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Big Encounters of Socorro

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The Socorro Islands, located 250 miles off the coast of Mexico, are known for their big pelagic encounters and are a more affordable alternative to Cocos and Galapagos.  UK-based tour operator Scuba Tours Worldwide organised an ‘Exclusive Tour’ to Socorro during the month of March to coincide with humpback whale season … and their Dive Guide, David Allison, lead the trip and shares his experiences in this trip report.

The Islands

Arriving at San Benedicto Island to a dramatic scene of a volcano with lava fields – the backdrop to an ocean where dozens of humpback whales have made a short stop on their migration – is a pretty amazing experience.  Whales breaching and tail slapping calves with their mothers; this is just one of the experiences that made this trip so special.

Hammerheads Galore

Our first full day’s diving got off to a great start at El Canon with hammerheads galore coming into the cleaning stations, silvertips, silky sharks, Galapagos sharks and whitetips.  That’s an incredible variety just for one dive!  On top of that, some of the guests were then spoiled by the sighting of a tiger shark swimming by.

Hammerhead

Whalesharks

We spent two days at Roca Partida – just a rock in the ocean nine hours sailing from San Benedicto.  A sea mount, remnant of a volcano, with sheer walls, great visibility and ocean current is again home to many species of shark. We encountered schools of hammerhead, silky sharks, silvertips, galapagos sharks and residential whitetips.  We also saw huge yellow fin tuna and large schools of jacks, but I have to say the main highlight was a 5m whaleshark seen on two dives – she was very inquisitive with the divers and by account of the guides should not have been there at this time of the season!  Last but not least we were treated to a manta birostris (giant mantas) showing up on our last dive before heading back to San Benedicto.

Whaleshark

Giant Mantas at ‘El Boiler’

B&W Diver and Manta‘Manta madness’ at El Boiler was unbelievable!  Giant manta birostris, amazingly beautiful, are very friendly to divers.  It seemed as if they only showed up once we were on the dive site as there was always a 5 to 10 minute wait, then they would show up using our bubbles as a ready made ‘jacuzzi’ and spend the whole dive hanging out with the divers.  El Boiler is a great dive site, easy to dive and not only home to the manta but also the odd hammerhead shark, schools of jacks, leather bass and a residential pod of very friendly bottlenose dolphins.  We were fortunate enough to play with the dolphins on several occasions. El Boiler was that good we would not only spend the day there but return over another 2 days to get our ‘manta fix’ and some great photos.

More Amazing Diving…

Some other very memorable dive sites were Cabo Pearce and Punta Tosca at Socorro Island.  At Cabo Pearce we were again able to play with dolphins, but my favourite was Punta Tosca with schools of hammerheads. I even saw a huge Great hammerhead following two manta rays across a sand and rock bed at the end of one of my dives.

Every diver got to see humpbacks when they were either snorkelling or diving and, although they were brief encounters, they were always memorable.  On one occasion one of the groups were out on the pangas trying to get in with the humpbacks (which were being very difficult at the time!) but they all ended up snorkelling with a 4m tiger shark!

Dolphins

At the back of the boat at night on several occasions were dozens of silky sharks. Some of the divers managed to get some ‘up close and personal’ photos.

Our last day’s diving was at San Benedicto, back at El Canon dive site where we started the trip. Again, fabulous hammerheads!  We then finished off the trip at El Boiler to say ‘adios’ to the mantas.

Whitetip sharks

Photos: David Allison

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Experience the Socorro Islands for yourself…

Scuba Tours Worldwide LogoHere are the dates:

03 Mar – 13 Mar 2017 * 10 nights aboard Nautilus Belle Amie from £2,533pp

Prices includes accommodation on board Nautilus Belle Amie in a triple stateroom, all meals, soft drinks, snacks and all diving. (Please ask for alternative cabin categories).

18 Jan – 26 Jan 2018 * 8 nights Rocio del Mar from £2,605pp 

17 Apr – 25 Apr 2018 * 8 nights Rocio del Mar from £2,605pp

Price includes accommodation on board Rocio del Mar in a twin/double share cabin, all meals, soft drinks and snacks, local beer and wine and all diving.

For more information or to book, contact the Scuba Tours Worldwide team on +44 (0)1284 748010, email sales@scubascuba.com or visit www.scubascuba.com.  

For more specials and Exclusive Tours from Scuba Tours Worldwide, visit www.scubascuba.com/specials/exclusive-tours.

To see more of Dave’s photos from this trip, click through to the Scuba Tours Worldwide Pinterest page: www.pinterest.com/scubascuba/daves-socorro-trip-report/

David and Lisa managed MV Sea Queen for over eight years and they are back in the Maldives from April 2016 to take over MV Sea Spirit. Before joining Scuba Tours Worldwide they spent a number of years operating a Jersey Dive Centre in the summer and a Sri Lankan Dive Centre in the winter. Both are PADI Instructors with considerable dive experience and qualifications. Lisa is a Martial arts and Fitness Instructor and has completed the Three Peaks 24 hour challenge. David is also a Fitness Instructor and he plays a mean guitar.

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New academic study to confirm rehabilitative benefits of Scuba Diving

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A new study into Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Charity Deptherapy’s approach to supporting Armed Forces veterans with psychological injuries such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through the medium of scuba diving has been carried out by Petra Walker in conjunction with Hanna Kampman of the Posttraumatic Growth Research Unit at the University of East London.

This study, which used Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), demonstrates that scuba diving has rehabilitation benefits beyond those found in other forms of sporting rehabilitation exercise.

