Published on March 8th, 2012 | by csaylor1
Motion in the ocean: whale watching in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula and Golfo Dulce
The Pacific and gulf waters around the Osa Peninsula as far north as Uvita and Dominical represent the only marine zone in the world where humpback whales from both Northern and Southern Hemispheres co-exist, creating a mecca for whale watching enthusiasts. The Northern humpback whales arrive to Costa Rican waters in late October and stay until the end of April, while the Southern Hemisphere whales come from late July through early November. Both groups come in search of warm waters to mate and have their babies.
During these 10 months, the marine zone offshore from Drake Bay and into the Golfo Dulce is known worldwide as one of the best locations on earth for whale watching. Not only will the visitor have a great opportunity to see the humpback whales, but also some of the other 24 species of whales and dolphins, who either migrate through or live full time in the area.
The Golfo Dulce is particularly special for humpback whale births. The tropical fiord supplies a safe haven for the humpback whales to birth their calves with little threat from the larger predators of the open waters in the Pacific.
Geiner Guzman, whose family was instrumental in gathering the scientific data needed to convince Costa Rica’s government to form Bahia Ballena (Whale Bay) National Park, states “The Southern humpback whales come from as far as Antarctica, 11,500 miles away, which is one of the longest migrations known to mankind.”
Close encounter with the gentle giants of the sea
“In August of this year on a whale watching tour with Crocodile Bay Lodge in Puerto Jimenez, I saw 14 humpback whales in one morning, one of which was nursing a baby just offshore in front of Rainforest Radio’s Osa studio. Witnessing maternal instinct manifest in such a giant creature felt even more sentimental than watching the whales jumping out of the water twisting and diving during the earlier part of the tour.
In another stroke of luck, two days later in front of my house overlooking the Golfo Dulce, I became one of a very small number of people ever to see the birth of a humpback calf in its natural habitat. As the calf entered its new environment thrashing around like a fish out of water, the mother humpback worked hard to teach the newborn how to breath by diving down and pushing the calf back to the surface for air. After a very short time, mom and the clumsy new calf made their way to the deep fiord in the middle of the Golfo Dulce, joined a small pod of other humpbacks whales and disappeared into the deep waters of the gulf.
From firsthand experience, whale watching in Costa Rica is one of the most memorable and breathtaking experiences of a lifetime.”
Article by Jani Schulz originally printed in Nature Air’s Landings magazine Vol. X No. 1