The Manta Valley
Time of year: August – November
About 60 miles offshore from Cancún, a series of coral seamounts marks the spot where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean Sea. This roughly 300-foot underwater mountain creates a protected, nutrient-dense environment that attracts a variety of sea life, including a large population of giant manta rays—so many that it has been dubbed The Manta Valley. Though very few divers have been out to this remote, somewhat challenging location to date, our local dive operator has been exploring the area since 2011, and we can confirm that the stories of dozens, even hundreds of mantas to be found out there are true. Not only has a thriving population been established, the mantas’ size (average 10 to 15 feet) and unusual skin patterns have drawn the attention of National Geographic’s world-renowned manta expert, Dr. Andrea Marshall.
The giant oceanic manta ray (Manta birostris), which can reach a wingspan of 22 feet (7 meters) and weigh well over one ton, is beloved by divers for reasons beyond its impressive size and mesmerizing grace. A relative of the whale shark, these gentle giants are also filter feeders, harmless to humans. Known for having the largest brain of any fish, mantas display intelligence and curiosity, often approaching divers for a closer look and playfully swimming through their bubbles. They tend to travel in groups, feeding on steady streams of zooplankton that flow into the seamount and using its pinnacles as “cleaning stations,” where schools of smaller fish gather to nibble the parasites that collect on mantas’ skin.
Diving with giant mantas is a lifelong dream for many people, but not many will get to experience it at this remote, isolated underwater island, far from the coastal crowds of the Riviera Maya. The seamount itself is one of the last pristine reefs in this area, with abundant healthy coral and, in addition to mantas, an astonishing variety of other sea life: nudibranchs, frog fish, toad fish, bat fish, and big pelagics like African pompano and oahus.
Although the relatively shallow depth at the seamount (average: 75 feet) makes the trip accessible to Open Water divers, we recommend it for experienced divers that have at least 40 to 50 logged dives, due to the potential for strong currents and other challenging conditions that can occur so far from shore. This trip requires a great deal of planning and experience and over time, we have learned the best possible season, timing and other conditions for success. Yucatan Dive Trek offers private and small group charters to The Manta Valley with the best and most experienced local dive operator, using the fastest and safest boats. Space is very limited; please contact us today to make a reservation.