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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

Expedition on the Saba Bank to Enhance Tiger Shark Protection

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This August a team of researchers will spend a week on the Saba Bank investigating the life-cycle of tiger sharks. Researchers will investigate the migration routes, where and when tiger sharks breed so they can protect them better within the Dutch Caribbean’s Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary as well as beyond. In this expedition members from the Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF), Nature Foundation St. Maarten (NFSXM), St. Eustatius National Parks (STENAPA), STINAPA Bonaire, the Aruba National Parks Foundation (FPNA), the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) and World Wildlife Fund for Nature the Netherlands (WWF-NL) will participate.

In 2016, the Saba Conservation Foundation, Nature Foundation St. Maarten, and Sharks for Kids  partnered together as part of DCNA’s Save our Sharks Project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery. Since then, satellite tagging of tiger sharks has been conducted on the Saba Bank and around Sint Maarten. Through this research we now know that tiger sharks in Dutch waters travel throughout the Caribbean basin, with most of these tagged sharks being sexually mature females. During the upcoming expedition the researchers aim to not only tag and track more tiger sharks to further investigate the life cycle, but they will also measure if and how large the pups inside pregnant tiger sharks are. This will help to determine if the Saba Bank is in fact a breeding ground for tiger sharks, one of the main goals of the expedition.

(c) Sami Kattan

The other objective is to see where these transboundary sharks migrate to in order to better understand the importance of the Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary and protect other geographical areas. The Yarari Sanctuary was established on September 1, 2015 and aims to protect marine mammals, sharks, and rays throughout the waters of Bonaire, Saba, and since September 2018, St. Eustatius. Collaboration between not only the six Dutch Caribbean islands but countries across the wider Caribbean as a whole is necessary in order to protect and conserve these essential species and ecosystems. Therefore the Caribbean Shark Coalition was recently formed to collaborate better in the entire Greater Caribbean region.

Celebrated on July 28 each year, World Nature Conservation Day acknowledges that a healthy environment is the foundation for a stable and healthy society. This includes a healthy ocean which, undoubtedly, depends on sharks. Sharks are large top predators that serve a critical role in maintaining balance in the marine ecosystem. Sharks help keep their prey population healthy by eating the weak while also affecting their prey’s distribution. In healthy oceans, sharks help to maintain stable fish stocks and healthy coral reefs and seagrass beds, which is important for the fisheries and the economy of the islands.

The Tiger Shark research expedition is coordinated by the DCNA and generously funded by WWF-NL through the Biodiversity Funds and the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.

For more information on the Pregnant Tiger Shark Expedition, follow the participating organizations on Facebook, Instagram or DCNA’s website.

Header image: Jarrett Corke (WWF Canada)

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News

NEW Video Series… Back2Basics #1: Proper O-Ring Care

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Matthias Lebo’s Back2Basics video series will guide you through the basics of underwater videography, equipment and maintenance. Whether you are just starting out or already taking underwater videos, this 12 part series will provide invaluable tips and improve your skills and knowledge


In this first ever episode of the “Back2Basics” Series we talk about the o-rings that keep the water outside of your camera housing and what’s the best way to care for and maintain them, doing all you can to avoid water leaking into your housing, potentially damaging your camera.


For more about Matthias visit his social media channels:

Visit www.matthiaslebo.com for more!

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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