Hakai Magazine


One Great Shot: Fish Overhead

At a popular Mexican dive spot, crashing waves, a volcanic spire, and congregating fish make for a dramatic scene.

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by Joanna Lentini

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underwater photo of fish around volcanic spire

Twelve hours by boat from the nearest landmass, Mexico’s Roca Partida teems with marine life and is a fantastic, if intimidating, dive spot. The island, once an active volcano, is part of the Islas Revillagigedo and falls within North America’s largest marine protected area. Today, it’s shaped like devil horns; the highest of its two peaks barely rises 20 meters above the tide, with nothing but blue in every direction.

I visited Roca Partida with a group of divers. Before we rolled backward off the Zodiac, our guide reminded us: “Don’t lose sight of the rock for longer than two minutes and keep an eye on your depth.” Because the island is small and remote, it’s easy to get disoriented. Currents threaten to either sweep divers away or drag us down. And getting too close to the rock and caught up in a surge can be just as dangerous.

I always have butterflies in new places, but once I was below the surface, my anxiety eased as I marveled at all of the incredible sights: mantas, sharks, schools of fish. With limited time and oxygen, I found it difficult to focus on one subject, or to document the grandness of the place.

It was only once I had swum away with the group, in search of hammerhead sharks, that I stopped to look back at Roca Partida and could take in the entirety of its drama. Waves pounded the terrain above, creating a milky cloud of foam that encompassed the site. Marine life appeared to patrol the sky above. It was my last glimpse of this lonely rock in the middle of nowhere.