If you want to see whales and swim with dolphins come to the warm waters of Panama!
Whales in Panama
Panama is one of the breeding grounds of the playful humpback whale and you can see them in fairly large numbers in the archipelago off the Pearl Islands just 40 nautical miles off the coast of Panama City.
The Pearl Islands (Las Perlas) is mainly inhabited by small fishing communities and is made up of about 250 different islands - larger ones include Isla San José and Isla del Rey. The fishing community is interested now in whale conservation in order to grow whale watching tourism as a sustainable business. For more on The Pearl Islands Click Here!The first groups to be seen in Panama are usually the newly pregnant females, followed by the immature whales of both sexes, and then come the mature males and females. They are in panama from July to Ocober.There are lots of tours that will take you to see them or you can rent a catamaran with Las Perlas Sailing which is an amazing way to see them.
Humpback Whales around Coiba Island
Humpback whales are also known to breed in the warm pristine waters near Coiba Island Marine Park, about 12 miles off the Pacific shores of Panama's west coast. For more on Coiba Island
About Humpback Whales
The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is aptly named from the Greek ‘mega’ meaning ‘great’ and ‘pteron’ meaning ‘a wing’, because of its huge winglike flippers. It is the fifth largest of the great whales. Adult females grow to 19 metres, slightly longer than adult males. A mature humpback may weigh 40 tonnes.
Humpbacks are generally blackish with white underneath and at the sides.
The endangered Humpbacks are readily identified as a Baleen feeder. That is, it filters its food from a large mouthful of prey and water. Feedings are in the rich cold waters at high latitudes.
Their acrobatics are legendary and always an inspiring sight to behold. The male's songs are likewise a most unique characteristic - most always sung during the non-feeding season in the warm waters of their chosen breeding and birthing areas. Their songs stay the same for a season, then the following they year create a new one. Their signature “blow” is caused by the surface exhale via a double blowholes, where the air at over 200 mph causes the water around the hole to be vaporized, giving rise to their huge spouts readily seen miles away in cool air.
The Pacific waters have several groups that appear to use the same locales each year - Alaska waters in the N Summer for feeding; and these groups return to lower latitudes in the N Winter, Hawaii being one of the largest concentrations - with over 3,000 counted within the Maui, Molokai, and Lanai basin in the past years. Of the estimated upwards of the possible 15,000 animals World-wide, that's 20% of the total!
Each year, beginning about late June, the humpbacks leave Antarctica to migrate northwards to their tropical calving grounds, especially in the Pearls Archipelago, Panama.
Saving the Whales in Panama
NEWS FLASH: Japanese Whaling Ship Outlawed Following Greenpeace Action in the Southern Ocean Whale SanctuaryAmsterdam, October 28th 2008:
The Oriental Bluebird, re-supply and transport ship of Japan's whaling fleet, has been de-flagged and fined, following a legal ruling by Panamanian authorities. Greenpeace is calling on Japan's government to uphold international law by mothballing the vessel and ending the annual hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
The Oriental Bluebird, used to refuel the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean and to ship whale meat back to Japan, was fined the maximum penalty, after being ruled in violation of a number of domestic and international regulations by Panamanian authorities in a process that began in April 2008, relating to its permissible use, the safety of human life and the preservation of the marine environment.
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and environmental authorities in Panama are trying to conserve the humpback whale in the Las Perlas archipelago, which has been made a Marine Corridor in Panama.
Dolphins in Panama
You can see dolphins all around the Panamanian coast but Bocas del Toro, Dolphin bay is the best place to see bottle nose dolphins as this is where are large pod of them live. You can hire a boat taxi from Bocas Town to take you out there. Otherwise there are many day trips that include Dolphin Bay on their itinerary for $15 per person.
Dolphin Bay is a quiet embayment located on the south side of Isla Cristobal. The clear, shallow water is a perfect feeding ground for bottle-nosed dolphins which arrive here to give birth. As many as 40 dolphins can be viewed at the same time rising above the water in this bay. Depending on the pattern of movement, it is possible to determine whether the dolphins are feeding, traveling, or playing. They are very curious about the boats moving through the bay and sometimes come right along side your launch.
