The Marino Ballena National Park is located in the south pacific coast at the footsteps of the community’s of Uvita – Bahia Ballena, in the province of Puntarenas, Osa, Costa Rica. The park pertains to the Area of Conservation for the Osa region and was officially declared as a Marine National Park in 1989. The park covers an extension of 171 land hectares and 5,375 sea hectares and is named after the humpback whales that migrate from mid July and October, and again in December through March from feeding and mating grounds in the north and south hemispheres to the warm tropical waters of Costa Rica. The objective of the park is to conserve the rich marine ecosystems that are found inside the park boundaries. The Marino Ballena National Park forms part of the 1% of Costa Rica’s protected marine territory; a country which has 11 times more marine territory than land, and contains at least 85 species that are endemic to its’ waters.
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Characteristics of the Marino Ballena National Park
The Marino Ballena National Park is comprised of golden sandy beaches (playa uvita, playa arco, playa ballena, and playa pinuelas), rocky shorelines, cliffs, islands, mangrove ecosystems, rock and coral reefs. The parks’ northern boundary starts from river Morete (Rio Morete) and extends south to Pinuela point (Punta Pinuela), covering approximately 9 miles (15km). The most prominent land formation found within the park is the Punta Uvita Whale Tail (Punta Uvita Tombolo), a sand bar that extends 1 kilometer into the pacific ocean. During low tide visitors can enjoy a walk out to the Punta Uvita Tombolo where rock reef stretches out forming the shape of a whale tail. The park also contains a large stretch of coral reef, the most common species being the Stony Coral – (Porites lobata), and forms a crescent necklace with the small rock island of La Viuda (the Widow), one large island called Isla Ballena (Whale Island) and three small rocky islands known as Las Tres Hermanas (Three Sisters). South of the Marino Ballena Park borders, but forming part of the stretch of different land formations, are the famous sea caves of Ventana Beach.
Marine life of Marino Ballena National Park
The Marino Ballena National Park is home to one of the most biologically diverse marine habitats in Costa Rica. Marine birds such as pelicans, brown booby and frigates can be observed on the islands and rocky formations. Approximately 70 species of fish (bi-color parrot, bump-head, puffer, butterfly, marlin, tuna, wahoo, etc.), humpback whales, (Megaptera novaeanglieae), brydes (Balaenoptera edeni), orca (Orcinus orca), false orca (Pseudorca crassidens), pilot (Globicephala sp.) spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata), spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris), bottle-nose dolphins (Tursiops truncatuas) sharks, crabs, starfish, worms, sea snakes, lobstes (Panulirus sp.), sponges and mollusks (Strombus galeatus) all form part of the diverse marine life found in the park. Also observed in the park are olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and green turtles as well as reptiles like the green iguana.
Coral Reefs of Marino Ballena National Park
The Marino Ballena National Park contains a total of 18 coral species making it one of the best snorkeling places to observe corals of the central-south pacific of Costa Rica, second to Cano Island Reserve. Inside the park boundaries visitors can snorkel and dive to observe eight coral community’s and two coral reefs with the majority of three different species of corals; Stony Coral (Porites Lobata), Star Column Coral (Pavona clavus), Cauliflower Coral (Pocillopora elegans). Together, Marino Ballena National Park and Cano Island Reserve make for the best Costa Rica snorkeling and diving destinations.