I remember going whale watching once before in my life when I was maybe 11 or 12 years old and I was on a business trip with my mom in California. My memories of it are nothing spectacular, and it’s been something I have wanted to do more than anything since moving to Central America. The first time around, I was pregnant, and they wouldn’t bring pregnant women on the boat. The second time I had the opportunity, I had a tiny person living with me. This time, it took a while to find a place that could take us on a Sunday – but it is finally crossed off the list!
In Costa Rica and in Panama, there are only specific times of the year that humpback whales are migrating through the region. Here, it’s generally considered to be August – October. I have heard that the best months are really August and September, so I wanted to get it done before it was too late. Because Boquete has an apparent steady influx of tourists, I found a lot of places through Instagram that offered tours during the week, but finding a place on Sunday was a bit harder. There were also a lot of tours I found that went to, or left from Pedasi, and were just too far.
I ended up messaging Roxy Fishing Club, and we signed up for a tour to leave from Boca Chica, go whale watching, and stop at Isla Gamez and Isla Parida. We were told to meet at the reception at 9am, and we’d be back by around 3:30pm that afternoon.
The trip from David was faster than expected. We stopped at Pio Pio to pick up some empanadas to eat, and after leaving home at 7:40 we arrived in Boca Chica at 8:30am. Despite ringing the bell, and calling, nobody showed up at the front desk until 9:15. We met another couple from Spain who were coming with us, and we all walked down to the boat launch together under the tamarind trees.
Waiting for us at the boat launch was a small boat. With 5 other people in tow, and within minutes of hitting the open ocean, we were viewing whales in the distance along with a number of other boats. We saw one surface very close to another boat, but from where we were sitting, we only saw the spray as they rose to the surface, and the humps of their backs as they submerged again.
We decided to go to Isla Gamez for some sun, and along the way Luis spotted another whale coming up for air in the distance. We followed in the boat, and came to realize it was 3 whales together who were eventually joined by a group of dolphins. For me, this is what made the trip. Instead of following whales that would re-emerge in the distance after a period of a few minutes, much like my memories of the time I went before, the whales and dolphins now were stationary playing, or hunting together.
The whales made loud vocalizations. They raised their heads out of the surface of the water, and showed their tails and pectoral fins. In the distance you could see that the water had taken on a turqouise colour because of the white patches of the whale’s skin just under the surface. Seeing this was really impressive. The only thing I would have liked more was seeing a whale jump, but that wasn’t in the cards.
After the rest of the boat tired of sharing this moment, we went off to Isla Gamez to enjoy the beach. The day was overcast, and the beach was pretty full, so it wasn’t the greatest. That said, the water was beautiful – I really like clear water where you can see to the bottom, and in that respect the beach did not disappoint.
After an hour or so sunbathing, and swimming, we went to Isla Parrida for lunch. Vegetarian options there were not, but Luis and the other people said they really enjoyed their fried fish.
After lunch, we returned to Isla Gamez for another hour of swimming. This is when I forgot to reapply sunscreen; a mistake I paid for later.
It’s another experience I’m thankful for. The day in and of itself was nice enough; the experience with the whales was really memorable. I’m happy as well for having had the opportunity to experience some of the simpler things – to have seen a tamarind tree in person, and to have gotten to know the areas around David a little bit better. I had never been to Boca Chica before, and every time we go somewhere in the car we inevitably pass by some landscape that is truly breathtaking, and the trip to Boca Chica was no exception.