Our second stay in Costa Rica was definitely the best, probably because we escaped the surf beaches to focus on the natural reserves. From Arenal volcanoes in the north, to Platanillo’s forests in the center, and Corcovado Natural Reserve beautiful hikes and dives deep south, you will find the whole “Wild Costa Rica” experience in this video!
Dive with kids in the natural reserve of Isla Cana, the countries top dive site off Drake’s bay with tight usage restrictions to preserve the wildlife… and we did see plenty!
From sharks to turtles and huge schools of fishes, it was a good spot to get back to scuba-diving… Kids could give it a try: that’s the next challenge for them if we find countries that allow kids below 12 yo to dive (it seems you can only do it in France so far)….!
ENGLISH: After planting trees near Platanillo, we end up to Drake bay, an amazing spot for nature, wildlife and sea.
Most of the people arrive to this place by boat from Sierpe, but we did manage to arrive by car although we had to cross 3 rivers. Hopefully it was still the dry season, and the rivers had little water allowing to cross them easily: it is always fun to cross rivers by car!
We took a boat up to the Sierpe river among the mangrove and we saw slots, hurler monkeys, squirrels monkeys, a boa really big and impressive, iguanas and different kinds of birds. Amongst this variety we particularly loved to see the Scarlet macaw (Aras).
His huge and colorful plumes are amazing! Adults stay in couple their whole life, up to 70 years old!
Then we went diving on the Isla Cana natural reserve where we saw a lot of wildlife including some sharks that impressed the kids.
Finally, we hiked the Corcovado natural reserve that is an amazing place to observe wildlife. This national park protects varied tropical ecosystems, and this is really we saw the most animals, including rare ones.
Drake bay was a great place to stop by and enjoy preserved wildlife. We really enjoyed walking around desert beaches, swimming and hiking in the jungle. We hope it will stay untouched for the years to come.
FRANCAIS: Après avoir planté des arbres et retrouvé un peu de fraicheur dans les hauteurs de Platanillo, nous avons roulé jusqu’à la péninsule d’Osa.
Notre Guest House se trouvait à Drake bay, entre la mer et la réserve naturelle du Corcovado. Magnifique endroit très bien préservé où la grande majorité des personnes arrivent par bateau depuis Sierpe.
Nous avons pris la voiture et avons dû passer trois rivières qui à cette saison ont un niveau d’eau bas et que nous avons donc franchis facilement mais toujours avec plaisir!
Le parc naturel du Corcovado préserve un écosystème tropical. Les environs regorgent d’endroits pour observer la faune qui y est abondante, aussi bien terrestre que marine.
En bateau, nous avons remonté la rivière Sierpe, où nous avons pu observer les habitants des rives de la mangrove. Nous avons pu observer : paresseux à trois doigts, singes hurleurs, singes capucins ou singes écureuils, un boa vraiment très bien caché mais impressionnant par sa taille, des iguanes, un basilic vert (ils courent sur l’eau grâce à sa rapidité) et même un crocodile de 3 mètres ça ne donne pas du tout envie de se baigner!!!
Nous ne nous sommes pas lassés d’observer les aras, magnifiques perroquets aux plumes longues et colorées de rouge, bleu, jaune et d’un peu de vert!
Nous avons profité de ce lieu aussi pour se promener le long des plages désertiques et découvrir la faune au cours de longues marches dans la jungle. Nous avons eu la chance d’observer le fourmilier et les enfants ont observé une sorte de loutre ou putois… nous n’avons pas réussi à trouver l’étrange animal!
Ballades, baignades, bateau, découverte de la faune…nous avons bien profité de ce lieu tranquille et magique!
Costa Rica is one of the few countries on Earth that has a real policy regarding nature protection, like the ability for any citizen to take defense for endangered ecosystems. After more than 6 weeks in the country, we could tell that this attention towards nature is most of the time true and visible, even if in some cases it gets close to « green-washing » or fake « eco-friendly » businesses…
Costa Rica has numerous natural reserves and parks, more wildlife than most countries have, lots of forests now fairly well protected, close to 95% sustainable energy production for electricity (making it the first country in the world to become « carbon neutral » in the next few years), and a progressive « Earth University » that is looking at the many challenges of ecosystems’ preservation and sustainable development, including carbon sequestration.
Still, many ecological corridors are broken, some areas are suffering some « el Nino » drought that revealed the scale of the too many forest cuttings in the 70’s to favor cattle breeding (sponsored by the government at that time), and the whole country seems « for sale » with lots of semi-controlled « ocean view » real estate programs that are for sure challenging the nature’s protection laws (with apparently a lot of corruption of the authorities by the large land owners and promoters). Furthermore, in many “eco” places, especially along the coast, recycling is an hoax (no recycling capabilities beyond the trash containers), people dump trash all over the place, while Gringos (USA and other western countries’ tourists) turn the aircon at full power the windows opened in their hotels rooms or 4WD, all under the “eco-friendly” label… Costa Rica and visitors can improve to really live-up to the “eco” promise!
Looking for true Carbon Sequestration… in Costa Rica!
