On the Expedition
Join researchers in the pristine wilds of Costa Rica to conduct critical research on whales and dolphins. Your findings may help to develop a permanent Marine Protected Area to ensure the area’s health for the future.
Golfo Dulce, a tropical “inner sea” on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, is home to very important resident and migratory communities of spotted and bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales. This pristine region has remained almost untouched by tourism, which is still at its early stages. This Expedition will investigate the susceptibility of dolphins and whales to habitat disruption by coastal development and tourism mismanagement. The ultimate goal for this project is to promote a Marine Protected Area within Golfo Dulce which safeguards reproductive and feeding grounds, while at the same time promoting sustainable use of resources in buffer areas surrounding critical habitats.
The research team, composed of resident marine biologists along with undergraduate and graduate Costa Rican students, will involve volunteers in all field activities including cetacean observation (from the surface), data collection and data entry. Upon arrival at the base camp, you will receive an orientation and intensive training on cetacean behavior observation and sampling. Each day, you’ll work in teams of two to document dolphin and whale group size, composition, and behavior through observations taken from a 27-foot motor boat. You’ll record vessel and dolphin positions with a handheld GPS unit, and note water surface temperature and sea state. While aboard the boat, you’ll also be taking photos of cetaceans, which may be included in the Photo ID catalog of the project. Back at the research station, you’ll help to sort pictures from each species before making ID assessments for individual recognition.
When you’re not at sea, you may help confirm the accuracy of satellite images of area mangrove forests and African palm oil plantations. This will involve hiking along the banks of rivers from the mouth to about 8–10 km upstream or along the coastline. You may also help develop educational material or participate in presentations and educational activities for local schools and stakeholder groups.
Many days, after your research has concluded, you’ll have the opportunity to stop in Puerto Jimenez to explore the town and get a taste for the local flavor.
Meals and Accommodations
While in Golfe Dulce, you’ll stay at “El Chontal,” an eco-lodge run by a local family. You’ll live communally in basic conditions with rooms equipped with beds, simple furniture, and shared facilities. Electricity and telephone service are available within the complex.
The food is typical Costa Rican fare and will usually include rice and black beans, meat, vegetables, fruit, coffee and juice. Breakfast and dinner will be eaten in the communal area, at a local home across from the accommodations. You’ll bring along a lunch, such as sandwiches and fruit, to the project site each day. Vegetarian meals are not the norm in Costa Rica but a simple request for no meat can be easily accommodated.
About the Research Area
Golfo Dulce is located on the Osa Peninsula, the southernmost peninsula in Costa Rica. This secluded and spectacular area is one of the most biologically intense places on earth, and is home to rare and endangered animal and bird species including puma, jaguar, several raptors,toucan, and the Scarlet Macaw. Much of the Osa Peninsula is covered by the Corcovado National Park, which features the single largest expanse of a lowland tropical rainforest in Central America. The climate here is warm and wet, with an average humidity level of 85%, and an annual rainfall of over 200 mm per year.
While on the Osa Peninsula, you’ll have opportunities to hike and explore, enjoying unspoiled tropical wilderness. The area also offers excellent opportunities for bird watching, or for encounters with sea turtles and other large marine animals. A research project focused on frogs is ongoing within the research camp.
The town of Golfito, home of the former headquarters of the United Fruit Company, is located on the northeast coast of the Golfo Dulce. Golfito is a duty-free shopping destination, and the “gateway” to yet more opportunities to explore Costa Rica’s outstanding natural beauties.