We were hanging at 15 feet on our safety stop, having just completed yet another wonderful and action packed dive in Revillagigedos (more commonly known as Socorro). Led by our fearless dive master Ray from our ship the Solmar V, today we were diving a site at Isla Socorro, the second stop on exploration of this remote island chain. The dive had been wonderful. 10 minutes into the dive at a depth of 60 feet, the silence was broken by the high-pitched calls from a pod of dolphins passing overhead. They noticed us immediately and within seconds, we were surrounded by playful dolphins darting this way and that. It took another 10 minutes before they finally tired of our antics and moved on their way. The remainder of the dive presented more of the treats so abundant in the Revillagigedos. We encountered game fish (wahoo and tuna), all kinds of reef fish, morays and out in the blue, The passing hammerhead and Galapagos sharks. Fully satisfied with our dive, my buddy and I began our ascent to our safety stop right below the Solmar V.
As we settled into our safety stop, I noticed a shiny/brownish silhouette approach from behind my buddy. I quickly identified this as a silky shark perhaps 6 feet in length. Now I know silky sharks to be quite curious but this one was down right friendly. As he circled closer, I noticed that the poor shark had a hook lodged in its mouth. As all forms of extraction fishing are banned in the Revillagigedos, this poor fellow could have made his way in from open waters to the safety of this sanctuary or just as likely been the victim of illegal long-line fishing activity within the park boundaries. When he continued to circle even closer, I began to fear he may be seeking revenge for the injury inflicted upon him by man. My first instinct was to withdraw, however my curiosity and appreciation for this beautiful creature prevented me from backing away. He continued to circle closer and closer, so close as to almost brush against me. Upon one such approach, I was overcome by desire to offer some comfort to this poor shark that had been mistreated. As he drew close to me, I reached out and began to stroke the side of the silky behind his gills and along his back. He offered no resistance and seemed to enjoy it. Eventually our air gauges indicated it was time to surface. We said our good byes to our friendly silky and ascended to the surface. Our silky followed us to the surface, made one final farewell pass and then meandered into the distant blue.
I often reflect back on this encounter. It was so personal and so unusual. This was not just a shark encounter and this was not only a silky shark; this was much, much more. Our silky shark encounter was a wonderful and rare opportunity to truly appreciate the gentle and personal side of one of nature’s most impressive predators. I think of this silky as a friend one meets on a journey, a solitary traveler who has fallen upon misfortune and is now seeking compassion and companionship. I also reflect on other marine friends made on this journey through the Revillagigedos: the playful dolphins, the gentle humpback whales, the curios yellow fin tuna, and of course the incredibly close encounters with the giant manta rays. Upon such reflection, it finally dawns on me what makes this island chain so special. More so than any of the other great big animal diving spots on earth, the Revillagigedos offer the most personal big animal diving on earth!