Those were interesting facts and thoughts as we were looking to go further with our Carbon Footprint reduction program, and through our research we found that Costa Rica was probably the right place to live the experience with different public and private initiatives.
As we explained in a previous post, having already compensated 2,5x times our world tour emissions, we were looking at compensating 5 tons of CO2 a year for the next 10 years to get closer to COP21 objectives ahead of time…
We therefore looked for a grass root NGO that would help us to do real Carbon Sequestration. Not just preventing future emissions (like we did with other programs), but really taking C02 from the atmosphere in the form of… trees!
Trees are indeed the only real Carbon Sequestration system that is working for now (even some industrial projects are starting to show some efficiency like CO2 injection into former geologic pockets of oil and gaz). That’s why it’s so important to protect forests wherever possible, but also plant trees and rebuild an ecosystem where it has been destroyed.
As we wanted to do and understand by ourselves, we contacted Jenny from AssociationCommunity Carbon Trees (ACCT) here in Costa Rica.
Jenny has been working in non-profit in Costa Rica for 15 years, and launched ACCT in 2008 with the triple ambition to :
1) Help companies and individuals sequestrate Carbon based on their emissions
2) Restore natural ecosystems and corridors through carefully selected tree species (not monoculture) and locations
3) Provide a positive social impact by employing locals and supporting sustainable economic development of rural areas.
We spent 2 days with the kids going through the whole process. Here is the story.
From ecosystem destruction to ecosystem restauration
Jenny took us to one of the association base-camps in a small village. On the way, we crossed several landscape that went from original Rain Forest, fairly humid and fresh, to completely dry and almost desertic pasture that did not retain any water and barely fed the skinny cattle.
Rain forest turned…
Rain forest turned…
…into red desert!
The contrast was shocking, but some restored parcels also showed us that what had been destroyed in a few years can also be restored in a few years. Nature is extremely resilient, but it needs the help of humans to return from desert to rain forest.
Reforesting means planting small species first to cast shadow on the ground, bring the temperature down, allow for the soil to regenerate a bit, and then only start replanting carefully selected species that can survive, play a specific role (like holding the ground), and bring back diversity that is needed to grow healthy forest that can sustain and host the wildlife.
Education and local sustainable economy
In this small village, the Association organized a game to let adults and kids learn about the different tree species of the region, the same ones that are being replanted. It was wonderful to see how knowledgeable the kids were !
It was also great to see locals trading products that come from the ecosystem restauration, like certain foods…
Planting trees with kids
and teaching them to know the trees!
OK, should we plant trees ?
Well before doing so, Jenny wanted us to understand the whole process.
At her place, we had a passionate debate about the true efficiency of Carbon Sequestration through trees.
How do you mesure it ?
How do you assess the real impact of each species ?
What is the methodology to get to 100% reliable certification (not green washing) ?
How do you mesure the whole impact beyond carbon sequestration, like ecosystem rehabilitation (something you can not do through monoculture plantations) and positive social impact ?
Many questions that have partial answers for now due to our current state of knowledge, but Jenny had a clear roadmap to get those questions answered with the help of the Earth University (where she got trained) and a certification program robust enough (e.g. statistically significant and accurate) to assess the actual CO2 sequestration of the different reforestation programs.
For now, Community Carbon Trees (ACCT) guarantees 1 ton of CO2 per tree after a guaranteed lifetime of 25 years, the optimal time to reach maximum sequestration potential under the tropics. Which is certainly largely underestimated as it’s a « lower average » not accounting for all the CO2 sequestered in the soil for instance…
First things first : the seeds
Restoring diversity goes through collecting diverse seeds. Jenny did show us a bunch of different seeds that each required a different treatment to imitate the way Nature would do. We had fun breaking dozens of Guava shells that contained « marshmallow like » sweet texture that monkeys love, and of course the precious seeds (that’s why the monkeys swallow those seeds, offering them free transportation across the jungle). To imitate monkeys contribution, we had to soak the seeds overnight…
The Guava shell
Collecting the Guava seeds
The magic of seeds, each completely different
Once the different kinds of seeds were extracted and prepared, we had to plant them in the nursery in humid and fertilized dirt.
Collecting the baby plants
The next step was to collet the baby trees that were a few weeks old and replant them into plastic containers that had also fertilized dirt and enough space to grow for at least a year. The kids were super-active filling the bags with dirt and compost, digging a hole and replanting the baby tree, organizing the space, and watering it all. In the nursery, we could see several generations of trees, and after lots of efforts and love (with some mortality though), trees reached the good age of 3 years old, ready for some action.
Collecting the baby trees
Dream team in action
and watering (that was fun)!
The real thing : replanting the trees into the wild!
This is the part we could not do ourselves as we were still in the dry season. But this is where the real job starts as it needs science and efforts !
Indeed, as explained earlier, you don’t just plant 3 yo trees randomly in nature, or you are guaranteed to reach 100% mortality within a year.
