Me and my girlfriend took this tour in Feb 2012 while visiting Puerto Jimenez. We booked at Cabinas Jimenez and asked them about how we can get to the Wildlife Sanctuary. They recommended this tour which includes a stop at the Wildlife Sanctuary and we put our names on the list MONTHS in advance (August to be exact). We obviously told them that if we're the only 2 we wouldn't be interested in paying $250 but if there are more people we can go, so they put our names on the list. We had also told them we preferred to do it on the day we'd be arriving and sent them the flight details showing arrival at 7:10am. We were only told that the tour departs at 8am and thus we should have no problem making it.
Fast forward to February and our flight was delayed by 10 minutes (perfectly normal). It eventually landed in Puerto Jimenez at 7:30ish and we were rushed off to Cabinas Jimenez. We actually found a person from an unrelated company we booked a tour with waiting for us with a taxi ready because the tour was apparently supposed to start at 7:30 (we first checked about this tour with this person and she was up to speed with our intenrary so it was very kind of her to go out of her way to help!). We rushed to the hotel, put our luggage in the storage room and left for the pier (I want to point out that the staff were actually very kind and nice to us). But, as the tour was waiting, we didn't even change our clothes and I even had passports and everything on me when I boarded the boat...
...which is were the problems started...
After telling us that he's called Captain John, he promptly pointed us to the back seats were he completely ignored our presence for most of the tour. I want to stress that a local tico was on board to help out and he and was not at all like John. He was the only one to provide us with information about what we're chasing (even if English was not his first language) and what we're supposed to be seeing and was very nice to us. You could see he was making an effort at being helpful.
After John going on a continuous rant about not being able to spot dolphins because it's too late because of us, we made our way to the Wildlife Sanctuary were we were told that we were to leave all our backpacks there while the boat goes somewhere else. Now - I had my passport and camera gear in there which cost me loads of money, and other than the fact that I needed it with me (because that was the reason for going in the first place) I was not at that point willing to trust John with (Maybe I'm a bit of a paranoid person but I like to be safe).
I feel this information should have been provided to us beforehand when we made the reservation. We also realized there was no Pier and that we had to go down into knee deep water (again, no info about this was provided to us). Having gone practically straight from the plane to the boat meant I was in Jeans and Trekking boots. While i made it clear to John that I needed my backpack I started to take off my shoes (at least i'll keep them dry). He said he'll ask the guide at the Wildlife Sanctuary for special permission to carry my backpack and she seemed to have no problem with that. Unfortunately before providing me with the information that I was given permission he again went on a rant about how we were late and ruining the tour for everybody (at this point the others were already gathering up and starting a discussion with the guide which i fail to see how me taking off my shoes and waiting for the go ahead to take my backpack affected the tour for anyone). The reason for not being able to take the backpack was because monkeys can apparently take things and wreack havoc. Fair enough! I was more than happy to take responsibility (which I did and had no problem with as I don't go around with passports and expensive gear in an easily accessible bag) but I once again feel that this is vital information and should have been provided beforehand.
On our way back things were a bit better. At least there were short moments when our presence was noted. We managed to spot some PanTropical spotted dolphins and some people even managed to get into the sea with them with the aid of a specially crafted board which seemed to be a pretty nice experience so kudos for that. We also went up a river and did some short bird watching which was interesting.
Refreshments in the form of pineapple, snacks, and drinks were also provided freely onboard which was nice.
Now, I've been on wildlife tours before and I know that the earlier you go the more chance you have to spot wildlife. That is fair enough and completely understandable. But if the tour starts at 7:30, don't tell people it starts at 8 for the sake of getting them on your list making it easier for yourself to get more people. Furthermore, provide ALL information from beforehand not when it's too late.
This was the only tour we only had a problem with throughout our stay in CR really. The local tico's attitude towards us made it bearable. Needless to say it was him who got our tip. He even recognized us the following day while walking down the street and came to talk to us to help us out of his own free will... John hardly even talked to us, which I find unprofessional particularly seeing as he is the owner of Cabinas Jimenez where we were staying. It was poor attitude and behavior that I found disappointing and childish.
We each payed $50 for this and an extra $25 for the Wildlife Sanctuary. I will review the wildlife sanctuary separately but i think it's was a fair price to pay, and besides it goes directly to help them. The $50 would have been worth the money if we weren't treated the way we were by John. The other passengers certainly didn't have the same attitude towards us either (seeing as he went out of his way to make it clear it was us who ruined the day).
I'm not completely discouraging this tour. But if I had to go again I'd try to tour the Golfo Dulce with someone else. If that's not an option make sure you research well regardless of what they'll tell you and it will hopefully be okay. We actually didn't even know the tour was so long and included so much which, if anything, would have made it more appealing to us.