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.