The shallow protected warm waters around Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula create the perfect ecosystem for an enormous variety of marine life. More than 25 species of whales and dolphins are commonly seen in the area of Drake Bay, which offers the traveller amazing opportunities to observe these gentle giants.
Drake Bay enjoys the longest humpback whale watching season in the world. The North and South American humpback population spend a combined eight months in Costa Rican waters. North American humpback whales migrate south to Costa Rica from the Arctic winter from December through April. South American humpbacks migrate north during the Antarctic winter from August through to October. Pilot whales tend to live in the area year-round due to the favourable warm water temperatures, while Sperm whales visit the area in August and December.
Bottlenose dolphins are well-known as intelligent and charismatic marine mammals. Playful and social, the bottlenose dolphin's curved mouth gives the appearance of a friendly smile. They live in open societies where they use distinctive whistles to communicate information to other dolphins in their pod. Their acute sense of hearing allows them to track their prey using echolocation, which is similar to sonar.
However, as amazing as it is to get up close and personal with these great mammals, we must remember that in our excitement to experience the marine wildlife, we can sometimes forget that our presence has an effect on the animals and their habitat. Just like us, marine wildlife need space to find food, choose mates, raise young, socialize and rest.
In recent years, the rapid growth of the number of whale watching trips and the size of vessel used to watch marine wildlife has begun to affect their behaviour, migratory patterns and breeding cycles. There is now strong evidence that whale and dolphin watching can significantly affect the biology and ecology of whales and dolphins. In Drake Bay, local residents report that whales and dolphins are moving away from long established feeding and mating areas as a direct result of increased tourist activity there.
By investigating different options, such as land based viewing, the compassionate traveller can choose alternative approaches that better respect the welfare of marine wildlife. When choosing a tour operator, you can always ask questions about how they protect the animals well-being. Through education and observing the best practices, we can contribute to kinder interactions with these creatures.
When you experience marine wildlife swimming, blowing and playing, it becomes an experience that will last a lifetime.
Written and contributed by Jaguardman
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