We are super excited to bring you the first in a new series of exclusive blogs for Scubaverse from Jay Clue, Founder of Dive Ninja Expeditions… Welcome Jay!
It’s dawn on the Sea of Cortez and the sun has just lifted above the horizon igniting the Baja sky and surrounding desert mountains with neon orange hues. As I scan the horizon, the silence on the water is almost deafening. Then it happens… A slap echoes across the sea. Then in quick succession another. And another. And another. It sounds like popcorn. Within seconds there are so many mobula rays leaping clean from the ocean’s surface that we struggle to even count them. We quickly grab our fins, masks and cameras, and get ready to jump in.
What comes next is something I struggle to put into words – no matter how many times I’ve seen it or try to speak about it. Imagine looking below the surface and your entire view is filled with a gigantic school of devil rays. Stretching from the ocean surface down to as far below as you can see. While white beams of light dance through the water the school swims in unison. It’s as if Mother Nature had choreographed thousands of beautiful underwater birds soaring together along a deep blue ocean backdrop. I’ve never seen anything else remotely close to it in the world. This is the annual mobula ray aggregation of Baja California Sur, Mexico.
The mobula rays of Baja California, or more specifically, Munk’s Devil Rays (Mobula munkiana, also known as Pygmy devil rays) live here year-round, but can also be found throughout the tropical eastern Pacific from Mexico to Peru. Usually they are found alone or in small groups. But every spring they begin to congregate in certain areas in southern Baja, creating what are considered to be the largest schools of any ray species on earth – and one of our planet’s most incredible natural spectacles. It is believed they gather here following the changing water temperatures to find mates and gorge on blooms of mysid shrimp and other zooplankton.
Although they create these gigantic schools every year not much is actually known about them. For example, we do not know how long they live for, or what their migration patterns are, or even why they love to jump from the water so much.
What we do know is that the IUCN has classified the Munk’s Devil Ray as Near Threatened since 2006. They also have one of the lowest fecundity rates (chance of reproducing) of any marine species due to them being estimated to only give birth to 1 pup every 2-3 years. This tied with them frequently being caught as bycatch in commercial fishing, gillnets, and by trawlers means their populations could easily take a sudden turn for the worse and diminish quite quickly. Scientists like Marta are working hard to better understand them so that more protections can be put in place to help preserve these elegant creatures and the natural wonder they create.
They are the smallest ray in the mobula family measuring about 1.1 meters from wing tip to wing tip – making them a fraction of the size of their huge cousins – the Oceanic Manta Ray. But what these little ninjas lack in physical size they make up for in acrobatic stunts. They are often seen flying from the water performing incredible flips and vertical jumps to heights of almost 3 meters above the surface – making for awesome encounters both above and under the water. Seeing the schools they create is an experience you will never forget. Diving alongside a school towering 20 meters tall and what seems like endless in length is jaw dropping. It is a stunning reminder of how remarkable our oceans truly are.
How to Experience it
The best time of year to see them is from late April until around mid July. Water temperatures this time of year can be a bit chilly around Baja, so you’ll def want to pack a wetsuit. But since all the action is within the first few meters of water, and the rays tend to stay away from bubbles, you can leave all the scuba gear at home and just pack your fins, mask, snorkel, and wetsuit. Flights are pretty straight forward with direct flights from many US cities, as well as Mexico City, into the Los Cabos International Airport (SJD).
There a few tour operators offering short half day tours to see them in La Paz and Cabo San Lucas. But for the best way to experience the magic of this event I would recommend planning for a few days with them because the action changes every day. Dive Ninja Expeditions runs specialized 5 and 8 day ‘Mobula Ray Expeditions’ to their ‘secret spots’ far away from the big cities and hoards of tourists. The expeditions are well thought out and include pretty much everything — oceanfront accommodation in a beautiful little beach town, round trip transfers from Cabo, educational talks & presentations, specialized Team Ninja guides, meals, and a lot more.
Additionally they offer citizen science style trips where the guests get to learn more about the rays and can take part in critical mobula ray research activities alongside marine scientist & mobula ray expert, Marta Palacios. Plus in proper eco-ninja fashion, a portion of your ticket purchase is donated by Dive Ninjas to help fund Marta’s research and local conservation efforts to protect these incredible creatures.
Interested in checking out this extraordinary adventure yourself? Visit the Dive Ninja Expeditions website, they’ve just released their 2020 Mobula Ray Expedition dates!
