Today is Wednesday and our Costa Rica service group has relocated to the Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve. This means that today was a travel day with a total of three hours on our coaster bus. During this ride, we took breaks to experience two interesting attractions that reminded us, once again, that the point of this trip is to immure ourselves in the culture and environmental awareness that Costa Rica has to offer us.
Our first stop of the day was to Las Termales del Bosque, a rustic hot springs establishment found in the middle of a tropical wet forest, to enjoy two hours of relaxation in the hot springs. The spot is four miles away from the birthplace of our guide Mario, as well as of his father and grandfather. Mario told us that his great grandfather, Fructus Cordoba, had come to the region to work in a cattle ranch and settled his family in the region.
The pools were located deep in the forest down a fairly steep ravine. It took us ten minutes to walk and reach the springs that sat adjacent a picturesque river. The springs were organized to have guests relax as they gradually go through the pools with the temperature of the water increasing as they go. Pools started at 34, then 36, then 38, going all the way up to 48 degrees Celsius (that’s 118.5 degrees Fahrenheit!). Most of us could not stay in the last one very long. The best part about the pools was the fact that we were isolated from the hustle and bustle of city life. Our day consisted of never-ending rainfall and it was a unique experience to be in the forest and with its inhabitants as they are in the middle of a rainstorm.
After a delicious lunch at Las Termales del Bosque, we drove to the Jardin Zoologico called “La Marina.” There the group had an opportunity to learn more about wildlife in Costa Rica and the obstacles they face because of societal advancement and the mistreatment of animals. La Marina is a privately owned nonprofit that works to rescue endangered species and mistreated animals. The Center is world famous for being the only place to have been so successful at breeding Tapirs in captivity, producing over twenty babies thus far.
Each animal has a unique story. For instance, one of their lions was rescued from a travelling circus that no longer wanted her. “La Marina” sheltered the abandoned animal and provided her with a comfortable life until she died peacefully of old age. This is the goal of La Marina–to provide helpless animals with a peaceful existence, and although they were contained, they are safe from predators and illegal hunting (no form of hunting is allowed in Costa Rica). Other animals come to them as confiscated illegal pets (no wild animals are allowed as pets in this country). We saw several cats including a jaguar, a puma, an angry ocelot, and a couple of arboreal margays.
We continued driving down the Caribbean lowlands until we reached a town called Chilamate on the banks of the Sarapiqui River, not too far from Puerto Viejo. Once we finally reached the Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve, and learned that it has 500 acres of pristine primary lowland rainforest, we met with the Sarapiqui Conservation and Learning Center director Francine to learn about the organization’s mission.
The SCLS’s charter is to help local children and adults improve their knowledge of the ecological wonders of the region and through free English classes. Adult usually attend classes in the evenings from Mondays to Thursdays, which accommodates well with their work schedules. Children, whose age ranges more around elementary school level, attend these classes on Saturdays. Other programs they provide for the community include access to computers. A unique rule the Center has is that children must read at least thirty minutes before getting on a computer. This is beneficial to the children because it allow for the children to focus and develop their reading skills.
Because they only have six computers and a high demand for use, people are usually limited to thirty minutes of Internet use. Even with limited resources SCLC has been able to help the entire community by enhancing their education. The SCLC is an exceptional center that aims to help locals through language and environmental education. We are planning to help them by painting local schools and by planting trees for the next three days. They are also organizing our homestays.
Overall, although today was a travelling day, the group and I did have an impactful day. By getting the chance to see rescued animals and meeting the director of a nonprofit built to educate their communities, it is clear that the people of Costa Rica do strive for a sustainable environment and caring community by helping one another in any way shape or form.