Key West snorkeling boats have spotted giant schools of Spotted Eagle Rays hovering on wrecks in the Gulf of Mexico.
Online PR News – 17-May-2010 – – This month, Key West Snorkeling excursions have an added possibility when heading out to the Gulf Side: spotting a huge school of Eagle Rays, which are known for their individual size. Spotting just one Eagle Ray is awe-inspiring, but witnessing an entire school is unusual and unforgettable.
The Spotted Eagle Ray is an endangered species, so seeing a school of these beautiful creatures is a noteworthy event for Key West snorkelers. One school was seen May 10 on a wreck in the Gulf. The snorkel excursion went out of Hurricane Hole Marina in Key West. "Visibility was pretty good that day, at least for the Gulf" says Alan Deloach, a frequent passenger on Key West snorkeling boats. "I saw the school of rays very clearly beneath me, gliding over the wreck" he added with excitement in his eye. "I consider myself very fortunate to have seen such a large school of Spotted Eagle Rays. They were so majestic".
One reason these creatures are so amazing to see in the water is because of their very large wingspan. With a possible wingspan of ten feet, Eagle Rays can appear quite intimidating. The "wings" are actually enlarged pectoral fins. They use these in a flapping motion, so it looks as though they are flying through the water. They are also quite agile, which comes in handy for escaping sharks.
Schools of Spotted Eagle Rays can be as large as 100 individuals. Mr. DeRoach isn't sure how many he saw, but claims it was upwards of around forty rays. But even though the visibility was good for the Gulf, it was only around thirty feet. So even if there had been one hundred rays in the school, Mr DeRoach wouldn't have been able to see the entire school anyway.
The other school of rays was spotted at Smith Shoal tower. This school was actually lots of smaller groups running together. "Groups of two and three were clustered all over the tower area" reports Cindy Morretta, a resident and avid underwater photographer in Key West who also feels this was the moment of a lifetime. Florida Keys Diving is what brought Ms. Morretta to the area twenty years ago. She considers this one of the top ten moments of her diving and snorkeling life.
Spotted Eagle Rays are also seen on the Atlantic side of Key West, although not in such large schools. These magestic creatures are easily identified by their heads, which are very large and end in a rounded point. And of course, there are spots on the back. They generally do not pose a threat to snorkelers.
If you want to learn more about Key West snorkeling and diving or anything to plan your next Key West Vacation, visit http://www.keywestvacationguide.com for pictures, blog, info, and current conditions on the reef.