Costa Rica Wildlife Paradise Costa Rica: Beauty & Abundance

by Phoebe Edge , Costa Rica Research Field Assistant

Pura vida! For anyone who has visited Costa Rica they will explain to you that this phrase defines the basic essence of life here. For Ticos (slang for Costa Ricans), it is a simple expression of happiness, optimism, and living life to the fullest. It is literally impossible to visit Costa Rica without hearing this phrase continuously. And honestly, it doesn’t take long to get into the Pura Vida spirit once you are here. 

I have lived in South Pacific Costa Rica for over a decade now and, over and over again, people tell me that the unforced kindness of the Costa Rican people made their visit here that much more special. Visitors quickly discover that Ticos take immense pride in their country and share it through their hospitality. Costa Rica is synonymous with peace and democracy. It became the first country in the modern world to abolish its military army in 1948. Family is very important to Ticos as well.

monkeys in costa rica

All of this keeps the country strong and on an even keel. I can safely say that the love the Ticos have for their country and its unique and exquisite natural beauty is completely infectious, and you feel inspired to help preserve it as they do. It’s in everything they say and do. 
Costa Rica covers a mere 0.03% of the planet’s surface, yet it has become world renowned for being a haven for biodiversity. Not only does the extensive biodiversity provide an abundance of natural beauty, it creates a home for thousands of plant species and animals making it one of the last strongholds. The nation is endowed with over 6% of all life forms on Earth, a high majority of which are endemic meaning they are not found anywhere else. Its tropical climate extends across extreme variations in altitude and covers countless ecosystems. Habitats range from verdant rainforest, lush mangroves, lava fields, serene cloud forests, as well as Atlantic and Pacific Ocean territory. At least 850 bird species can be found, 237 mammal species, 1,260 tree species, 1,200 orchid species, and 361 reptile and amphibian species. These are only the ones we currently know of. Costa Rica harbours thousands of known life forms and thousands more are still yet to be discovered.

turtles in costa rica

Protecting these natural wonders remains high on the country’s agenda, and thankfully tourism hasn’t wavered in its commitment to conservation. Tourists flock to Costa Rica in the hope of seeing some of the hundreds of species here. Yet it is always managed in a sustainable way. It’s incredible to observe how the forces of nature and local culture interplay and combine so effectively here.
Costa Rica began moving towards ecotourism with the establishment of its first protected area, the Cabo Blanco National Reserve, in 1963. This was then followed by the creation of the first official national parks in 1971. Today the Costa Rican government protects over 1,300,000 hectares. Along with various private reserves operated by non-profit organisations. This means that over 30% of national territory is allocated for conservation – one of the highest ratios in the world. It is for this reason that Costa Rica is often cited as a model for conservation in harmony with community development and economic growth.

reptiles in costa rica

Wet or dry season, dawn or dusk, no day is ever dull here. The more time you spend in Costa Rica you begin to realise how much the smallest details contribute to the most fulfilling experiences. Hearing the sound of bright red scarlet macaws fly overhead through the postcard perfect blue sky never ceases to amaze. Nor nature’s wake-up call of howler monkeys at dawn, while the jungle humidity embraces you and makes you feel like you have taken a step back in time. The stillness of the rainforest punctuated by the various calls of frogs, the rasping of cicadas and the songs of toucans. Crashing waves on deserted beaches whilst sea turtles emerge to lay their eggs. An iridescent blue morpho butterfly fluttering by as whales breach in the background. These may all sound like simple things, they are. Yet the simplicity of these moments are what make them so beautiful. Nature’s perfectly orchestrated moments make the modern world and all its stress fade to insignificance.

sloths in costa rica

I remember one of my first times out on the Golfo Dulce, where I am now based researching and conserving cetaceans and sea turtles. A small body of water just 15 by 50km in size yet it holds over 20% of all the marine life of Pacific Costa Rica. Within 30 minutes on the water, I managed to see a mother and calf humpback whale. The mama came right by the boat, partially lifted her head out of the water and looked me straight in the eye. I felt my whole body come alive with her energy and couldn’t move for several minutes. And there it was, a life changing moment that will stay with me forever. Connecting with nature is such a comfort and while it feels almost out of body at first, it becomes the norm on a day-to-day basis here. One lasting memory after another.
Costa Rica is overflowing with the most incredible national parks, gorgeous scenery, adventures for everyone, and unique wildlife. There is abundance all around. On top of this, the locals are so welcoming that it makes it extremely hard to leave. So, when you do come to Costa Rica, take it all in and treasure every moment while you say to yourself and everyone you meet along the way like you really, really mean it, “Pura vida!”

whale watching in costa rica

Find out more about our trips to Costa Rica here

Promoting Sustainable Animal Welfare Practices

Wildfoot Travel's Micheal Gardiner

Michael Gardiner, Strategic Partnerships Manager at Wildfoot Travel explains how you can decide whether an animal attraction or experience is operating in an ethical and responsible manner.

As a travel provider, at Wildfoot Travel we have a duty to enlighten and educate our clients. To help them understand the importance of supporting and encouraging fair animal attractions and experiences.

The travel industry has been working hard to combat animal welfare for many years but there is still a huge amount of ambiguity and misunderstanding surrounding these issues. So, we’ve put together a simple set of guidelines, to help you decide whether or not to pay to visit to, or participate in, an animal attraction or experience on your next trip.

Can You Touch?

Can you physically touch the animal? Facilities which allow the touching of non-domesticated animals by the public should be viewed with extreme skepticism. Wild animals do not naturally seek out the company of humans unless conditioned to do so.

Are They Performing Tasks Or Tricks?

Is the animal required to perform tasks which are not part of their natural behaviour? Training animals to behave unnaturally can involve punishment or withholding of food.

Are the animals performing unnatural tasks? In a confined space?

Is There Enough space?

If animals are in an enclosure, does it provide significant space and enrichment and are there areas of privacy? Size can be difficult to judge but enclosures should offer a varied environment for the animal to interact with while areas of privacy allow them retreat to safety if anxious or stressed.

Do they Have A Choice?

Is the animal in a position to make a choice if they want to interact or not? Even animals that have been raised in captivity and are habituated to humans can feel stressed if they are not able to leave. The best animal encounters will operate on the basis of the animal coming to the visitor if they’re interested and leaving when they’ve had enough.

Are There Set Feeding Times?

A responsible facility will have a set time at which they feed the animals in their care. If this time is dictated, changed or supplemented to suit visitors, the welfare of the animals is not their primary concern.

How Regularly Do The Animal Experiences Take Place?

If visitors can arrive at random times and take part in the experience then, as with feeding times, the concerns of the guests are being placed above those of the animal.

How Old Are The Animals?

How old is the animal concerned, particularly if it is the young of a predator species? Assuming they are otherwise in good health, young animals can be rehabilitated and released into the wild but not if they have been habituated to humans. By handling or petting a healthy juvenile you ensure its long-term captivity.

Whilst this is far from the perfect checklist, it does give you a quick-reference guide to help you identify and avoid unscrupulous operators. The same set of rules should help you discover, support and enjoy the more ethical and conscientious wildlife attractions or experiences.

Check out our trips to the Galapagos here

Discover the wildlife of India here

Explore Costa Rica’s Wildlife Paradise Here