Responsible tourism: Central America activity vacation, Costa Rica & Panama
This trip highlights some of Costa Rica and Panama’s most significant reserves and national parks including La Amistad International Peace Park and those in Bocas del Toro. The province of Bocas del Toro hosts two national parks, one of which is a world heritage site and two protected cloud forests. The trans-boundary protected area consists of 1.4 million contiguous acres, extending from the continental divide to the Caribbean Sea, covering all five altitudinal zones known to the tropics. One park, Bastimentos National Marine Park, covers a large portion of the archipelago and is home to a variety of ecosystems which thrive at or around sea level. The other park, Palo Seco Nature Reserve, is on the mainland and reaches through the cloud forests up to and beyond the continental divide. This trip is designed to not only enjoy the flora and fauna of these reserves, but to educate travelers on the unique ecological life zones exclusive to the region.
On this trip travelers will raft the Pacuare River. This river is among the most celebrated in the world for its spectacular rafting opportunities and spectacular surroundings. Even with all its fame, the river is at risk of being dammed for electrical use. Tourism, specifically the rafting industry, and the money it generates into the Costa Rican government is one of the most important players in preventing such an environmental tragedy from occurring.
One of the most effective ways we contribute to conservation of these protected areas is simply by sending our travelers to such destinations. As specifically stated above, the rafting industry is one of the only preventatives keeping the cherished Pacuare River from being dammed. But it goes well beyond that – we could easily give our travelers a long laundry list of beautiful and enchanting places to visit in Costa Rica and Panama, but we want to encourage our travelers to visit places that are taking remarkable steps to secure the valuable surrounding environment and communities. We want to support the efforts of the Pacuare Reserve and Selva Bananito, and we want our travelers to feel as though their travel is also making a difference. Instead of spreading our travelers throughout the country, we try to concentrate them into specific areas, thus concentrating the financial benefits to these areas as well.
We base our hotel selection on the following criteria: being locally owned and operated, built in a sustainable manner, having a desirable location, safety, cleanliness, and ranging in size from 12-20 rooms where possible. This helps to ensure small group size, which in turn helps minimize local impact. Lodges that use innovative practices to improve upon their sustainability and mitigate any environmental impacts are given special preference.
For example: On this trip, travelers will stay at Selva Bananito Lodge. Bordering Costa Rica’s largest and most pristine nature reserve, Selva Bananito is part of the same rich ecosystem as the 1.5 million acre La Amistad International Peace Park. Selva Bananito is owned by the Stein family, who, in 1994, declared 2,000 acres (two-thirds) of the family farm a private biological reserve.
Selva Bananito founded a non-profit foundation, Fundación Cuencas de Limón, which has become a regional leader on watershed protection and educational programs. The goal of the program is to protect as much of the rain forest vegetation growing along the upper watershed areas in the Province of Limon, which is the main water source of one the countries major cities, Limon. The foundation obtains funding from income generated by Selva Bananito Lodge and private donations. Sending our travelers to Selva Bananito not only supports this non-profit financially, but is also a wonderful educational opportunity to learn more about water conservation. The Limon Watershed program is currently benefiting over 70,000 Costa Ricans.
Selva Bananito provides employment for 14 local employees from the rural area. For every job generated by tourism to Selva Bananinto, and other 4 to 6 secondary jobs develop as a result. In addition, as we support the lodge by sending our travelers, we also help to support the different watershed education programs implemented by Selva. Currently there is an environmental education program for the children and adults in the surrounding rural areas. A recent local study showed that 7 out of 10 adults in the Bananito and Banano area thought the water came from the “faucet” – demonstrating limited understanding of the complex system in place to assure the water quality in the area.