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Thursday, 01 November 2018

Paddle Boarding with Flying Rays in Loreto

Written by Jill Weinlein
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While driving to the Villa del Palmar Beach and Spa Resort in Loreto, Mexico, my driver stopped at a view spot to point out the leaping rays. These creatures were jumping six feet high in the air so vigorously above the water, that the slapping sound they made when they fell back into the water could be heard for miles. It was a magnificent show and I wanted to be out in the water to see these creatures up close.

Villa del Palmar Beach and Spa Resort is located in a canyon along the Sierra Gigantic mountains and the turquoise waters of Danzante Bay. Each room in the multi-story hotel offers stunning ocean and mountain views. There are three ocean breeze restaurants, five beautiful tile mosaic swimming pools, two tennis courts, a 39,000 square foot luxury Sabila Spa, world class 18 hole golf course and complimentary kayaks and paddle boards.

After checking in, I donned my bathing suit and requested a paddle board to explore the area and hopefully find some rays. I was instructed to do the “Stingray shuffle” while walking out into the shallow water, Danzante Bay is home to hundreds of rays hiding under a thin layer of sand, and the best way to prevent getting stung is to slide your feet along the sand. The shuffling sends vibrations and alerts the rays to swim away.


Looking down into the crystal clear water, I noticed schools of fish underneath me and hungry pelicans flying overhead.

About 500 feet away I heard a slapping sound, similar to a belly flop. In the distance were four rays rising out of the water. As I paddled faster to the rays, I noticed they soared out of the water again. Two at a time they rose above the water revealing their perfectly designed flat bodies and wing-like pectoral fins. The design is ideal for swooping down through the water and soaring up into the air. These rays remained airborne for several seconds doing astonishing aerobatic maneuvers, before belly-flopping back into the sea.

As I paddled closer, they must have sensed my vibration standing on board and flapped their wings right under me, giving the appearance of “flying” through the ocean like a bird.

I stood mesmerized watching this dramatic show. Later, after I finished my adventure, I went back to my room and researched rays in the Sea of Cortez.

First I learned they belong to a group of fish called elasmobranchs. There are around 200 different stingray species in the world. In the Baja Sur area theses rays are referred to as "devil rays", "flying mobula" or "flying rays", due to their breaching ability in a spectacular manner.

They normally act kind and gentle around humans, while swimming through the ocean undulating their bodies in a wave-like motion. Rays leaping out of the water may be communicating with an isolated ray. By making the flopping sound, they are trying to indicate their location in order to encourage the solo ray to join the group. Another theory is that rays congregate and jump to seduce their partner. To me they seem to jump for playful fun, similar to whales or dolphins.

Fascinated with these rays, I went paddle boarding each day to commune with these marine creatures. I started my mornings at sunrise and went for a hike until the paddle board cabana opened at 9 a.m.

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Taking one of three paths each day, I hiked to the top of a mountain for exquisite views of the surrounding five neighboring islands - Isla Carmen, Isla Coronado, Isla Danzante, Isla Montserrat and Isla Catalina. They are all part of the Loreto National Marine peninsula.

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One morning while taking a paddle board out in the bay, I brought out a snorkel and mask. After paddling for about twenty minutes, I beached my board at a sandy cove and did the “Stingray shuffle” before swimming in the warm water to view a diversity of marine life. The Sea of Cortez is known for 800 species of fish. While swimming along underwater rock formations, I spotted an octopus, a puffer fish and schools of yellow and blue stripped fish.

Before getting out of the water, I spotted a few rays camouflaged in the sand. As I swam near, they wiggled out of the sand and flapped their wings to get away. Their small rounded flat bodies varied in color from light to medium gray with blackish lines and blotchy dark spots. I noticed their snouts were rounded and their tails were smooth.
The waters around Baja Sur, are world famous for their concentration of marine species performing natural acrobatic feats by leaping from the water. It’s one of the many fascinating activities that guests enjoy at Villa del Palmar.

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When You Go:
Flights on Alaska Airlines from LAX are twice a week - Thursday and Saturday to Loreto -
Villa del Palmar -

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Town of Loreto

©Jill Weinlein 

Jill travels the world in search for unique experiences. When not traveling she resides in Los Angeles and is a restaurant critic for a Los Angeles based newspaper and West Coast Editor and theatre critic for OnStage Blog.

Last modified on Thursday, 01 November 2018