© image Robert Stansfield
Diving in Cozumel with Schools of Eagle Rays.
December 21, 2020
One of the more common questions divers ask when looking at their next dive destination is, "What is the best time of the year to dive there?" Just about any time of the year is great for diving in Cozumel. But if you are asking me, I would narrow it down to January and February, maybe into March as well. Why? Because it is eagle ray mating season!
When to go diving in Cozumel.
Admittedly, I am a huge fan of eagle rays (Aetobatus sp.
), so I am a touch biased about when to go Cozumel diving
. But if you love these charming rays like I do, then you do not want to miss diving in Cozumel during winter.
Although you can find eagle rays year-round in Cozumel, sightings in summer are rare due to the warmer water temperatures. Eagle rays prefer water below 80-82 degrees Fahrenheit (near 27 Celsius).
Eagle rays come to Cozumel in big numbers during the cooler months of January to March. And it is not just the numbers, but also size. Big adult females and males come to feed and mate during these months.
There is little chance you will not see an eagle ray or twelve during January and February.
Off the walls, you can find rays gliding south to feed in the sand flats. Eagle rays are generally solitary in nature but can occasionally be found in pairs while feeding.
If you somehow make it through a dive and do not see them on the reef, do not worry. As you complete your 3-minute safety stop you will likely see several eagle rays feeding in the shallow open sand flats.
The rays will ignore you and keep feeding as you drift overhead. You can observe their feeding habits, marvel at their hypnotic patterns, or snap photographs to help the Cozumel Ocean Research Foundation
track the rays. Did you know the spots of an eagle ray are as unique to them as fingerprints are to humans?
READ MORE: 7 LIVEABOARD DIVE TRIPS FOR EXPERIENCED DIVERS.
Where to go diving in Cozumel for eagle rays.
Maybe you are an experienced diver, and you have seen an eagle ray or two in your day. Are you ready to take it to the next level?
By utilizing one of the dive centers located in the north harbor you can get the chance to dive the famed north side of Cozumel and find yourself in schools of 20 – 50 eagle rays!
The north wall of Cozumel is known for strong currents, so this is not a dive for inexperienced divers. However, it is these strong currents that attract huge numbers of large adult eagle rays.
With little exception, the north wall runs predominantly north-south. However, on the dive site that we have named Eagle Ray Alley, there is one spot in the wall where the flat, vertical wall has a feature shaped much like the letter "S."
The top of this wall is about 70 feet / 21 meters deep. As the current moves briskly south to north it will slam into the front face of the S-curve.
When this happens most of the current gets shoved down and around the face of the S-curve, effectively creating a dangerously strong down draft of current. However, the water column from 70-90 feet / 21 – 27 meters gets forced up the wall.
This, my friends, is where the magic happens. Eagle rays school in big numbers on this updraft and hang near-motionless.
Perhaps nowhere else in the world can you regularly expect to see such large numbers of schooling eagle rays.
There are a couple of considerations before jumping onto this dive:
- First, the northern part of Cozumel is not commonly dived. You will need to select an operator departing from the north harbor of Puerto Abrigo.
The dive operator linked above has boats in the north, plus dive packages with every resort in Cozumel – both the north and south resorts. This combination is an unbeatable combination that makes it easier to coordinate this breath-taking dive.
CHECK OUT THE BEST PLACES IN THE WORLD TO DIVE WITH RAYS.
Diving in Cozumel during COVID times.
As of 02 November 2021, Cozumel is open to tourists. While travel numbers are down, this has made for a quiet island and incredible diving in Cozumel.
If you have been to Cozumel in the long past, you may deeply appreciate the current vibe of the island. With fewer tourists, it is the Cozumel of old. Which should make all divers excited!
You can find more information about traveling to Mexico during COVID-19 times on the CDC website
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT COZUMEL DIVING ON MYDIVEGUIDE.
Written by Henry C. Schultz - Salty Endeavors Scuba Center.
Source images: Robert Stansfield.