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:
UK Shark Fin ban moves closer to becoming law
Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation’s relentless campaigns to make Britain shark fin-free reached a new milestone last week when a private member’s bill to ban the import and export of shark fins was voted through parliament with unanimous cross-party support.
The bill is now scheduled for three readings in the House of Lords and, if successful, it will then go to King Charles for Royal Ascent and become law.
Campaign director for Bite-Back, Graham Buckingham, said:
“Our goal of ending Britain’s ties with the global shark fin trade is within our reach. This country has a dark history of exporting around 20 tonnes of shark fins every year and it remains legal to bring up to 20kg of dried shark fins through Customs without needing to declare it. This bill could represent a significant blow to the multi-million-pound shark fin industry. It’s now down to the House of Lords to smooth its path to the palace.”
Since July 2022 the charity has been consulting the Labour MP Christina Rees who put forward the private member’s bill after the government failed to bring its Animal Welfare Bill, that promised to ban the import and export of shark fins, into law last year.
To help improve support for the bill, Bite-Back also created a briefing document on the issues for all MPs to reference. During the bill’s final reading in the House of Commons MPs from different parties wholeheartedly endorsed the ban on the import and export of shark fins.
In her closing statement Christina Rees MP said that she hoped this bill would ‘drive up the standards of global shark conservation’.
Bite-Back will now turn its attention to educating and inspiring members of the House of Lords to vote in favour of a ban.
Follow the bill’s progress at www.bite-back.com and learn how you can get involved in supporting shark conservation initiatives in the UK.
Header image: Finned sharks underwater- Copyright – Scubazoo.
Dive Travel Adventures Winter 2023 out now!
Join us on some of the most spectacular and exciting Dive Travel Adventures worldwide!
The latest issue of Scubaverse’s printed premium quality, quarterly publication, Dive Travel Adventures, is available now. After an extended hiatus due to world events, we’re delighted to be back bigger and better than ever before as we share with you the Winter 2023 edition.
Packed full of incredible photography and first person travel experiences, Dive Travel Adventures will inspire you to put on your scuba gear and explore more of the underwater world. From amazing marine encounters to edge of your seat expeditions across the planet, Dive Travel Adventures offers you an insight into the hottest and coolest dive travel destinations the world has to offer. Get ready to tick some incredible Dive Travel Adventures off your wish list!
In the new Winter 2023 edition of Dive Travel Adventures:
Nick and Caroline’s long-held dreams of epic Tiger Shark encounters come to fruition on their return trip to Grand Bahama.
TRAVEL GUIDE: AZORES
Into the Blue: Hovering around the dramatically beautiful mid-Atlantic archipelago with Daniel Brinckmann.
Yo-Han Cha takes a short flight to the Canary Island of Fuerteventura for a week of relaxed diving and some winter sun.
Lundy Island offers an off the beaten track experience along with fantastic scenery above and below the waterline. Jane Morgan explores.
Nick and Caroline take advantage of the international travel hiatus to seek out some underwater highlights a little closer to home.
Jay Clue heads to Palau to discover what makes this spectacular Pacific archipelago one of the most diverse dive destinations on our planet.
Sean Chinn returns to Aqaba for the scuttling of a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar Plane.
After many a difficult time with suspended flights and then the COVID pandemic, Sharm el Sheikh is firmly back on the map for UK divers. Nick and Caroline head out to see what’s new.
View or download a digital copy of the WINTER 2023 edition of Dive Travel Adventures HERE.
Want a printed copy? The printed edition of Dive Travel Adventures is available to pick up FREE from dive centres throughout the UK and Ireland now, so make sure you pick up your copy today. See a complete list of stockists HERE.
New outlets where you can pick up Dive Travel Adventures are being added to the list all the time. In addition to being available from dive centres, copies will also be delivered to your door with selected orders from leading manufacturers and retailers. You can also pick up your FREE copy of Dive Travel Adventures at various dive shows and events.
We hope you enjoy reading the latest edition of Dive Travel Adventures! Let us know your thoughts on our new publication in the comments below!
Look out for the Spring 2023 edition of Dive Travel Adventures coming soon!
WIN a c-monsta Wetsuit Hanger!!!
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Win a Vasili Lights Fish Lantern!
For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with Vasili Lights to give away one of their beautiful Fish Lanterns! Inspired...
WIN a Beuchat Maxlux S Mask and Spy Snorkel!!!
For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Beuchat to give away Maxlux S Mask and Spy Snorkel!...
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