IPA is a qualitative methodology that examines the experiences of participants and has been used in previous studies of Posttraumatic Growth (PTG) in para-athletes.

Petra is an experienced diver herself and was exploring the wellbeing aspects of scuba diving as part of her Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology when she came across a previous study on Deptherapy. Past studies have mainly focused on the medical aspects of diving, so the opportunity to examine the mental health side of rehabilitative scuba diving was impossible to ignore.

The full study is currently embargoed until it is published at a future date in an academic journal, but it follows similar academic research into the work of Deptherapy by the University of Sheffield Medical School (2018) and the University of Nottingham (2019).

Richard Cullen, Chairman of Deptherapy commented: “This evidence-based study demonstrates yet again the value of scuba diving and, in particular, the support provided by Deptherapy to severely traumatised people within the Armed Forces community. We await the publication of the detailed findings which we anticipate will be of considerable interest to all organisations who seek to assist in the rehabilitation of veterans through sporting activity, as well as the Scuba Diving world.”

Team Deptherapy returned to the UK last week from their first training expedition since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic. A small group of six veterans travelled with the Deptherapy Instructor Team to the charity’s international base at Roots Red Sea to undertake practical Scuba Diving training in the clear, warm waters of the Red Sea.

Joining Team Deptherapy for the first time was 20 year old paraplegic Corey Goodson who had this to say: “I have been made aware of a new academic study about the benefits of Deptherapy. Last week I learned to scuba dive properly with Deptherapy, a huge achievement for someone with paraplegia. Deptherapy doesn’t judge your injury, whether that be physical or psychological; it looks beyond, and it sees the person inside. That person is who they work with, and the Deptherapy programme encourages you to see your fellow beneficiaries in the same light. More important than the sense of achievement during the training, was the support, care, encouragement and love the team showed me. I have found a new family in Deptherapy. I am home now but the support, friendship and banter continue; it is motivating and empowering, it gives me a deep sense of wellness and worth. I look forward to continuing my rehabilitative journey with Deptherapy.”

For more information about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education visit www.deptherapy.co.uk.

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Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 6

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for part 6 of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

Thursday has dawned and it is down to the House Reef with an outgoing tide that is approaching slack so we can get in the water straight away.   Lots of chat about last night’s RAID O2 Provider session with Moudi.  Oatsie is talking about sidemounts and marine biology, Swars is looking forward to his first sidemount session this afternoon.

Moudi is supported by Oatsie this morning and doing some more skill work with Keiron.

Moudi running the guys through the RAID O2 Administrator Course

Corey was asking last night about what it is like at 30 metres, so I have decided that with Michael and Swars we will take him to 30 metres.  We are going to run a narcosis exercise so out comes the slate with the numbers 1 – 25 randomly placed in squares.  Corey’s task, in the dive centre, is as quickly as possible to touch each number in sequence.  He does it pretty quickly and Michael briefs him that he will need to do the same exercise at 30 metres.

Michael briefs the dive and we set off down the beach.  Corey has improved beyond measure and he is becoming a pleasure to dive with.  So we are off to follow the South reef to 30 metres where we will complete the second part of the exercise.

At 30 metres Michael hands Corey the slate; there is a considerable difference in the time to complete the exercise at the surface and at 30 metres.  There are lots of mitigating factors in how quickly you can identify the numbers and explaining a slower time at 30 metres than at the surface does not mean an individual is suffering from narcosis.  Identifying random numbers, if you run the exercise at the surface, several times with an individual over a number of hours can result in wide variations in the time taken to complete the exercise.

We finish the dive with Corey smiling from ear to ear and we have a discussion about depth and air consumption.  The second dive of the morning is a fun dive, then it is lunch in the beach restaurant.  After the burgers I am sure we will need to look at our weighting before the afternoon’s dive.

We will need to look at weighting after this lunch!

Corey and Keiron have got into the habit of recording their dives online using the RAID online log book which is a tremendous facility and as the instructor I can access that data.

Moudi and Keiron are going for a fun dive as are Corey, Oatsie, Michael and myself. Swars is getting kitted up for the first experience of sidemount with Guy Henderson.

Swars getting to grips with his sidemount cylinders

People often look at the relationships that exist between the dive team and our beneficiaries and try to extrapolate a similar relationship to disabled students they might have.  Our relationships are built up over a period of time, in some cases over many years.  We also provide 24/7 support and have chat groups etc on social media; we also meet up socially when we can.  It is somewhat different than a individual coming in to a dive centre and saying ‘I want to dive’. Your relationship is likely to be the same as any other student, you will teach them, they might stay with the dive centre or like many that will go on holiday to do some diving, you might never see them again.

Our main aim is to create a family atmosphere for our programme members, one where they feel secure and they are able to discuss freely with the team and fellow beneficiaries their feelings and needs.

Few dive centres are charities, and owners might want to consider costs of running a course for someone with a disability that might take more than the standard four pool sessions etc.  You may find the number of sessions and the staffing levels have to increase.  Many dive centres, because of their size and turnover are exempt from providing accessibility.  How will this affect someone who is a wheelchair user?  Can they gain access to the dive centre, the classroom, the toilet?  What are the changing facilities, can they get wheelchair access to the pool?

Lots of things to think about.

Roots’ beautiful reef

The reef is beautiful, so much aquatic life and the corals look splendid, especially the pinnacles.

A good day’s diving, Swars has really enjoyed his sidemount.

Lovely way to relax in the evening with the Roots BBQ, a fitting end to a great day.

Last day tomorrow and our final blog!


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

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