For more from Jay Clue and Dive Ninja Expeditions, follow:
Sealife Micro 3.0 Camera and Light Gift Set Popular at DEMA Show
The new Micro 3.0 Underwater Camera & Light Gift Set from Sealife was very well received during the recent DEMA Show in New Orleans. The Set is an ideal item for the 2023 Fall travel and Holiday season.
The camera is the latest and third generation of its popular permanently-sealed Micro camera series. The camera is leak-proof with no O-rings to lube or maintain, so there is never a worry about flooding the camera. Like its forerunners, the Micro 3.0 features an ergonomic, compact design with easy to-use controls and menus. The camera has a 16-megapixel Sony® CMOS image sensor and offers 4K ultra-high-definition video. The camera’s ease of use starts with the three wide Piano key type buttons that are easy to locate and control, even with dive gloves on. The intuitive camera’s Easy Setup feature quickly guides you through the correct settings based on the shooting environment, depth and lighting accessories being used.
For a limited time through SeaLife’s USA dealers, SeaLife is offering the Micro 3.0 Camera & Light Limited Edition Gift Set that will include a Sea Dragon 2000F Photo Video Light.
The complete camera and light set price will be the same price as SeaLife’s Micro 3.0 Camera regular selling price (alone). Availability will be early November through SeaLife’s dealer network and while supplies last.
The camera & light gift set will also be available in other countries; however, prices may vary depending on location.
While the Micro 3.0 takes away the fuss and fiddling with camera controls that plague most underwater cameras, the Micro 3.0 does have an easy option for fine-tuning underwater images with manual white balance adjustments and the ability to capture images in RAW format, for those that want to edit their images later. The built-in wide angle 100° lens allows the diver to get close to the subjects while still keeping everything in the picture. The Micro 3.0 offers WiFi sharing ability, so you can wirelessly preview, download, and share pictures & videos to a smart phone or tablet with the free Micro 3+ app available at Google Play or Apple App stores. The Micro 3.0 “Explorer” Gift Set includes the Micro 3.0 camera, the Sea Dragon 2000F photo/video light, Flex-Connect Micro tray and Grip, light battery & charger, wrist strap, USB adapter, 3’/90cm USB cable, camera pouch & lens cap.
Find out more at www.sealife-cameras.com/micro-3-0-sets.
Dive into Festive Fun With PADI
Marina Scuba School’s Santa Splash Discover Scuba Experience
Join the festive fun at Marina Scuba School’s Santa Splash on the 16th of December in Crosby. While the real Santa may be busy, Marina Scuba School’s staff members will be dressed up in festive attire for a 2-hour DSD with a Christmas twist.
Open to adults, families, and children over the age of 8, this festive dive is jam-packed with Christmas treats.
The festive fun begins at Marina Scuba School, where you’ll be greeted with a warm welcome and some delicious Santa snacks. During the 2-hour Discover Scuba Diving session, you’ll have the chance to learn essential skills required for scuba diving, all while searching for some Christmas goodies hidden beneath the surface.
This holly jolly dive experience takes place on the 16th of December in Crosby and only costs £40 per participant.
To book this exciting dive contact the dive centre by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vobster Quay in Bristol is thrilled to announce the return of the Vobster Santas, a spectacular yuletide diving event that promises to make waves for a cause. This festive fun is open to all levels of divers and invites participants to don their Santa gear and dive into the holiday season in style.
Scheduled for the 10th of December, the gates to Vobster Quay will open at 7:30 am, with a comprehensive dive brief at 09:30 am, leading up to a mass dive at 10:00 am. The goal? To surpass the previous record of 185 Santa divers in the water simultaneously, promising a visually spectacular and undoubtedly jolly spectacle.
Vobster Santas isn’t just about the joy of diving; it’s a mission with heart. The event serves as a vital fundraising opportunity for two esteemed charities, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Help for Heroes. Both hold special significance for Vobster Quay, and participants are encouraged to secure sponsorships through JustGiving to support these worthy causes.
Since its inception, Vobster Santas has successfully raised over £40,000 for these charities. This year, the bar is set higher, and Vobster Quay is committed to leading the charge. To kick off the fundraising efforts, Vobster Quay has generously donated £1000 to each charity, igniting the holiday spirit of giving.
For more information, sponsorship opportunities, and to download the event poster, visit: Vobster Quay – VOBSTER SANTAS 2023
Photos: Jason Brown
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