Saturday, November 21, 2009
I had the opportunity of traveling to Costa Rica a couple of months ago. I will have to blame blogger's block for taking this long to post any thing about it.
Costa Rica first interested me when during a class discussion about tourism and sustainability, it was mentioned as a country which has had success with sustainable tourism. I was curious to see it was really true or if it was all hype.
Having gone there, I will have to say it is a mixed bag. In some areas the country is doing really good. It has been able to keep aside large areas of pristine forests by creating a national park system similar to the US. Around the parks, the government has initiated a private public partnership to create a buffer zone. People living in the buffer zone are given incentives to protect the land. The government is promoting the concept of sustainability and has a rating system in place. Hotels and tour operators are actively encouraged to join in.
On the other hand, tourism is a major revenue stream and with that comes some familiar problems. Resorts, hotels and condos are being built feverishly along many of the beautiful coastlines. In some places the never ending caravan of dump trucks and construction makes you wonder if the country is on a death march to resemble South Florida. Tourists are also actively investing in real estate which has obvious implications. Agriculture and cattle farming has an ever increasing footprint. And several locals and park rangers kept mentioning the changes in rainfall patterns and concerns about climate change. And then there is the ever present problem of illegal logging!
Having said all that, there are times when the beauty of the Costa Rican country side will lift you up and float you away. The cloud forests of Monteverde, the pristine beaches of Manuel Antonio national park, the wildlife, the biodiversity and the chance of seeing turtle nesting at Tortuguero are experiences I will never be able to forget. The people of Costa Rica are such a delight to talk to and befriend. It is a country not to miss.
The picture above was taken at the beautiful Rancho Makena. A family run ranch, this place is all about sustainability. From organic farming, to closed loop zero waste operation, this is the place to stay if you are near Monteverde. If you happen to be near Manuel Antonio National Park in Quepos, I would highly recommend the truly eco inn Mono Azul. One thing I regret not doing is traveling to the southern tip of the country. Here the tourists are fewer and the wildlife many. The truly eco lodge Lapa Rios is a place I would love to stay. I met a family who had stayed there and had all kinds of great things to say about the place. Lapa Rios has some of the highest sustainability ratings you can get.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will say it again, Costa Rica is a country not to miss. Let me end this post by saying what the locals always say, "Pura Vida". It roughly translates to Pure Life. I am sure this chilled out Iguana knows what it means.
The rest of the photographs are here