Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez “the world’s aquarium,” and the body of water between the Baja California Peninsula and the rest of Mexico indeed brims with sea life: humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, and more. One of the most spectacular sights a lover of marine biology can spot, though, is a school of mobula rays.
“It’s almost like watching a giant flock of birds underwater,” says Jay Clue, the founder of Cabo San Lucas–based Dive Ninja Expeditions. “They seem to be moving in unison, like a choreographed dance.”
Depending on the time of year, the animals, also known as Munk’s pygmy devil rays, appear along different parts of the Baja California Sur coastline. In June and July and again in November and December, they can be seen around Cabo San Lucas, and during these months, Dive Ninja offers three-hour tours that afford the opportunity to swim with them.
From April through June, meanwhile, huge schools of rays assemble farther up the coast, near La Paz. During this period, visitors can book one of Dive Ninja’s citizen science trips, which are led by Baja-based researcher Marta Palacios. On the five-night expeditions (an eight-night version is also available), participants not only swim with the rays but help collect data on them. Much is still unknown about the creatures, including why they’re prone to hurling themselves, somewhat clumsily, out of the water.
While the rays aren’t shy about putting on an air show, Clue says the best way to observe them is by free diving or snorkeling, as the bubbles from scuba tanks can scare them. Once you’re among them, though, he adds, “They don’t see you as a threat. They almost welcome you into the school.”
Half-day tours $95, longer expeditions from $1,890, diveninjaexpeditions.com
Next Up: Environmentalist Philippe Cousteau Jr. on Diving With Sharks and Protecting Antarctica