We’ve been out on our sailboat, Magic, for nearly a month now exploring the fascinating Sea of Cortez in Mexico. I had the week off from my job at the university for the holidays so we did not need to stick to our usual anchorages with cellular service. We visited a new anchorage near La Paz named Caleta Partida and found a fun surprise: mobula rays!
Brian guided Magic into an unfamiliar bay with steep, orange, rocky sides. The water was dark and deep. I spotted a group of white-finned creatures slowly cavorting around the bay near the surface of the water. I quickly grabbed the binoculars and confirmed they were rays, and at least two dozen! Now was my chance to fulfill a dream but we had to act quickly.
We continued into the bay, anxious to drop our anchor and see if we could get in the water with the rays. As the depth became shallow the water turned a pale turquoise and we could see the white, sandy bottom. We anchored in fifteen feet of water and immediately dropped the dinghy. We zoomed away with snorkel gear in the direction of the cavorting rays.
It was easy to find them. Their white fins gently thrashed at the surface, disturbing the calm water. We stopped right next to the group, and gasped with delight as about twenty rays swooped under and around our inflatable dinghy. I put on my snorkel, mask and fins and gently lowered myself into the water. Brian waited in the dinghy to pick me up after I snorkeled with them.
A group of rays whizzed by with mouths agape and wings gently flapping. With each flap of their brown wings a sliver of bright white belly was revealed. They were only a couple feet away and I was frozen. I was both stunned and delighted by their close proximity. I had impulsively decided to share their space without stopping to consider how they would react. Now I considered it.
I was floating there thinking hard about all this when I began to drift away from them. I turned my body to join them.
My heart beat quickly as dozens of rays flowed all around me like silk. They allowed me to penetrate their group but always kept a few feet of distance. They seemed almost close enough to touch. They knew exactly where they were in the water and stayed out of reach. They were friendly enough, yet polite about my personal space. What wonderful creatures!
The entire group would move together, turning at the same time, marching to a hidden rhythm only they could hear. It was exhilarating to join them and see them flapping around me in every direction. I enjoyed about ten minutes with them, then Brian jumped in with them as I waited with the dinghy.
Swimming with the rays was completely spontaneous. This wasn’t on any bucket list but as soon as I saw them I knew snorkeling with them was a dream to be fulfilled. This was a dream I had forgotten about, but had felt the pangs of many times in the past. Each time I saw a ray jumping in the Sea of Cortez, or heard about the groups of friendly rays in the Caymans or Hawaii I wanted to know what it would be like to swim with them.