Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world for whale watching since the waters surrounding the Osa peninsula offer one of the longest migrating seasons in the world. Humpback whales from the southern hemisphere migrate to Costa Rica from august to October and the north American populations come there between December and April, which makes up a total of 8 months during which humpback whales swim in Costa Rica waters. Moreover, out of the 76 whales and dolphin species in the world, an estimated 25 migrate to Costa Rica during the winter months to mate and give birth.
Humpback whales are very curious and playful animals, this is why they are not only the favorite for whale watching but also one of the most impressive to observe. They are able to breach (jump out of the water) to about 5 meters high, they won’t be afraid of boats and will come near it with no fear, be reassured accidents are very rare. These breaches are part of courtship but scientists think it is also a mean of communication since such behaviors were observed with no female close by.
These mammals reach an average length of about 14 to 17 meters and an average weight of 25 to 30 tonnes, the biggest specimens can be 19 meters long and weight up to 40 tonnes. They live up to 50 years in general. The colors and shape of their back and tail fins are as unique to them as fingerprints are to men. Their heads and jaws are covered with knobs called tubercles, containing at least one hair, similar to a cat’s whiskers. They feed essentially in summer, thus in cold waters, on krill and small fish (herrings, capelin and sometimes salmon) filtered through their baleens.
They are present in every ocean in the world and migrate about 25,000 km a year. They spend their winters in tropical and subtropical waters where they breed and give birth then go to high latitude waters in summer where they easily find food. Therefore, they fast all winter long and feed off their fat reserve.
In Costa Rica there are various places where you can watch humpback whales, starting with the most obvious since it is named after them: the national park Marino Ballena (whale in Spanish) that welcomes humpback whales during 8 months a year, along with Osa peninsula. This park is located on the south pacific coast, a few kilometers from Dominical, in front of Uvita and Punta Uvita, a whale tail shaped sandbank. Heading south you will find Osa peninsula and the Corcovado National Park, a terrestrial and marine paradise. There can be seen whales in a variety of places, including around Isla del Caño, the ideal place for scuba diving and whale watching. Moreover, Manuel Antonio is a good spot to watch whales, which are sometimes visible from the coast for the luckiest!