You need to walk long distance in the jungle (or the « desert »), prepare the ground by planting small species first to bring the temperature down and allow the soil to regenerate, start replanting the selected tree species that can survive, do some control testing a year after together with some cleaning of the lianas to avoid the teenager trees to die…
After 3 years, only then do you know the survival rate of the trees, and that the survivors will grow adult and do their job of sucking CO2 from the air to make beautiful organic construction that retain water, welcome the animals, and makes the air much fresher and breathable for humans…
We committed to « sponsor » 50 of those trees, and some of the seeds we planted will make their way to the mountain in the hands of the volunteers and workers of the villages. Hopefully, they will help to restore an ecological corridor and sequestrate those 50 tons that we want to offset, or even more;-)
The 2 days with ACCT and Jenny were a wonderful experience. Challenging for the mind and the bodies, but delighting for the soul.
We met several likeminded people sharing the same aspiration to think and act differently in our everyday lives, hopefully giving a positive contribution for what it slowly but surely becoming mankind’s biggest collective challenge: Global Warming.
A big thank to Jenny for her contagious energy and for pioneering the « sustainable carbon sequestration » adventure as it will become increasingly important in a near future. We will all need it !
We will follow-up to see how our “Beautiful World Tour” trees are doing!
Back from Nicaragua, we headed to Lago Arenal, a lake surrounded by volcanoes, included the Arenal volcano that was still spitting lava in 2010…
It was a complete change, switching from dry landscapes to a tropical alpine climate with beautiful flowers everywhere.
Arenal is a fantastic playground for nature lovers with numerous hikes, dozens of canyoning and rafting opportunities, and a wonderful spot for observing wildlife and birds. So we did a bit of all of that, carefully sequencing our daily “nature and adrenaline dose” after the morning classes, as yes, kids had to go back to school one more time (and we could complete Jade’s full year maths program, yahooooo).
One hike, the “Cerro Chato” volcano, was particularly challenging has I decided to run it… 8K and 500 meters positive elevation in 1h30’… It took me a few days to recover;-)
For the kids, the rafting experience was probably the most memorable with 20 kms down a level 3-4 river!
Overall, Arenal was a great experience, even if it’s another kind of Costa Rica with european prices and wealthy tourists, it’s certainly a “must-have” for nature lovers.
Here are a few pictures of the experience there with the final sunset picture taken in beautiful Playa Dominical back on the coast.
Now heading back to the jungle south of the country to sequestrate some more carbon (plant trees)!
I knew the north of Costa Rica was windy, but not to this point.
Bahia Salinas in known for being the windiest place in Central America. This year, it was the windiest place on earth. During our 5 days stay, the wind never went below 40 knots, often nuking above 50 knots with stones flying on the beach and smoke on the water;-(
To get a chance to ride (survive), I had to borrow Ulysses tiny 7m kite and wait for the afternoon when the wind usually dropped around 40 knots… A real stretch for the body with some painful crashes: I might be to old for that!
You can have a look at the below video at 15′ to witness the mayhem.
ENGLISH: Costa Rica es Pura Vida! Indeed, this country perfectly reflect the everyday joy of its people… The beautiful beaches surrounded by a dense forest and a incredible variety of animals (monkeys, birds, iguanas…) are the epicenter of the social life where family and friends gather to enjoy good time with good salsa music played loud from the cars park nearby! The people from Costa Rica are really friendly and joyful, easily engaging with foreigners like us.
It’s a country where nature is overall well protected with numerous national parks that are protected by law, giving us the opportunity to see a lot of wild life on the land and in the water. Sunsets are unbelievable. Each evening delivers a breathtaking firework of warm orange and red colors with animals gathering to stare at the sun.
Unfortunately, not everything is perfect, and even in the maybe most ecological country in the world, after intense forest trimming in the Guanacaste province since the 90’s, they are now suffering from intense El Nino with serious drought and dwells running out of water 3 months before the end of the dry season…
Having our base camp in Playa Negra, we did concentrate in the North Guanacaste province discovery, but we will soon discover more parts of the Costa Rica further North , then visit Nicaragua for 3 weeks, and come back to visit the South of Costa Rica.
FRENCH: Le Costa Rica, c’est avant tout la joie de vivre… En vacances et en week end, les plages se remplissent, les enfants jouent, rient, sous le regard de la famille au grand complet : parents, grands parents, oncles et tantes… Au rythme de la salsa diffusée depuis les voitures! Les gens sont particulièrement gentils et souriants, heureux de pouvoir échanger avec les autres.
Les plages sont belles, immenses, tantôt avec du sable noir (attention aux pieds) tantôt avec du sable blanc, ou encore avec des rochers, leur différence font leur charme. Chaque coucher de soleil renvoie un dégradé de couleurs chaudes et orangées, le soleil couchant donne à la forêt des lumières douces et magnifiques. C’est le moment pour les singes hurleurs de venir se nourrir avec les fleurs des arbres. Mais c’est aussi un pays où la nature reste sauvage, les forêts sont denses et variées. La faune et la flore sont protégées, nous pouvons donc les observer facilement. La déforestation a malheureusement rendu certaines régions plus sèches et l’eau vient à manquer, en attendant l’arrivée de la saison des pluies qui tarde. Pour l’instant nous avons surtout visité une partie de la région de Guanacaste, mais nous allons bientôt passer à la partie itinérante de ce voyage au Costa Rica… À suivre donc!