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Breaking The Surface: SeaLegacy Gets Mobula Ray Fever In The Sea Of Cortez

Every year thousands of mobula rays migrate to the coast of the Sea of Cortez in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, creating a stunning spectacle as they break through the water’s surface and soar into the air. In the latest video from SeaLegacy, Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier take us to the Sea of Cortez to witness the spectacle. “It is so important to go to bed early,” Mittermeier explains, “because you want to be ready at the crack of dawn. You have to be ready. You have to grab a cup of coffee and you have to go out on deck because things are happening fast.” Watch as the SeaLegacy crew documents the dancing mobula rays both above and below the water’s surface.

Watch as Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier document dancing mobula rays both above and below the water’s surface.

There are varying reasons as to why the rays jump out of the water, but one thing’s for sure: if you’re a photographer, you have to be ready to snap fast to capture the moment. “These animals are moving too fast,” explains Mittermeier. “They come out of the water for one or two seconds and they’re gone again. So the failure rate is pretty high, but every once in a while you catch one in the moment when the sea creature is actually taking flight.”

Working alongside knowledgeable marine biologist Frida Lara, the SeaLegacy team captures stunning images and footage of the rays both above and below the water’s surface. “It’s one thing to be on the surface to see them jumping out of the water like popcorn,” explains Nicklen, “and then you take your mask and you just break that surface tension from being on the surface to look below – and where you just saw dozens jumping, you now see thousands underwater. We’re in this massive school packed super tight together cruising. Before you know it, you have 1000 mobula rays doing this vortex swimming behavior right below your belly.”

Nicklen continues, “But the best part for me, was after getting them used to me and freediving with them, was to come back to the boat, put on my rebreather and just descend down to 30 feet deep. I know what the images look like from above, I’ve never seen what it looks like to look up and have these beautiful forms dancing across the shimmering sunlight against the surface. And just by the thousands swimming along. It’s really one of the most beautiful, poetic things I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Stay tuned to the Alpha Universe YouTube Channel as SeaLegacy departs the Sea of Cortez for their next adventure to document the largest animal that has ever lived on our planet.


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