“Cabo Pulmo is a National Marine Park located some 70 miles NE of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. This place has become a source of pride for the small Cabo Pulmo community – and all of Mexico. It was not long ago that the community of Cabo Pulmo was a fishing village. Fishing for subsistence, the families there had been fishing the area for generations. A few elders in the community began to notice fewer catches and smaller fish than in the past. There was a movement in the community to preserve the area and, in 1994, Cabo Pulmo became a National Marine Park. Now, the community works to conserve the area and the marine life that dwells there. The community shares their special place with divers and other visitors from all over the world.
This giant school of jacks has become iconic in describing the success of the marine park. The size of the school is impressive. The school can fill an area as wide and long as a basketball court and ~15 meters (50 feet) top to bottom. In this shot I was following my dive buddy, Adil, as he took video of the inside of the school. Finally he emerged from the middle of the school of jacks and there were two goliath grouper right in front of him. The fish slowly separated and formed a nice frame around my friend and the groupers.” – David Valencia, Underwater Photographer
The conservation success story behind David Valencia’s captivating photo can’t help but motivate us as divers to protect what we love (and love to explore). While there are certainly many hurdles to overcome and much work to be done to preserve our marine environments, inspiration can always be found in the victories, from local movements such as the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park to global initiatives like those announced at the Our Ocean Summit in Chile earlier this year.
Whether or not your customers have the opportunity to witness an incredible sight like this, they can always be inspired by David Valencia’s stunning photo, “Schooling Jacks” on the limited-edition “Blue Water Series” PADI Replacement certification card. Order one of the three different limited-edition Replacement cards for your student divers through the PADI Online Processing Center or for yourself by going to Your Account on the PADI Pros’ Site – Learn more.
“Giant Pacific Mantas are graceful in every turn. It’s no wonder divers fly all over the world to see these gentle giants. However, mantas are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species. In certain parts of the world, these mantas are becoming increasingly rare as they face persistent fishing pressure.
In Mexico’s Socorro Islands, located some 250 miles SE of Cabo San Lucas, interactions with mantas are magnificent. It’s not just the sighting of mantas that can make dives with them special, but also the type of interaction. To the delight of divers, mantas enjoy bubbles on their bellies and they will soak up the bubbles as long as there are divers. It’s an amazing sight to see and it also provides divers with a unique insight into their behavior. During this dive while we were playing with the mantas, my dive buddy, Adil, happened to be filming as a black manta slowly squeezed between us. The large manta (approx. 5 meters/16 feet from wingtip to wingtip) was gliding over me to get to my bubbles. As the manta soaked up the bubbles, I could look into its eye and see it processing our interaction. This occurred non-stop for the entirety of our dive.”
David Valencia recounts his incredible encounter with the giant Pacific manta in the remote waters of Socorro. But mantas are also found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world, making diving with this majestic creature more accessible than you may think. For divers who dream of sharing their scuba bubbles with a manta ray, diving the right place at the right time of year will certainly help increase the chances of making this dream a reality.
Why not plan some club trips to any of the following destinations where your guests might get their own manta memory to take home…
Isla San Benedicto, Mexico – Firmly located in liveaboard territory where David Valencia snapped this remarkable photo, Isla San Benedicto is one of four of the Socorro Islands off the west coast of Mexico in the eastern Pacific Ocean. These volcanic islands, particularly San Benedicto, are world-renowned for the up-close and personal encounters divers experience with the giant Pacific manta ray. November to early January and most of April and May are ideal times to come face-to-face with these gentle giants.
Indonesia – With close to 18,000 islands, the world’s largest archipelago offers a number of dive sites to swim with manta rays (not to mention more than 600 coral and 3000 fish species). Here are a few you may want to explore: Manta Bay, located just off Nusa Penida, Bali features a number of cleaning stations; Manta Alley or Makassar Point in Komodo National Park where it’s not unusual to see 20 or more; and Manta Sandy in northern Raja Ampat.
Manta Reef, Mozambique – This is the area’s showcase dive site, famous for a couple of manta cleaning stations. It’s a gentle drift dive that begins with a descent into 26 metres/85 feet of water in the middle of a small amphitheater teeming with life. The first cleaning station is reached in a shallower sandy area at 21 metres/70 feet. Here, mantas circle overhead to be cleaned by goldies, cleaner wrasse and butterflyfish. In good visibility it’s possible to watch upwards of ten mantas circling overhead.
Garden Eel Cove, Kona, Hawaii, USA – The Big Island of Hawaii offers a unique experience to get up close and personal with mantas as they feed in the plankton-rich waters. Home to mantas year-round, you can plan your trip to Kona any time of year. But for an unrivaled manta interaction, plan your dive for nighttime when dive lights attract plankton, bringing mantas right to you for a personal encounter you won’t soon forget.
