Golfo Dulce, a narrow inlet on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, provides a rich habitat for cetaceans (whales and dolphins). It remains fairly pristine, since the many tourists who visit Costa Rica each year haven’t quite discovered it yet—which makes now a crucial time to investigate what the ecosystem needs to remain healthy. By understanding the behavior and tracking the abundance of the marine mammals and predators in this region, we can ensure we have the information needed to best protect them when tourism starts in earnest in this beautiful, wild place.
For about a decade, this project has gathered information on three species of cetacean in the gulf: the pantropical spotted dolphin, the bottlenose dolphin, and the humpback whale. In studying these cetacean species, researchers hope to understand how to preserve the entirety of this beautiful marine ecosystem.
This project is now entering a new stage and will be expanding to understand how the entire Golfo Dulce ecosystem functions by gathering data of the presence of other top predators.
Through this research, and with your volunteer involvement, this project will help to develop conservation plans to protect the marine biodiversity in the gulf in the future.
Susan Ashburn | JANUARY 5, 2023 ★★★★★
"Marine Mammals and Predators in Costa Rica"
Our location on the Gulfo Dolce was exceptionally beautiful. The food was wonderful and nutritious, with local dishes and with lots of fresh fruits. I loved the fresh fruit juice every morning along with the coffee. We were a well-matched volunteer team of two. David, who headed the project for us, was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about this research and conservation effort. His ability to utilize volunteers’ abilities and to share the joy in our experiences was exceptional. We were out on the water for ~ 4 hours each morning and saw cetaceans 5 of 6 days. These included bottlenose dolphins, spotted dolphins, and false killer whales. We had lunch and rested after returning to land. We did data entry late afternoon. We met via video with [Lead Scientist] Dr. Lenin to learn more about the project and review our day’s data. Always, dinner was delicious. Evenings were relaxing with a beautiful night sky and fireflies
Antoinette Judelsohn | JANUARY 5, 2023 ★★★★
"Marine Mammals and Predators in Costa Rica"
This expedition to Costa Rica was one of the most exhilarating experiences I've ever had. I'm not typically a water person, however, I loved our time in the boat. The sky and clouds were gorgeous and the breeze was refreshing and cooling from the heat of the day. Then a dolphin or two or three or an entire pod is spotted and the excitement and thrill of witnessing these amazing creatures in their natural habitat are just out of this world. We were busy taking photos and videos of them along with documenting valuable data on location, species, water temperature, etc. We were like children waking up to the best Christmas ever. And it was wonderful to have both [Field Team Leader] David and the boat captain thrilled as much as we were. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to witness a group of male dolphins putting on a spectacular performance to attract female attention. They were literally flying in the air. So many of them, one right after the other or two or three at the same time. Made me wish I were a wildlife photographer. In the early evening, we had zoom classes with [Lead Scientist] Lenin Enrique Oviedo Correa who filled in a lot of detailed information on biological data to sustain the preservation of this critical habitat. You could feel his love and dedication for Golfo Dulce and its cetaceans. We were fed very well by Azucena who prepared our 3 daily meals all gluten-free. Accommodations are very basic so one needs to be prepared with that which we pretty much were from previous travel experiences. On our day off [Field Team Leader] David made arrangements for us to hike into the rainforest with a guide. David also accompanied us to ensure our safety and interpret and explain some wonders of the rainforest. When we left for our flight back to San Jose, David stayed with us until we got on the plane. We were very much taken care of. All in all, a fabulous experience!
Rachel Wildman | SEPTEMBER 12, 2017 ★★★★★
"Fantastic trip to see the whales, dolphins and sharks in Golfo Dulce!"
This expedition was a fantastic, once in a lifetime experience! It was really interesting to learn about the potential impacts to the whales and dolphins in Golfo Dulce and how the work that Lenin and David are doing can help reduce that impact. I learned a lot about what they do as scientists and it was really great to feel like I was actually helping to further their research. They are very protective of these dolphins and whales and that was contagious for all of us. Going out on the boat to see the dolphins and whales up close was a highlight - I got a picture of a baby whale with his mouth open! So cute! Also, fishing with the long line was an unexpected fun activity - we caught a small tiger shark, inspected and measured it, then put it back. What other trip would you go on where you could do that?? This was an excellent trip! So glad I went.
Suzanne Thompson | SEPTEMBER 10, 2017 ★★★★★
"Whales and dolphins of Golfo Dulce"
I highly recommend this expedition. I loved every minute of it. David was very passionate about the whales and dolphins and Golfo Dulce. He loved sharing his knowledge of this project and how important the research is for the health of the animals and Golfo Dulce. The accommodations in the handcrafted eco-cabins were lovely and the home cooked food was delicious. I enjoyed spending my free time on the porch bird watching or playing cards with other team members.