Hakai Magazine


One Great Shot: Flying among the Rays

A chance encounter with hundreds of graceful mobula rays leaves an underwater photographer in awe.

Authored by

by Timon Koch

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mobula rays

Traveling to Baja California Sur, Mexico, had long been on my bucket list, and in late 2022, I finally had the chance to make the trip with a few friends. Every year, massive schools of mobula rays migrate around the peninsula during late spring and then again in late fall. It was a dream of mine to dive with a school of these large rays and photograph them in their watery world.

One afternoon, following a long day in the water off Magdalena Bay, we were heading back to shore when we spotted 10 mobula rays leaping out of the waves. These silvery fish have long, winglike fins that help them launch into the air. It’s unclear why they jump—it could be to communicate or show off for a mate—but it sure is a sight to behold.

I quickly grabbed my camera and got back into the water. About six meters below the surface, I saw hundreds of rays. It was too good to be true.

The rays were shy at first, but after a few minutes, their fear evaporated. They glided gently around me like beautiful underwater birds, welcoming me into their squadron. The soft light of the setting sun gave the already mind-blowing encounter an otherworldly quality. I did a 360-degree spin and realized I was surrounded by majestic rays. I felt like I was flying.

This photo always takes me back to those few weightless moments I spent freediving among the rays.