Discover the ultimate place on Earth to have remarkable encounters with giant oceanic manta rays.
Text and Photo by Beth Watson
The archipelago is volcanic with on-going thermal activity. Massive lava tubes rise from the substrate making the topography rugged, dramatic and spectacular. This magical place is the Revillagigedos Archipelago. It consists of four islands; San Benedicto, Socorro, Roco Partida, and Clarion. It’s collectively known as the Socorro Islands and located in the Pacific Ocean.
Close relatives to the shark, oceanic mantas (Manta birostris) are the largest of the manta ray species and what migrates to this region. Mantas breathe with gills and must continually swim keeping water flowing over their gills. This means they can never stop swimming to eat, sleep or rest.
Their wingspan can reach an impressive seven meters and may they weigh up to two tons. Research indicates that their lifespan ranges from 50 to 100 years. It’s believed they reach sexual maturity between 15-20 years of age. Despite their enormous size, they feed on some of the smallest organisms – zooplankton, copepods and mysid shrimp. Although mantas have teeth, they do not chew their food. Instead, they have gill rakers that filter food and prevent the entry of water, allowing for copious consumption. Mantas make seasonal migrations to areas where food source is abundant. These fish are very intelligent and have the largest brains of any fish species
One of the best dive sites in the archipelago to interact with these captivating creatures is “The Boiler” located near San Benedicto Island. It is a submerged volcanic seamount with a manta cleaning station on top. This is where the mantas congregate and is one of the best places on the planet for divers to encounter these gentle giants.
Mantas are notorious for being curious, friendly and love to interact with divers. Often times they will hang around a dive site waiting for divers to take their surface interval and be there to greet them on the subsequent dive.
It’s exciting to watch these majestic animals maneuver and glide acrobatically through the water. Making prolonged eye contact and having them swim beside you, on their terms, is simply magical. These mesmerizing epic encounters make for an unforgettable diving experience.
Diving this archipelago is exciting, exhilarating and remote. It’s in the middle of the middle of the Pacific Ocean without any major reefs or islands that will provide shelter or protection. Strong currents and surge usually prevail, making the destination unsuitable for novice divers. It is these kinds of conditions that make an ideal environment for mantas and large pelagic marine life. The peak of manta season is late spring when water temperature is the warmest.
The archipelago has recently been recognized as a USNECO heritage site. This is wonderful environmental news and a positive step forward in protecting the mantas, the islands, and its marine inhabitants.