ISLA MUJERES & THE YUCATAN PENINSULA (CARIBBEAN)
Famous for its ancient Mayan history, mysterious caverns and cenotes, and rich tropical forests, the Yucatán Peninsula is unlike any other part of Mexico. Whilst it offers an endless variety of wonders on land, the peninsula is also famous for the spectacles that lie beneath its waves.
Separating the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico, the waters around the Yucatan act as a transition zone that hosts marine species from both ecosystems, offering a stunning diversity of marine life that results in some of the best diving and snorkelling in the world. Deep currents running through the Yucatan Channel lead to a significant upwelling of nutrients into the surface waters, which fuel huge blooms of phytoplankton and zooplankton. It’s these zooplankton blooms that attract enormous numbers of ocean giants…
Between June-September each year, the waters around Isla Mujeres host the world’s largest aggregation of whale sharks. As many as 400 individual sharks have been recorded at the same time! These harmless, gentle giants visit these waters to gorge on the abundant zooplankton that can be found near the surface. They’re often so concerned with feeding that they rarely take notice of visitors snorkelling alongside them.
Whilst whale sharks are typically the big draw for visitors, it is less widely known that manta rays also rock up to join the feeding frenzy! In fact, it’s not uncommon to see the manta rays feeding amidst the groups of giant sharks. We know comparatively little about the manta rays that frequent this part of the Caribbean. In May 2014, Karen Fuentes established the Mexican Caribbean Manta Ray Project with the aim of identifying and researching the poorly understood populations of reef manta rays (Manta alfredi), oceanic manta rays (Manta birostris), and the potential existence of a third, unidentified subspecies of Manta.
On your trip, Karen and other researchers from the Manta Trust will be collecting data on these giant rays. They will also serve as your dedicated naturalists, giving talks about the importance of the islands’ ecosystem to manta rays, and other topics about the region’s marine biodiversity.
THE REVILLAGIGEDO ARCHIPELAGO (PACIFIC)
The Revillagigedo Archipelago, also known as ‘Socorro’, is a remote chain of islands 250 miles off the southern tip of Baja California Sur. These dramatic, volcanic islands are often referred to as the Galapagos of Mexico, due to the diversity of marine life and endemic terrestrial species present on and around the archipelago…
Unsurprisingly, the islands are a stopping-off point for a huge variety of sharks and other large, charismatic megafauna—the Revillagigedos are the first land mass that these pelagic wanderers come into contact with after long oceanic migrations. The Revillagigedos are very similar to other remote, eastern-Pacific archipelagos, such as the Galapagos and Cocos Island, but have become particularly famous for one particular seasonal visitor. Oceanic manta rays top the list of attractions at the islands, providing up-close-and-personal interactions with these majestic oceanic giants that are virtually unheard of elsewhere. During the winter months, manta rays—reaching wingspans of up to 7 meters—are almost guaranteed, and often ‘play’ with divers for an entire dive. We’ve even seen mantas hang around the boat during surface intervals, waiting for their next opportunity to examine the strange, bubbling creatures visiting their environment. If you’re looking for the big animal interactions of a lifetime, the manta rays of the Revillagigedos will not disappoint.
In addition to mantas, guests can expect to see a variety of sharks, from resident white-tip reef sharks, to hammerheads, silvertips, the occasional lonely whale shark, and everything in between! On our last trip to the islands, we even had the opportunity to dive with a school of 2-meter long, feeding yellow fin tuna! The islands are also a hotspot for marine mammals, with seasonal visitations of humpback whales, several species of dolphins year-round, and even the odd orca sighting. The Revillagigedo Archipelago is the place to go if you’re excited about big-animal interactions, and viewing these creatures in the dramatic volcanic seascape is an unforgettable experience.
The archipelago, declared a Mexican biosphere reserve in 1994, is a key study site for Manta Trust scientists. Not only are these islands one of the few locations where oceanic manta sightings are both predictable and almost guaranteed, but they also represent the northernmost location where the species is known to aggregate in the eastern Pacific. As such, it plays a key role in understanding the structure and dynamics of manta populations along the Pacific coast of the Americas, and also throughout the greater Indo-Pacific. On your trip, Manta Trust researchers will be on-board, conducting important research on the Revillagigedo manta population, as well as serving as naturalists and giving talks about the importance of the islands’ ecosystem to manta rays.
- Revillagigedo Islands, Socorro | Rocio Del Mar | 9th – 17th December 2017 – * 2 SPACES LEFT (due to cancellations)
More trips will be announced soon…
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