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Exploring with the Dive Ninjas: Diving with the Mobula Rays of Baja California, Mexico

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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:

Instagram: instagram.com/JayClue

Facebook: facebook.com/iamjayclue

Website: www.DiveNinjaExpeditions.com

Jay Clue is a conservationist, dive instructor, explorer, and photographer based in Mexico. Under all the tattoos you’ll find a big nerd, with interests ranging from shark conservation to quantum mechanics. When he’s not diving or teaching you can usually find him wherever there are an abundance of delicious snacks. Find out more at: www.DiveNinjaExpeditions.com.

Marine Life & Conservation

Beached Whale Art Installation highlights plight of ocean

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Residents in the North East awoke to a stranded sperm whale on Majuba beach in Redcar on Sunday morning. Little did they know, however, this was not in fact a real whale, but an art installation created by Captain Boomer Collective in cooperation with Zephyr Wildlife Productions to raise awareness about the plight of our oceans.

The realistic, life-sized sperm whale attracted crowds of people as ‘scientists’ imitated taking samples and measurements to establish the cause of stranding. A handful of BDMLR Marine Mammal Medics also attended the scene to assist with the ‘incident’ and educate the public. The Teesside region has seen high rates of mortality among several species recently, crabs and harbour porpoises to name a few, so this publicity stunt couldn’t have come at a more relevant time.

The whale, which is still situated on Majuba beach, will remain there until  4pm today before it will then be moved on. If you’re in the area, we’d highly recommend going to check it out!

REMEMBER, if you ever see a stranded whale (or dolphin or porpoise):

🐳 Call the BDMLR hotline to report it and for advice on what to do next ☎️01825 765546 (option 1)

🐳 Keep a safe distance, keep noise to a minimum and keep all dogs on leads

🐳 Do NOT touch or attempt to move the animal – cetaceans often carry zoonotic diseases/viruses which are transmissible to humans. There is often an underlying reason for them stranding too, so even if you were able to refloat them in the water, there’s a strong chance the animal will restrand.

For more information about the Captain Boomer Collective visit their website by clicking here.

For more information about British Divers Marine Life Rescue click here.

Photos: Sally Bunce

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Top 12 Dive Destinations in Oceania – Part 2

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Oceania has a fascinating mixture of well-known romantic destinations and wild, remote dive spots that few people ever get to visit. It is a region of contrasts with enough dive destinations and cultural highlights to satisfy even the most adventurous divers. In part II of 12 great places to go diving in Oceania, we take a deep dive into some of this region’s most famous and little-known islands. Get inspired for your next dive trip to Oceania here.


French Polynesia

French Polynesia’s Society Islands have a stellar list of dive destinations, including Tahiti and Moorea. Between them, they offer easy coral reef diving and calm, turquoise lagoons with friendly stingrays and blacktip reef sharks. You can also swim with humpback whales, tiger sharks, lemon and nurse sharks there.

This beautiful nation’s best-known dive spots, Fakarava and Rangiroa atolls, are just a short flight away from the Society Islands. Both of these huge atolls offer exciting pass dives with hundreds of grey reef sharks and resident dolphins.

For a completely different dive experience, visit the Marquesas Islands. This island group is the farthest from any landfall on Earth and has a unique underwater world that hosts unusually large mantas and melon-headed whales.

And if that all sounds like too much effort, go Bora Bora scuba diving instead. This ‘Pearl of the Pacific’ has fantastic diving, and you can spend your downtime relaxing with champagne lunches on deserted islands.


The Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands are a haven for more than 1000 reef fish species and numerous prized critters, plus dolphins, sharks, rays and six species of sea turtle. Hosting hundreds of wrecks and remote hard coral reefs, there is something for every diver there.

The Russell Islands host some of the best-known dive sites in all of the Solomon Islands. There, you can glide between the walls of a crevasse that cuts through an island, immerse yourself in wreck diving at White Sand Beach, swim through a halocline at Custom Caves, or go in search of pygmy seahorses.

