Manual for Wildlife watching
Watching wildlife is one of the most popular tourist activities in Costa Rica.
Wild life watching is a good activitie not only because it has very low environmental impact, but also because it serves as a direct means to educate individuals about natures intrinsic values and the importance of living in balance with ones environment.
Starting with this issue, Utopia magazine will provide a simple guide for the observation of different native species. This first edition is a manual that can be used on Humpback Whale watching tours. This time of year is the perfect time to go spotting, as this is their breeding time in Costa Rica's North Pacific
Guide to Humpback Whale watching
This cetacean is one of the largest animals on the planet, with a length of between 49 to 55 feet and a weight between 24 and 48 tons. Instead of teeth they have rounded beards through which they filter the food, which is in taken in the form of large mouthfuls of water. For this reason they are known as filterers. The same as all other mammals, they need to surface to breath, and this moment leads to an ideal opportunity to observe these beautiful and massive beings.
Nourishment: Their diet is based on schools of plankton and small fish. When they are feeding, an interesting pattern of conduct can be observed: they encircle schools in a curtain of bubbles so that they can then swim up with their mouths completely open and swallow the maximum amount of prey trapped in their bubble ¨net¨.
The Humpback Whale in Costa Rica
There are two main groups of whales that visit the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. These groups come from both the Artic and the Antarctic Oceans when the weather in the North and South is very cold. They come seeking warmer waters to give birth to their calves and hence pleasure us with their presence on our coasts. In spite of being a protected species, they continue to be hunted for their highly desirable grease and other byproducts such as gray amber, used to make expensive perfume. Even though on an international scale, their population has recovered, countries such as Japan, Denmark and Norway continue in their commercial hunting practices.
Responsible whale watching guide: Most countries around the world have established strict rules surrounding whale watching. Typically, a prudent distance of 150 meters with the motors running and between 100 to 50 meters with the motors off is respected and maintained. There must be no more than two boats simultaneously at one location and each boat must have a capacity of ten people each. In the event that a third boat arrives, it must wait its turn at a distance of at least 300 meters. It is also very important not to make any loud noises as the Humpback communicate using a sophisticated assortment of sounds. These sounds form the base of the relationship during breeding, reproduction and while raising their young.
It is also important not to follow adults with young or to get in the center of a group of whales, as this could lead to their becoming separated or distressed..
Even though the Humpback is not at all aggressive, their enormous size and weight poses a risk to humans, both when the animal is submerging and solely by the movement of their enormous and powerful fins. These reasons, amongst others explain why it is forbidden to swim or dive near them.