Costa Rica's blue blessings include one of the best places in the world to see superpods of dolphins. A dolphin superpod happens when hundreds or even thousands of dolphins get together in one small area. The offshore Osa blue water pelagic ecosystem stokes dolphins super pods of at least seven species. Find out more below. All images on location by your Costa Cetacea eco adventure guides.
First Published in The Tico Times Friday, December 02, 2011 - By Shawn Larkin
THE BIG BLUE: The area offshore of Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast is one of the best places in the world to find massive congregations of dolphins.
When you are looking at more dolphins than you can count, you are probably seeing a dolphin superpod. A “normal” dolphin pod might number 20 or fewer for some species and as many as 120 or so for others. When a few of these clans get together, you get a superpod. When a few superpods come together, you get the even larger megapod.
The animals get together to party. The fiesta-loving dolphins chatter at each other more and faster than any Spanish speaker may seem to. There are clicks, whistles, groans, squawks, whinnies, trills, vibratos, arpeggios, warbles, quavers and more flying through the biggest and bluest auditorium on the planet – the open ocean.
The extremely social dolphins also do a lot of high-energy acts, like flying a few meters into the air with grace and style. They might choreograph a vast three-dimensional sort of underwater ballet among dozens of dancers. The fate of any school of small fish that might happen upon one of these parties is sealed – gone. And then the party rolls on.
The dolphins also have a lot of sex during these massive aggregations, even more than they do normally in their smaller pods, and with way more partners. This may be one of the main reasons the dolphins form these super- and megapods. Likely, members of each wildly dispersed clan are mostly related to each other, as sometime happens in remote small human villages. Unrelated clans getting together makes for an excellent opportunity to prevent genetic bottlenecks and the resulting birth defects.
Healthy genetic diversity is not the only reward of high dolphin concentrations. Like any good party, this is also an opportunity to network. Hunting strategies, dance moves, hit songs, food location and perhaps a connection to a new pod could be exchanged at a good party. Alliances of all sorts might be strengthened.
So there are a lot of reasons to make a megapod of dolphins. The oceanic conditions offshore of southwestern Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula and Caño Island make this area one of the best places in the world to find dolphin megapods.
The secret long kept by the tuna fleets is now out among film crews. In 2000, the Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet show “The Quest” took Corcovado National Park Director Stanley Mora out to swim with a spinner dolphin superpod, inspiring the expansion of a marine protected area. Former Environment Minister Roberto Dobles went up with a MarViva helicopter to find multiple species of dolphin super- and megapods within a few minutes’ flight from Caño Island, for the most expensive documentary ever produced, “Oceans.” The upcoming “Wild Horizons” captured the spins of spinner superpods with the latest technology in high-speed digital film. Some major productions are hoping to film more super- and megapods later next year.
Sportfishing boats have long trolled though the pods, with each captain having his own magic speed to keep the tuna below on the hook as fast as they can be reeled in. More and more ecotourists are making the trip offshore just to observe the grand spectacle of so many large mammals in one place. With superpod waters less than an hour’s boat ride offshore of Drake Bay, and just a little more from Golfito and Puerto Jiménez, guides and captains here are used to giving tours other operators dream about.
Those tours could be made better and more plentiful, and make more money for more Costa Ricans. Today’s daily helicopter flights to find tuna could be changed to one daily plane or drone flight to inform tourist boats where the superpods are, and to give biologists valuable information. Hopefully, as more Ticos learn about these dolphins and marine tourism progresses, more and more ships, boats and yachts will make the day trip out to see one of the most fantastic wildlife phenomena on Earth: Costa Rican super- and megapods of dolphins frolicking in the transparent big blue.
Costa Rica Pacific Dolphin Superpods.
A superpod of dolphins could also be called a megapod of dolphins, a dolphin festival, or a dolphin party.
Far offshore of Drake Bay, Corcovado National Park and Caņo Island Biological Reserve, in unprotected waters, dolphins gather by the thousands. Not just one or two species. Not just three or four. Or even five or six. Seven. Yes seven, 7, species of dolphins gather here in superpods that defy the imagination of those who have not seen it.
Many people think that dolphins form superpods when fish become concentrated on one place. This is secondary to the real purpose of superpods. Any party needs food. When you watch underwater what these superpods of dolphins are spending most of their time doing then you see the real reason a superpod of dolphins forms.
The dolphins are doing it to do it. A superpod seems to be a big party for courting and mating. Lots of dancing and athletic prowess. Plenty of witty conversation and feasting. Probably a lot of assessment of potential mates going on, because a lot of mating happens when dolphins superpod. All this probably prevents genetic bottlenecks within isolated groups, otherwise how would they find new dolphins they are not related to? Seems like all big brained, long lived, slowly reproducing mammals seem to make superpods of one sort or another. Elephants, the Great Apes, the Great Seals, and Cetaceans.
And of course, humans. Did you ever read about ancient fertility and harvest festivals? Try Shakespeare for a good description of human superpods. These temporary gatherings of isolated and dispersed human groups were no doubt our version of superpods. Harvest moon festivals were just another way to say "Superpod!"
That area near where you live where people are known to inbreed and produce genetic defects may be the lasting results of mono religions co opting the real reason for the tribal festivals. Modern communications, transportation, and cities remove the need for humans to form traditional superpods today. But you might have noticed humans still like to party.
Anyway, again, here in Osa Costa Rica we see seven species of dolphin superpods.
Say them out loud with me- Spinner Dolphin, Spotted Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin, Risso´s Dolphin, Rough Toothed Dolphin, Common Dolphin, and Pilot Whales. Pilot whales are big members of the dolphin family, Delphinidae, the oceanic dolphins.
And there are not many places in the world where you can see a superpod of even one kind of dolphin on any kind or regular basis. And most of the known ones to see just one species are kind of cold. Yes, Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world to find super pods of dolphins. Maybe the best in the world.
Sadly, we are killing the dolphins to catch tuna cheap.
The superpods are shrinking before our eyes.
Costa Rica's dolphins superpods have no protected place to gather.
Take a look below and see if you think dolphin megapods might be worth conserving with a offshore blue water pelagic park. Do not dolphins and whales have a right to have festivals?
Check out this link to read an article about Costa Rican dolphin superpods in The Tico Times.