Dolphin Bay Trip (½ day) It takes about 45 minutes by boat to get to Dolphin Bay, passing among many small mangrove islands and over coral reefs. After spending time with the dolphins, taking a refreshment break at a local restaurant over the water, you return to the field station or to another location. Lectures will be provided on dolphin ecology and conservation http://www.itec-edu.org/ecotec/excursions.htmlDolphin Bay Eco-Resort offers guests the option to try swimming with the permanent dolphin family that resides in the bay in front of their farm. Find out more at
Whale and Dolphin Video
See Dolphins in the Pearl Islands, Darien and San BlasThe Pearl Islands just off the coast from Panama City are also great places to see dolphins. You can even watch them and whales from the ferry across to Tobago Island that leaves from the Amador Causeway at 8.30am and 10am every day.You can also see bottlenose dolphins and river dolphins in Darien as well as at San Blas.
More About Bottlenose Dolphins
According to Wikipedia The Bottlenose Dolphin is one of the most common and well-known dolphins. Recent molecular studies show it is in fact two species, the Common Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin (T. aduncus). Bottlenose Dolphins inhabit warm and temperate seas worldwide.Bottlenose Dolphins are grey in color and can be between 2 and 4m (6.6 and 13 ft) long, and weigh between 150 and 650 kilos (330 and 1,400 lb). Their most distinguishing feature is the elongated snout, or rostrum which gives the animal its common name. Like all whales and dolphins, though, the snout is not the functional nose; rather, the functional nose is the blowhole on the top of its head.
Bottlenose Dolphins live in groups called pods that typically number about 15 dolphins, but group size varies from solitary bottlenose dolphins up to groups of over 100 or even occasionally over 1000 animals. Their diet consists mainly of small fish.
Dolphin groups often work as a team to harvest schools of fish, but they also hunt individually. Dolphins search for prey primarily using echolocation, which is similar to sonar. They emit clicking sounds and listen for the return echo to determine the location and shape of nearby items, including potential prey. Bottlenose Dolphins also use sound for communication. Sounds used for communication include squeaks and whistles emitted from the blowhole and sounds emitted through body language, such as leaping from the water and slapping their tails on the water.
There have been numerous investigations of Bottlenose Dolphin intelligence. Such testing has included tests of mimicry, use of artificial language, object categorization and self-recognition. This intelligence has driven considerable interaction with humans.
Bottlenose Dolphins are popular from aquarium shows and television programs such as Flipper. They have also been trained by militaries for tasks such as locating sea mines or detecting and marking enemy divers. In some areas they cooperate with local fishermen by driving fish towards the fishermen and eating the fish that escape the fishermen's nets.
Some interactions with humans are harmful to the dolphins: people hunt Bottlenose Dolphins for food, and dolphins are killed inadvertently as a bycatch of tuna fishing.
Dolphins have also been documented exhibiting altruistic behaviour toward other sea creatures. On Mahia Beach, New Zealand on March 10, 2008 two Pygmy Sperm Whales — a female and calf — became stranded on the beach. Rescuers, including Department of Conservation officer Malcolm Smith, attempted to re-float the whales, however their efforts failed four times. Shortly before the whales were to be euthanized a playful Bottlenose Dolphin known to local residents as Moko arrived and, after seemingly communicating with the whales, led them 200 meters along a sandbar to the open sea.
Capturing Wild Dolphins Prevented in Panama
September 18, 2008 In a major victory for dolphins, a company called Ocean Embassy has left Panama and abandoned plans to capture up to 80 of the animals for use at a new luxury resort in that country. Two years ago, Ocean Embassy was on the fast track to getting a permit for the dolphin captures from the Panamanian government.
HSI got involved at the request of Alexandra Cousteau (granddaughter of famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau), who was working on shark protection in Panama at the time. HSI Senior Scientist Naomi Rose teamed up with local advocates and other international animal welfare and conservation groups and met with government officials and media, spoke to the public and distributed educational materials. This focused protest, with dedicated local animal protection groups—especially Fundación Humanitas—coordinating efforts, made the difference that saved the dolphins.