For the best wreck diving, make sure you visit Iron Bottom Sound. This stretch of water hosts around 200 ships and more than 600 aircraft wrecks from World War II. It is a wreck diving mecca that offers excellent tech-wreck dives.


The Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands is a chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls that few people know about. As the fifth least visited country in the world, these islands offer remote diving among exciting deep wrecks and vibrant coral reefs.

Bikini Atoll is the main dive destination in the Marshall Islands. Made famous by US atomic bomb tests in the 1940s, this atoll hosts numerous deep wrecks that offer incredible tech diving.

As well as some of the best tech-wreck dives imaginable, the Marshall Islands also have thriving hard coral reefs without any dive crowds. There are pinnacles, drop-offs, channels and shallow coral gardens to explore, busy with colorful reef life.


The Cook Islands

When it comes to warm welcomes, it’s hard to beat the Cook Islands. From the moment you arrive, you will be drawn into one of the friendliest nations in the world and won’t want to leave.

This wonderful country is a perfect place to get your Open Water Diver certification or take your family diving. Rarotonga is the main destination for tourism and is a charming island with fresh markets, cafes, restaurants, and resorts tucked away among the palms. There are around 25 dive sites just offshore and gorgeous beaches for laid-back surface intervals.

Nearby Aitutaki has fewer visitors, yet it hosts around 22 dive sites, with many still being discovered. It is a great place to dive among remote coral-covered landscapes and forget the rest of the world exists. Whichever island you choose, the waters are warm and full of colorful reef life.


New Caledonia

New Caledonia is one of those wish-list destinations known for its spectacular diving, crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life. Unlike some remote destinations in Oceania, New Caledonia has modern infrastructure that makes it easy to explore at your pace – by car or island hopping with regular domestic flights.

There are over 100 dive sites scatted around New Caledonia, offering a tempting mix of deep drop-offs, thrilling drift dives, wrecks, and easy reef diving. Most diving is conducted at the New Caledonia Barrier Reef, a vast 1500 km-long reef that encloses a UNESCO World Heritage lagoon. Within the lagoon, you can explore coral-encrusted walls, channels, and easy dive sites in shallow waters.

New Caledonia’s extensive marine reserves ensure these dive sites are teeming with life. For the best chance to see mantas and sharks, visit from April until September.


Vanuatu

Vanuatu is the perfect place to reconnect with nature, offering untouched rainforests, natural swimming holes and excellent scuba diving.

Pristine reefs abound in Vanuatu, with many dive sites accessible simply by walking off the beach. Million Dollar Point is one of the most unique dive spots and hosts an array of machinery and equipment dumped by the US after World War II. The SS President Coolidge, a former World War II troop carrier, and the 1874 three-masted Star of Russia are excellent wrecks to dive.

The amount of marine life at Vanuatu’s dive sites is staggering. As well as rainbow-hued corals and countless reef fish, there are sea turtles, sharks, rays, and numerous pelagic fish. You can also go swimming with dugongs there.


Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, home to more than 850 known languages and hundreds of different tribes. It is unlike anywhere else in Oceania.

Along with the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea has some of the healthiest coral reefs in the world, including at Kimbe Bay. This special bay was once ranked as the most beautiful reef by National Geographic.

The nearby Witu Islands are a great place to go critter hunting and drift dive among schools of tuna and barracuda. Milne Bay is the home of muck diving and offers excellent shallow muck and reef diving with numerous critters.

There are seamounts busy with reef sharks and exciting walls at Fathers Reefs, and you can dive in the shadow of jungle-covered fjords at Tufi.


Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for SSI (Scuba Schools International), wrote this article.

 

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A luxurious dive resort in the heart of Lembeh Strait. Enjoy refined services while exploring the rich waters of Indonesia.

The resort is nestled around an ocean front deck and swimming-pool (with pool-bar) which is the perfect place to enjoy a sundowner cocktail at the end of a busy day of critter-diving.

All accommodation is full board and includes three sumptuous meals a day. Breakfast and lunch are buffet meals and in the evening dining is a la carte.

Book and stay before the end of June and benefit from no single supplements in all room types!

Booking deadline: Subject to availability – book and stay before end of June 2022

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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