Whales and Dolphins

The humpback whales

(Megaptera novaeangliae) Well known among baleen whales by their acrobatics and their long migrations, they are approximately 12 to 15 meters long and have a black or dark gray back and white belly. The face is flat with bumps around the mouth. The dorsal fin is small and looks like a hump. The pectoral fins are long, white or black, along with an irregular tail with an undulating edge. Their blowhole can spout water up to 2 to 3 meters high. They dive under the water for about 20 minutes, or less if they are young, feeding on fish and crustaceans (¨ krill ¨). The breeding areas of humpback whales contain groups which are usually very small and unstable.

Humpback groups can reach up to eight males to one single female competing aggressively for a chance to mate. It is more common to observe them because there is a record of the months in which they migrate to our shores. During the spring and summer time they live and feed in the Arctic and Antarctic, but in the coldest weather, they leave the feeding areas to go to warmer waters to reproduce. In the tropics, we have two seasons of well-defined whale watching, the whales migrate south during the months of July through November, and north, arriving in December to March.

During the months when there are sightings, the mother and her young are very frequently seen very near the coast, just a few miles from the beach. Thet can be found at Whale Beach, Punta Uvita, Dominicalito, Whale Island, Isla del Caño, Drake Bay, and San Josecito beach. You can also watch other cetaceans.

The pilot whales (globicephalamacrorhynchus), The False Killer Whale (Pseudorca crassidens), Bryde`s whale (Balaenoptera edeni), and Orcas whales (Orcinus orca), are harder to see, because they are found in deeper waters. They have been seen around Caño Island.

Here in Costa Rica, the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata) are the most common and can be seen throughout the year.

The bottlenose dolphin is larger and has a large dorsal fin and broad at the base, slightly arched; its color is gray in varying shades. The coastal dolphins are usually darker. They are 2 to 4 feet long, feeding on fish, squids and crustaceans.

The spotted dolphin (Stenella atenuatta) is very common on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. There are groups living in the north and south. They are very active and can achieve high speeds while swimming. There are two species of spotted dolphins; the spotted oceanic and a coastal oceanic (more spotted, more robust and longer snout), the outer layer is dark, and the spots increase when they reach maturity. They are 1.5 to 2.5 meters long and their dorsal fin is high and arched. They feed on fish, squid, and crustaceans.

Also, the spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) can be seen rarely. They are usually found ocean farther out at sea. They completely jump out of the water, turning up to 7 times its longitudinal axis as if tightening a screw. They can be seen in large groups. Their size is 2.1 to 2.2 meters long, and its color is a uniform dark gray. Their triangular dorsal fin is slightly deflected forward.

Cetaceans are animals that move freely in the sea, and are often seen near the coast. The consistent approach of vessels causes them to move more frequently and can move away from the coast, so we must implement all existing mechanisms, such as time and distance. Our captains have the knowledge of how to approach these extraordinary sea animals and enjoy them with the least possible disruption. It is not 100% guaranteed that we will see cetaceans, since we cannot be sure what will be seen every day.