Socorro Manta Etiquette

One of the unique signatures of diving in the Socorro Islands is multiple encounters with Giant Manta Rays (up to 20 ft., 7m wingspans).

With more than 16 years of fantastic diving experiences with the mantas at Socorro, we'd like to share some tips and thoughts on how to interact with these large, magnificent big animals:

  1. While Mantas may be seen on any dive in the Socorro Islands, we also have special dive sites which are manta hotspots.

    "The Boiler" at San Benedicto Island is the most famous. Mantas are attracted to these areas because they are "cleaning stations". During our 16 years in the islands, the Solmar V has found most of these cleaning stations, and we know which combination of sea/weather conditions will produce the best results.

  2. The mantas in Socorro are cleaned of naturally occurring parasites by Clarion Angels, an angelfish only found in the Revillagigedos and lower Sea of Cortez, and the few (if not only) types of adult angelfish in the world which engage in cleaning behavior.
  3. Most of our manta encounters take place in blue water, right alongside these cleaning areas.  The mantas are free swimming, and return to the divers again and again on most dives.  We've even had them follow us up to the tenders (and the Solmar V) and "wait" for divers to get back in the water. 

Why such unique behavior?  Frankly, we don't know of any other manta encounters in the world like this. The Revillagigedos Archipelago is remote, and back in the early days, we thought the mantas confused divers with some type of large cleaning fish, but that didn't make much sense, since all cleaning fish are small and we're not.

However, we did notice (and you'll see it when you cruise with us) the mantas do like to swim and hover just above divers, and seem to enjoy the feeling of our SCUBA bubbles on their bellies.  Since this may indeed feel exactly like the gentle nipping of the cleaning Clarion Angels, we now understand their fondness for divers.  And are very grateful for their attention!

Manta Etiquette is easy. First, you don‚t need to swim toward the mantas, or chase them. They will come to you! Simply hover near the cleaning station in 30-50 feet of water (there is no reason to go deeper) and relax.

Second, when they approach, don't make quick movements with cameras, fins, or your arms. The mantas don‚t ever seem to be frightened of divers, but they do seem to avoid divers who chase after them or make sudden movements. As exciting as the first couple of encounters are, please be patient...
Often the mantas initially swim by to check you out, and circle out into the blue. But they almost always return to the cleaning station, and get even closer to you on each pass.  When the mantas are comfortable with you, they approach very close, and then pause right in front (or over) you, and flare their wings in the traditional cleaning position. They may even get close enough that you may have to kick back a few feet or two. Just fantastic.

All interaction takes place on the mantas‚ terms, not ours.  Stay relatively shallow and keep your movements slow and smooth. You‚ll be rewarded with multiple manta encounters on most dives, up close and very personal, and know that you‚ve experienced one of the most unique and exciting diving experiences in the world.

The mantas will be out in force during Spring Season (April and May), and we'll also be keeping a sharp lookout for the last Humpbacks of Winter Season and first Whale Sharks of the year in April.

 


This article is from the Solmar V eNEWS Article Archive

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