Isla San Benedicto – Day 27

Dear F&F,
January 12, 2009

We awoke to the sound of Jeronimo\’s panga zooming past our cabin window at 6:45 am. We quickly threw on clothes & scrambled topside to say hi. \”Solmar V\”, the commercial dive boat had pulled in after we went to bed last night & they were already getting ready for their first dive. Jeronimo told us they had seen a humpback whale earlier. As Scott was talking to him, he saw the spout in the distance & then a nice jump. The sun was rising on the horizon & the whale breached 2 more times. A roar of cheers drifted across the water from Solmar\’s deck. It was going to be another good day….

The swell was down, so as we ate our oatmeal & drank our tea we topped off 4 scuba tanks with the compressor. We hailed Chuck & Linda that we were heading out to \”The Boiler\”. They were eager to go also since they had not yet been. The dinghy ride after we turn the corner of the island gets more rough & I have to slow down not to slam too viciously into the oncoming swell. I cannot tolerate the ride in the front, so I always drive. Plus it helps the dinghy ride more level with Scott\’s weight in the front. About 2/3rds of the way there, I look back & see that \”Solmar V\” is turning the corner also. Rats! Darn \”retails\” are coming out, the Boiler will be swarmed with 20 divers. Oh well, we were already nearly there & may not get another chance, so just hoped to make the best of it.

We managed to get our anchor down & cruise around the rocky plateau for about 30 minutes before the \”Solmar V\” divers invaded. For the first 15 minutes of the dive there was nothing special. That sounds jaded, I know, as it is always great to go diving & see the colorful fish. But we have become manta sluts & that is our main interest. After about 15 minutes of ho-hum, out of the blue comes an all-black-back manta. It has been our experience that they are not as interactive as the ones with large white triangles (chevrons) on their shoulders. After doing one somewhat distant circle of us, it swam closer & then hovered over my head, clearly asking for a belly rub. I had to oblige. Chuck & Linda had tied their dinghy off to ours & were now in the water snorkeling. The manta went shallow enough that they could free dive down to touch it. Chuck has developed really good breath-holding capability, so after an eye to eye introduction & gentle touches, he went for it. The manta swam right under him & he grabbed on. He had a nice ride, and the manta never dove deeper than 15 feet. Terry had told us that they seem to know the difference between a diver & a snorkeler. Scott caught this on video.

Well, Linda was not going to be left out, so when the manta swam shallow under her, she took a lungful of air & kicked down, hanging on for a ride also. The four of us had this magnificent creature all to ourselves for a good 15 minutes, before the \”retails\” started descending. We were curious to watch how the manta would react to the big group. We were amazed. She swam amongst them all, as if laying eyes on each & every diver to say hello. Like a dog sniffing people. Scott got all the video footage he could take & we finally got low on air & had to go do our safety stop. The manta continued to swim amongst the \”Solmar V\” divers. We congratulated Chuck & Linda for joining the club. After putting our BCs & regulators on the fresh tanks, we enjoyed a peanut butter & jelly sandwich & some Gatorade. It was only 10 am, but we are always hungry after diving.

As the \”Solmar V\” divers started surfacing we were eager to jump back in, so only had about a 30 minute surface interval. There were about 8 divers hanging on for their safety stop & \”Black Beauty\”, as we\’ve named this one, was still parading up & down, staying close to the group. Once she saw us, she swam right over & now we had her full attention again. Linda stayed in the water the whole time, snorkeling. We had another 35 minutes of wonderful close interaction. Scott took a ride that I filmed. Face on, the 2 of them swimming right at the camera. When he took back photography duty, I got to have some tender moments. She would literally stop & hover beside or on top of me. More belly rubs. (Need new gloves!) She swam under me a few times, dipping a wing as if to scoop me up for a ride. I declined, just didn\’t feel the need to hang on from the top & enjoyed myself thoroughly being close to her in every other way. Truly precious moments. Unforgettable. Unimaginable. Indescribable.

Jeronimo, the Captain & another deck hand were all in the water snorkeling while their divers were on break. We motored near Jeronimo & chatted, sharing our awe & wonder at this island and its mantas. Their group will do 2 more dives here then head back to Cabo. He was uncertain if he would be working the next trip or not, so just in case it was our last chance, we said our goodbye\’s & thank you\’s. He is a good friend and we hope our paths cross again.

It is a smoother dinghy ride back to the boat, going with the waves. We unloaded the dinghy, rinsed the gear (vinegar with a fabric softener chaser does a bang-up job on the stinky wetsuits) & hoisted the dinghy up on its davits. It is only 12:30 pm & we have had a full day.

We invited Chuck & Linda over for rib eye tonight. She sounded grateful for a change from wahoo. Scott is working on burning a DVD of their manta ride so they can show their friends.

We are hoping to see more whales from now on. We are thinking that tomorrow will be our farewell day to dive here at the old favorite spots, then set sail for Ilsa Socorro Wednesday. There are wonderful things awaiting us there too I am sure. But it is going to be hard to say goodbye to San Benedicto which has been such a divers dream come true.

Scott & Cindy