Shark Soup In Socorro

Are you looking for a shark on your next adventure? Revillagigedo Archipelago, better known as Socorro Islands, will not disappoint you!

By Patrizia Stipcich M.Sc. Marine biology, PhD

This group of four volcanic islands (Socorro, Roca Partida, Clarión, and San Benedicto) is in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 458 km southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Peninsula, basically a day of sailing away. More practical information about how to reach this place is given in the article about it.

Revillagigedo Archipelago became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016 and the Mexican government declared it a National Park in 2017. Marine animals and seabirds have made these islands their home and Socorro Islands have become famous for very close encounters with many pelagic species such as bottlenose dolphins, oceanic mantas, and many species of sharks, including eight species that divers frequently encounter.


Photo: Josh Davies

Here below is more information on the most common sharks in Socorro Islands and how to behave.

Whitetip Reef shark (Triaenodon obesus)

It is one of the most common sharks of the Indo-Pacific coral reefs, and it does not exceed 1.60 m in length. As the name says, it is easily recognizable by the white-tipped dorsal and caudal fins. They are night-hunters, and therefore they spend most of the day to rest in caves or swim around lazily. You can see them sometimes just facing the current: its laziness makes them stay still and waiting, that the current facilitates their breathing. 

I was in Roca Partida at the end of November and a big school of whitetip sharks (100+) was there just chilling around. I wondered if my video lights would have bothered them, but they did not seem annoyed by the lights, a fact that also the official photographer that was on the boat confirmed.


Photo: Patrizia Stipcich

Galapagos shark (Carcharhinus galapagensis)

Galapagos sharks, generally found over continental and insular shelves near the coast, can reach 3.5 m in length. It is brownish grey on the upper body, with a white ventral surface, and faded white stripes on the sides. It is an active predator, often moving in large groups. In my experience in Socorro Islands, they did not seem frightened by our presence but very curious. I will never forget the encounter I had with one of them in San Benedicto!


Photo: Josh Davies

Silvertip shark (Carcharhinus albimarginatus)

As the name suggests, white tips and borders of all the fins characterize this species. This is what can distinguish it from the whitetip shark, that lack the typical white marking on the tips of the pectoral fins.

It can reach a maximum length of 3.0m, and it is common to see it around small islands and coral reefs, but it has also been found very deep. They are also very curious, and they can get very close to the diver: always behave with respect, never try to scare them or challenge them and never do abrupt movements that might make them believe you want to hurt them.


Photo: Patrizia Stipcich

Scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini)

Definitely one of my favorites! While diving in Socorro Islands, have a look in the blue time to time and you will find yourself surprised by huge schools of hammerheads! If you see just one hammerhead shark coming close to you, do not worry. It is the scout, sent by the group to check if you are a potential danger for them. It might come closer, make a couple of rounds around divers and then go and call its friends. In the group there is an important hierarchical system, where they are divided by gender and age.


Photo: Gerald Schömbs

Silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis)

Do not get attracted by the name, even though it has been named like that for the smooth texture of its skin, you cannot touch it. Very common in tropical waters, it can reach up to 2.5m of length. The first dorsal fin is relatively small with a curving rear margin, the second one has a long free rear tip, while the pectoral fins are long, and sickle shaped. That silky shark we met in Roca Partida seemed to want all the attention. It swam for more than twenty minutes around us, posing in front of each camera!

Photo: Patrizia Stipcich

Tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier)

Although apparently it is one of the rarest shark encounters in these islands, we have met this guy in several dives. Unmistakable for their striped body that resembles a tiger pattern, they can reach 5.5m in length (female). Because of its coloration that ranges from blue to light green with a white underbelly, they can easily camouflage to confuse their preys. The Tiger shark is solitary, mostly moving around at night. I still remember that dive in Socorro where, while staring at a big manta, a tiger shark just passed by! A guide told us to keep eye-contact with sharks, so that they can better understand who you are.

Dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus)

Dusky sharks are one of the slowest-growing and latest-maturing sharks, not reaching adulthood until around 20 years of age. Populations migrate seasonally, travelling hundreds of kilometres. Its body is slender and streamlined, and it can be recognized by its short round snout, long sickle-shaped pectoral fins, ridge between the first and second dorsal fins and faintly marked fins.

Whale shark (Rhincodon typus)

Whale sharks are the longest sharks and, they have been classified as the largest living non-mammalian animals. As they are filter feeders, they follow the current looking for their food of choice: plankton. Encounters in Revillagigedo are form November to January, even though I was not lucky enough to meet one there. Anyway, once I got back to Baja California Peninsula I went to La Paz where I was able to fix it! Have a look at the article about the whale shark excursion in La Paz if you are interested.