Scuba diving is a breathtaking experience. Spending time with the creatures that live in the underwater world of the ocean is exhilarating, but let’s face it, there is also the possibility that it could be dangerous.
HOW SPOTTED EAGLE RAYS ARE DIFFERENT FROM OTHER RAYS
The spotted eagle ray is a favorite among scuba divers. This beautiful, graceful, cartilaginous fish species is found in tropical regions, including the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. Unlike other stingrays, spotted eagle rays have a pronounced head with a snout, and eyes on the side of the head. They also have distinctive markings. Their back can be black, dark brown or dark grey and is covered by patterns of white spots and rings. Their underside is white. Unfortunately, the rays striking appearance makes it popular in aquariums, but there is nothing like seeing it in its natural habitat.
Full grown spotted eagle rays, sometimes referred to as “whip rays”, are large creatures and can be up to 5 meters (16 ft) long, have a wingspan of up to 3 meters (10 ft) and weigh up to 230 kilograms (507 lb). They spend their time in shallow coastal water near coral reefs and bays, but also dive down to depths of about 80 meters (262 ft).
Photo credit: scubadiving.com
SO, IS IT SAFE TO DIVE WITH EAGLE RAYS?
The spotted eagle ray has a bit of a reputation thanks to its venomous, barbed stingers, which are close to the base of its long, whip-like tail, just behind the pelvic fins. These stingers can inflict serious wounds. In addition, although we are not sure why, they occasionally leap out of the water and fly through the air, and have jumped onto boats on at least two occasions, one of which resulted in a woman’s death.
However, it is actually very safe to scuba dive with spotted eagle rays because they are shy, avoid human contact and swim away from divers very quickly. They are not dangerous to humans unless they are captured and handled improperly.
DIVE WITH SPOTTED EAGLE RAYS
During the winter months (November to March), dozens of eagle rays gather around General Anaya, a minesweeper which broke in half during hurricane Wilma. They also like to hang out in Puerto Morelos’ many shipwrecks such as a 150 ft long C-56 minesweeper purchased from the U.S. Navy that was sunk in 1996. Diving in it will give you a chance to see from 25 to 50 spotted eagle rays in their element.
To take these tours you must be certified to dive and must have dove within the last two years. If not, a refresher or shallow dive is recommended.
The spotted eagle ray appears as “near threatened” on the IUCN Red List and at the most, produce only 4 offspring each year, so it is important that we respect and protect this exotic species.
So, is it safe to dive with spotted eagle rays? The answer is a resounding yes. In fact, it is a privilege to spend time with these magnificent creatures and is an experience that you will never forget.
Reserve your Diving in Wreck and Reef in Cancun at the General Anaya or Diving in Wreck and Reef in Puerto Morelos now and get up close and personal with spotted eagle rays.