Pura Vida Costa Rica (Apr22)

Having successfully navigated a rapid as we rafted away from Pacuare Lodge in Central Costa Rica, we put our oars together and joined our guide in a celebratory shout of ‘Pura Vida’. Literally the pure or natural life.

Leaving the lodge, we started the trip in a relatively narrow gorge, the rocks on either side hosting a tangled mass of rainforest plants. And, on much of the journey we were accompanied by lackadaisical large blue butterflies wafting along beside us – and sometimes more medium-sized orange ones.

It transpires that much of the forest we were seeing, was like the land surrounding Pacuare Lodge – secondary growth forest.  The owners bought the land from a small-hold farmer, who had chickens, cows and crops.  The hotel owners set about regenerating what they found and restoring the wildlife.  The trees and plants grew but it took greater endeavours to get the animals to return. 

Now there are ocelots – although we didn’t see one –  a myriad of birds, butterflies, reptiles and other species, even jaguars. Toucans flew past, a kingfisher swooped up the river and hummingbirds darted around, alongside many species I didn’t recognise.  

However, I was more fascinated by the lizards, frogs, snakes and insects. My night walk was particularly exciting.  In a very short time, our wonderful guide, Giovanni, illuminated lots of creatures lurking in the undergrowth.  I bumped into a bullfrog, a bright green Gardner snake curled on a branch close to the path, stick insects, leafcutter ants and one of those brightly coloured frogs you think only exists in wildlife documentaries.  Wow.  

Pacuare Lodge particularly impressed me because it was clear that sustainability (and regeneration) was at the heart of what they do.  Not just signs in your room to let them know if you needed to have your towels washed or refillable soap and shampoo bottles on the shower wall, but a proper recycling regime that had been thoroughly thought through.  

Not only that but they were off-grid, with most of their energy coming from either solar or the hydro system they had installed, powered by water run-off from the hill behind the site.  They did have a backup generator and they imported bottled gas for cooking and laundry.  But they also took measures to minimise energy use, such as banning hairdryers!  

Of course, I had some ideas on how they could improve. For example, I suggested that instead of each guest having a large, clean cotton napkin for every meal, we should use the same one throughout our stay.  To do this, each guest could be issued with a personal napkin ring at the beginning of their stay and be required to request a clean napkin only if it was necessary. 

My son Monty also wondered if they could use any surplus energy to pump water back up the hill, as a means of storage – and then release it when it was needed. Giovanni thought that this may well be possible and said he would explore the idea.  

My sons think that this may be the only chance they have to see such wonderful wildlife in their natural habitat.  They worry that climate change and other environmental factors may make mass extinction a reality in their lifetime.  But they are planning to fight for the Pura Vida in Costa Rica – and other parts of the world.  Even more so now they have seen how much there is to lose. 

The question many people ask is whether we should be flying across the world for a holiday.  My answer is firmly ‘yes’. How else would countries like Costa Rica get money from tourism to pay for much-needed conservation and restoration? Tourism is one of their top industries.

When I wrote this blog we were on the next stage of our trip and about to head south to the Osa Peninsula, where we planned to visit one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.  

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