Spinner Dolphins, Costa Rica

BBC producer, Hugh Pearson is accompanying our group tour to Costa Rica in January 2019. He spoke to us about his time filming in the Osa Peninsula for the BBC Television series ‘The Hunt’ and for the upcoming Netflix series, ‘Our Planet’, and why this region offers one of the most incredible marine wildlife experiences on this planet.

Costa Rica

“Spinner dolphins. There really is nothing quite like spending time at sea with spinner dolphins. It’s hard not to anthropomorphise – and why not as I believe these dolphins are as sentient and have a culture as rich as ours – but they just look like they’re enjoying life! Spinners are incredibly beautiful and streamline, moving with effortless grace, and to be amongst a huge pod, both above water in the boat and underwater if you’re lucky enough, is something you will not forget. They are constantly on the move and it looks like one big mobile party as they are chattering away (the noise underwater is almost deafening). They are so playful and gather around the boat, almost within touching distance, as the swim, frolic and of course spin. No one really knows why they spin like this but when they do, most so in the late afternoon, it’s as if the pod is popping away like popcorn. When spinner dolphins are in this sort of mood I defy anyone present not to smile and feel uplifted.”

I have been fortunate to travel to Costa Rica‘s Osa peninsula on two occasions, once in 2013 to film spinner dolphins for The Hunt and again in 2018 to film for Our Planet, a major new series we are producing for Netflix. Both trips rate amongst my very best filming, both in terms of enjoyment and the results. There is something unique about the ocean around here that makes is one of the best places in the world to experience the true ‘open ocean’, and so close to shore.

The first is the weather and sea conditions. Most of my time filming at sea I expect to have a third to a half of the time in good conditions – calm seas, light wind and sunshine, but in both of my trips to the Osa we have been blessed with these conditions for the vast majority of the trip and on many days the sea was like a mill pond. Not only does this make a day at sea such a pleasure but it also allows you to spot marine life from miles away, greatly increasing your chances of a memorable encounter.

Costa Rica

The second thing that makes this place so special is the sheer amount of marine life. Most of the open ocean is a big blue desert with very little life, but this place is definitely an ocean hotspot – the sea floor rises up steeply very close to the shore which forces nutrient rich water to well up from the deep, 3000 m down and when this hits the sunlit surface life abounds; at the base of the food chain here are lanternfish, mictophids, which are the most numerous fish in the ocean and because they are not commercially exploited this part of the sea is virtually pristine. On the last trip we spent virtually every waking hour with spinner dolphins as we were able to find them so easily, and some pods were 10,000 strong, but we also saw numerous different species of cetaceans, birds, turtles, sailfish and other ocean life. If I had to pick one part of our oceans to spend time at then the seas off the Osa peninsula would definitely be it.”

To find out more about our small group tour to Costa Rica with Hugh Pearson, please click here.

Spinner Dolphins, Costa Rica