Living in the Sea of Cortez, between the Baja California Peninsula and the mainland, these amazing animals are truly an incredible sight to see for anyone who has the chance to find them in their natural habitat. From far off they can be easily mistaken for a school of dolphins or fish swimming just under water's surface. Mobulas are a genus of ray, from the family Myliobatidae. It is not uncommon to mistake mobulas for other types of rays; in fact even for researchers it is hard to know the difference at first sight. However, mobulas have the special characteristic that they can literally jump above the surface of the water, giving the impression that they are flying over the already amazing Sea of Cortez.
It is uncertain why the mobulas in the Sea of Cortez jump so vigorously above the water. Some of the theories include that they are trying to remove suckerfish attached to their bodies, practicing their fishing skills, playing, or simply that it has no specific purpose. The fact is they can jump up to six feet out of the water, putting on a magnificent show for those who have the opportunity to witness it.
There are different types of mobulas all over the world that vary in size, form and skin tone. Tarapacana, thursoni, munkiana, and japonica are the four different species that can be found in the Sea of Cortez, which is also known as the "world's aquarium" because of its marine diversity and many endemic species. Local fishermen often call these four species "cubanas" because of their dark skin color. Different to the large manta rays, that can reach up to eight meters wide, these small mobulas only reach a maximum of three meters in width.
It is common to find mobulas in the northern waters of the Sea of Cortez during the summer months, and then further south around Cabo Pulmo (the largest living reef in western North America) in the winter. This is mainly due to the fact that mobulas pursue their food, which consists of small crustaceans, from north to south.
The majority of tours depart from the Los Cabos area and head to Cabo Pulmo, which is regarded as the best place for watching mobula. There are diving and boat tours where you will have the opportunity to admire the mobulas of the Sea of Cortez, whether they are swimming in groups under the water or "flying" above the ocean surface. On your next trip to Cabo, book a tour to watch the mobulas and have an incredible experience alongside these unique marine animals.
The Mobulas of the Sea of Cortez
- Luis René Figueroa