Ok....First, where is the best place in the world to go whale watching?? Second, where is the best place to go whale watching in Costa Rica? I seem to be receiving conflicting information from other travel sites so want to post this for my LL group. Also, statistically, what is the best time of the year to see the whales in the region you recommend and what is the probability of seeing the whales? Thanks so much!! I really want to see whales on my trip to Costa Rica!!!
The best whale watching that I have ever done was probably on Maui. Whale watching runs from mid December to mid May, so it is a fairly long period of time. Tours leave from the Lahaina harbor on a regular basis. The humpbacks frequently break and it is a spectacular performance.
I also had great success seeing lots of whales when I was in Alaska last summer. We went out of Juneau in the beginning of August and were treated to an amazing show. The whales dive very deep, then surface above the water in a feeding activity. It is incredible to see.
Sorry, but I do not know anything about whale watching in Costa Rica.
Have to second thepiranha's report on Maui for whale watching. Before we went to the LL property on the Big Island, we joined a week long program on Maui, run by Exploritas. The humpback whales are there for birthing, sex and the warm waters; they do not feed. Then they go back to the NW & Alaska to feed. Having been on several Whale trips (including overnight ones) off the North East (US & Canada) and the Victoria Canada area, our experience has been when they are feeding, they are a lot more purposeful.
We found in Maui that the local knowledge of the tour operators makes a difference. Also most trips are 2 hour blocks. This means you might wish to take muliple trips on multiple days because it will be more a matter of just getting lucky about what you see. With one exception* the first 2 trips out on different days were busts, leaving those of us experienced East Coast WW, disappointed.
Then the last one we hit paydirt! And because it was the last trip of the day, the captain wasn't bound to get us back for the next trip and stayed out an extra half hour! We also did snorkeling and swam with honus and saw spinner dolphins.
* As we were heading back to port, a very young calf was practicing his/her breaching skills. Hilarious because he was trying sooo hard! Did 3 right in a row, each one a little better than the previous one. She almost got the twist in and seemed to be a bit higher for the final one. No camera going at that point, but we have a wonderful indelible image in our minds. Everyone on the boat cheering, and knowing they had seen something special.
Bonniejoy03, I sincerely doubt you are going to have that Made For TV whale watching experience off the coast of Costa Rica. If you do go on a whale watching boat trip, it will likely entail a long boat ride out to the passage lanes typical used by the transiting whales. These types of trips usually involve long boat rides and limited, if any, encounters.
Want to see whales? You need to visit a calving area, such as previously mentioned in Hawaii (Captain Dan McSweeney does a great job during the winter and early spring off the coast of Kona - he is one of the most knowledgeable and experienced captains operating there).
Also, another exceptional region for close interaction would be the shallow waters of the lagoons of the eastern shore of Baja Mexico. I have made one of these trips to Magdalena Bay. It can be a long day flying over from Cabo and then using either Zodiacs or kayaks to approach the view areas.
Actual close encounters can be unsettling for some folks. When these guys surface close to your boat, you are looking into an eye two or three times the size of man hole covers. The mothers tend to be protective of their young, but generally will allow them to explore the arrival of humans floating in smaller crafts.
If you decide to do the Costa Rica whale watching trip, just don't set your expectations too high.
When we were in Gaansbai, South Africa last year, we did see a rare Bryde's Whale but the best time to see whales there are July through November. They say they are spectacular. We did the Marine Safari and dove with Great White Sharks, saw the Cape Fur Seal, Dolphins, Penguins and the whale. it was quite fabulous.
We learned another tip from a fellow on the trip to Hawaii.
He had gone to Baja California and was on a zodiac, and very close when a whale surfaced to 'blow' and take another breath. Not only was the exhale stinky (which I have experienced - PHEW!!); but he said he got a face-full of the liquid aspect of it too. That was not pleasant, but it seems there is something in the chemical contents that ruins the average lens in glasses. It would not wash off; the distortion on the lenses gave him a headache for the rest of the trip, and he had to get new glasses upon his return home. (The glasses must have protected his eyes tho- so it wasn't all bad)
I imagine the same effect would happen to camera lenses too, unless they are the very heavy glass ones. Nice way to ruin a $1000. to $3000.+ lens.
I always just enjoy being out on the boat, the rock of the sea. To paraphrase: A poor day of whale (marine) sighting is better than a good day at the office.
That So Africa experience sounds great, except I'd skip the shark part - for several reasons.
shininglight, some people just think they want a closeencounter with a whale as in Zodiac or kayak close. I also experienced some whale halitosis during the Baja trip, but none of the mystery fluids you mentioned. Best to try and stay up wind and forward of the path of surfacing whales, at least that was the information shared by our guide.
Thanks all of you for your tips. Sounds like we might enjoy a fun day on a boat in CR vs anticipating seeing whales. If we go further south in CR to the Drake Bay area, I think we will have a better shot of seeing some.
Bonnie - Hope you do see some, especially if you haven't before. Warning: You'll (probably) be hooked and will be looking for more! It's an experience that builds as your experience grows.
On this trip to Hawaii - I was amazed at our spotting skills - which compared well to the folks running the boats and are out there everyday. We saw whales sooner than our fellow passengers - practice pays off. The marine atmosphere, especially where the ocean meets the sky, can be tricky.
As Mountie sez, sometimes you can get a little too close and personal, if you haven't gone on a bigger boat to test yourself first. The humpbacks are the size of a large touring bus - ala Greyhound. One flick of the flipper and you can be history. We have to remember we are guests in their home!
Just be sure the boat and the operators are safe ones, you have plenty of sun block, water and maybe some Bonnine. Have a great time!
I forgot to mention that if you go whale watching on Maui, I highly recommend going with the Pacific Whale Watching Organization. They are a non-profit group that uses its funds to educate people about the ocean and to protect the whales. Their website is www.pacificwhale.org.