Lady Elliot Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia – Mantas frequent the waters off this tiny island at the southernmost tip of the Great Barrier Reef. Only 45 hectares (110 acres), this island sanctuary boats a single eco resort, an airstrip, a PADI Dive Center, and over 1,200 species of marine life. Lady Elliott Island is known for its abundance of manta rays, turtles, array of spectacular marine life and unspoiled coral reef. While mantas congregate here throughout the year, you may want to plan your trip during the fall and winter months when they are most common.
Mi’il Channel, Yap, Micronesia – The island of Yap is about the closest it comes to a guarantee for manta encounters. Mantas are regulars in the Mi’il Channel and, in fact, visit this renowned cleaning station with such frequency that individuals are known by name. Manta dives are popular at Mi’il Channel when the trade winds blow from November to May, as well as the summer months.
Baa Atoll, Maldives – Mantas can be found throughout the 1,192 Maldives islands but Baa Atoll offers exceptional opportunities. Especially during the southwest monsoon season from May to July, mantas frequent the area to feed and visit cleaning stations. Divers often experience encounters with dozens of mantas on a single dive. Up to 240 individuals with distinct markings have been recorded here in a single day.
Whether or not your customers have the opportunity to get in the water with a majestic manta, they can always be inspired by David Valencia’s stunning photo, “Giant Pacific Manta and Diver”on the limited-edition “Blue Water Series” PADI Replacement certification card. Order one of the three different limited-edition Replacement cards for your student divers through the PADI Online Processing Center or for yourself by going to Your Account on the PADI Pros’ Site – Learn more.
“Humpback whales arrive each winter in the waters of Baja and southern Mexico. At the isolated dive site of Roca Partida, an oceanic pinnacle of the Socorro Islands, humpback whale interactions have increased over the past few years. At the beginning of one of our dives, a female humpback dived down to us and rested in front of the group. She hovered there, motionless, except for her giant pectoral fins that sculled back and forth. Her giant eye watched us as we found a respectful distance. Observing a living being as large as a submarine underwater is an experience difficult to express in words. She stayed with us for about 25 minutes and then floated to the surface tail first, seemingly playing. She took a few breaths and dived back down to the group. The divers came up beaming – it was the most amazing experience of their lives.”
As underwater photographer and PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer David Valencia recalls above, being in the water with a massive humpback whale is awe-inspiring to say the least. Some adventures will stay with you a lifetime and swimming with a gentle giant like this certainly has a place at the top of that list.
While most people have to travel quite a distance to reach one of the few places on Earth where you can swim with a humpback, the journey is worth the trip when you come face-to-face with an animal of such grandeur.
Want your own humpback story to cherish and share? Better still, want to give your customers the memory of a lifetime to take home with them after diving with you?
Why not plan some club trips to any of the following destinations where a whale encounter may be waiting for you and your guests…
Socorro Islands, Mexico – Perhaps best known for sightings of giant Pacific manta rays and massive schools of hammerhead sharks, the Socorro Islands are also a spectacular location to see humpback whales, as David Valencia can attest. From January through March, humpback whales frequent these islands located approximately 250 miles south of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in the Pacific Ocean to breed and calve on their journey to Alaska.
Silver Bank, Dominican Republic – Located about 90 km north of the Dominican Republic, thousands of North Atlantic humpback whales visit the Silver Bank each winter (January through April) to breed and calve. The Silver Bank is part of the Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic, one of the few places where swimming with humpback whales is officially sanctioned, permitted and regulated. As such, swimming with the humpbacks of Silver Bank is limited to Soft-In-Water Encounters (translation: no scuba diving) but proves to be an amazing site for personal encounters with these magnificent creatures.
Hunga Magic, Vava’u, Tonga – One of the best sites to see humpback whales, humpbacks breed and calve in the warm waters of Tonga July through October. Like Silver Bank, scuba diving with humpback whales is not permitted by Tongan law, though you can swim and snorkel with them via a licensed operator. The scuba diving is outstanding as well with abundant marine life year round including banded sea snakes, schools of barracuda, clownfish, spotted eagle rays, sea turtles, and corals.
Queensland, Australia – 20,000 southern humpback whales migrate north from Antarctica each winter (July through October) to feed, breed and calve in the warm waters off Australia’s Sunshine Coast. Visitors can take a short boat right from Mooloolaba to swim with these incredible animals.
Whether or not your customers have the opportunity to get in the water with a majestic humpback whale, they can always be inspired by David Valencia’s stunning photo, “Humpback Whale and Diver,” on the limited-edition “Blue Water Series” PADI Replacement certification card. Order one of the three different limited-edition Replacement cards for your student divers through the PADI Online Processing Center or for yourself by going to Your Account on the PADI Pros’ Site – Learn more.