Exploring the Costa Rican region is fun and rewarding, but some divers love to find particular species of wildlife to see up close and personal. Whether you’re hunting for a particular type of shark, or you want to see a live school of rays as they dance through the water, Costa Rica offers a wide and diverse ecology within its waves.
As with any experience that brings you close to wildlife, it is important to know what you should and should not do wheneveryou encounter a wild animal.
Even though you have protective gear as part of your scuba diving equipment, you also need common sense and preparation to stay truly safe underwater.
Many varieties of dolphins have been spotted below and above the waters of Costa Rica. The bottle-nosed dolphin, common dolphin, and Pacific Spotted dolphin are the most commonly seen types. Most sea mammals take a migratory path around the southern parts of Costa Rica, and around any area that contains reef. Corcovado National Park, home to a large tropical rainforest on the Osa Peninsula, is one location that has seen appearances of both the Pacific Spotted and common dolphins. Bottle-nosed dolphins have been seen near the waters of Santa Rosa National Park, Mariono Ballena National Park, and the Curu National Wildlife Refuge.
Mainly inhabiting the coastal areas of Costa Rica, sharks come in many varieties in the area as well. Bull sharks are one example. Known to be benign toward divers, the bull shark is often safe, although should not be approached if feeding or otherwise aggressive. Most bull sharks hunt in pairs, so if you see one, another is likely nearby. White tip Reef Sharks also swim the waters of Costa Rica, and although less friendly, are still quite amazing to see in person. Always take caution around sharks; while the varieties of Costa Rica do not prey on humans, they are wild predators nevertheless, and should be treated accordingly.
A distant relative of the shark, rays are actually not all the same. The safest variety to encounter is the manta ray, which primarily feeds by filtering zooplankton through its mouth. These rays prefer tropical and lukewarm waters, and can be seen anywhere from the surface to eighty feet below the surface of the waters of both the northern and southern parts of Costa Rica. Stingrays are another type of ray you may encounter. Although they have a reputation of being dangerous, stingrays are actually quite gentle, so long as you do not attempt to touch them. Most will try to retreat, and will only sting you defensively.
All of these animals, and many more that you can encounter in the water, are wild. Wild animals are not domesticated, which means you should not attempt to pet them. Speak with your diving instructor to learn more about the proper way to approach or behave around these animals. You will find that most are actually quite safe when you follow the proper guidelines, and in person, most are quite beautiful as well.