Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Blog

Witnessing nature’s paradox: beauty and brutality in the depths of the Socorro Islands

Killer Whales and Humpback calf

In the heart of the vast Pacific Ocean, a hidden world thrives—a realm of marvels where scuba divers venture to encounter the ocean’s most wondrous inhabitants. The Revillagigedo Archipelago, also known as the Socorro Islands, is a sanctuary for marine life—a domain where divers seek communion with the giants of the sea. The Socorro Islands are a chain of four small islands in the Eastern Pacific Ocean about 250 miles south of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The area is home to giant manta rays, bottlenose dolphins, and several species of sharks including hammerheads and whale sharks.

In these underwater landscapes, divers find tranquility—It’s a world where each interaction feels like a gift, where moments of wonder and photographic perfection unfold amid playful encounters. Amidst this serene tapestry, divers can expect to encounter an array of oceanic royalty—majestic manta rays gliding through the currents, the silhouette of hammerhead sharks patrolling in the distance, and the elusive grace of whale sharks, all coexisting in this mesmerizing underwater realm. These waters teem with vibrant life, from the graceful dance of dolphins to the stealthy movements of silvertip and blacktip sharks, offering divers an immersive experience into the diverse tapestry of oceanic life.


One of the best islands to scuba dive in the Socorro Islands is Roca Partida. It is a rocky pinnacle that juts up from deep water about 70 miles west of Socorro. This rock is small and may be easily circumnavigated twice on a single tank. It is home to numerous whitetip reef sharks that rest in depressions in the wall like cordwood, as well as large schools of hammerhead sharks, silky sharks, Galapagos sharks,  jacks, tuna and the occasional whale shark.

On this never to forget trip of a lifetime, when we arrived at Roca Partida, we immediately saw the Humpback whales – Mama, baby, and their escort – circling the small island. We couldn’t get in the water fast enough. We spent the entire day scuba diving around Roca Partida, watching schooling silky sharks, schooling Hammerhead sharks and a few Galapagos sharks among the manta rays, dolphins, and schools of jacks. At the end of each dive, the Humpback whales would approach us, It’s amazing, indescribable really, to be in the water with a living creature this big and gentle. Watching the Mother humpback whale with her baby was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. It was a privilege just to share the ocean with them. As soon as we sucked our tanks dry we threw them in the boat, grabbed our snorkels and went back in throughout the day. The calf was about three weeks old and still learning how to control his buoyancy. He would come up for air every three minutes or so, swim around the divers like he was trying to say hello, then dive back down and get under his mama, who would hover over him to help him stay down. After the first day with them, everyone was content to hang with the whales for a few more days instead of moving on in search of other wildlife,

But amidst this serenity, the harsh truth of nature emerges—a stark reminder that the wild teeters between the beauty and the brutality of life.

On the following morning after another long and amazing Roca Partida scuba dive, In a sudden shift, the intrusion of two male orcas, turned the tranquil scene into chaos. The grace of the humpback family was disrupted as tow Male Killer Whales enacted their role as apex predators. What unfolded was a gut-wrenching struggle, a clash between survival and predation.

The humpback mother and escort valiantly defend their calf against the relentless Killer whales. However, the orcas, skilled hunters with no empathy, separated the vulnerable calf and execute a swift, devastating attack. The ocean turned crimson, you could smell the whales oil in the air and then haunting cries of the humpbacks piercing through the water—a tragic ending to nature’s unrelenting cycle of life.

Once the calf died the Orca started to skin the humpback, tearing away the skin and folding the skin back to feed on the body. Photographs show the calf skin pulled away from the body and in the video you can observe the Orca feeding on the body. Each time the calf would sink one of the Orca would bring it back to the surface. After a few minutes Approximately 20 Silky Sharks, 2-4 Silvertip Sharks and perhaps 1 Blacktip Shark were observer and also started to feed on the humpback carcass. This went on for several minutes with each Killer Whale taking turns feeding which caused the smaller sharks to disperse temporarily from the carcass . Each time the Orca would surface with the carcass we would position ourselves closer to the now dead calf and the Orca would move away with the carcass as if each of our inflatable boats was another predator. At 10:39am the Orca moved away allowing the remaining humpback carcass to sink.

For the group of divers witnessing this convergence of nature’s beauty and cruelty, our emotions clashed It was heart wrenching, but we also knew this was a once in a lifetime event: for humans to witness Mother Natures brutality so closely. We were simply seeing the natural order of life and death.

As our group of divers returned to the main boat, our hearts were heavy yet enriched, we all had vivid memories but a profound understanding—the paradox of nature, where beauty and brutality, life and death, the circle of life, interweave in an eternal dance.  It would have be easy to describe this event as the “good guys” versus the “bad guys.” The humpbacks, a caring mother and brand new baby, against the murderous “killer whales” — I mean, who would hunt down and kill a sweet, defenseless baby? But nature isn’t about good versus evil. Nature is about survival of the fittest. And everybody’s gotta eat.

The Mother Female Humpback was filmed at Roca Pardita in Jan 18 for 3 trips in 2013 with another calf and a different Male Escort.. On our trip in 2015 the Female Humpback was Identified on site prior to any scuba diving by a bump forward of the Dorsal fin on the left side of the animal. Since, the female Humpback has been identified by as CRC-16908 also known as FIBB-2BB116 The first recorded sighting was in 01/22/2006 in Nayarit, Mexico. She has also been sighted on 12/25/2011, s01/25/2019 in Cabo San Lucas, Baja, Mexico and sighted again at Roca Partida on 02/19/2022.  This year 2024, in the months of January and February we expect the Mother Humpback whale to again be at Roca Partida with a new calf!!   Join us, Scuba Diving Socorro Islands, for Humpback whale watching, giant pacific manta rays and up to seven species of sharks on an Ocean Safaris trip

Read more about this encounter here