond just the base layer with the mid-layer vest and a hood on yesterday’s fourth dive. And I felt too warm with that combination.
The Aggressor hoisted anchor during dinner, and we’re heading for Socorro. Tomorrow morning, the Mexican navy comes aboard to check passports/visas, so we’ll only get three dives.
To read the other blog entries from this trip, click on the Related Articles below.