The wild and remote paradise of Drake Bay is famous around the world for its intense biodiversity. With the Corcovado National Park and the Isla del Caño marine reserve on its doorstep, the forests of Drake Bay are filled with monkeys, butterflies, insects and frogs, the skies filled with Scarlet Macaws, and the seas filled with whales and dolphins. But what it is less well known is that between July and December the beaches of Drake Bay also welcome hundreds of Olive Ridley sea turtles who come to nest each year. Since 2006, the Corcovado Foundation has been working with the local community to protect these turtles from the threat of illegal egg poaching, which had previously resulted in the loss of 85% of the nests. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of members of the community and teams of international volunteers, the Corcovado Foundation has saved over 90% of the nests laid since 2006, provided environmental education in local schools, created 20 local conservation jobs, and established the Turtle Tour for tourists visiting Drake Bay.
By coupling the income for local guides to the survival of the turtles, ecotourism holds the key for the sustainability of the program, and there are number of ways in which tourists can get involved and help the community of Drake Bay to conserve this precious natural resource. The Turtle Tour offers a special night patrol of the beach during for tourists, which includes a visit to the hatchery and the chance to witness a turtle nesting, watch a nest hatching, or release newborn baby turtles into the ocean. A daytime tour of the program is also available, and the two-day Turtle Festival that takes place on the first weekend of December is not to be missed. For the more adventurous of travelers, the program also offers short and long-term volunteering placements, which include training in how to work with sea turtles, a homestay experience option, and numerous daytime and nighttime activities. For those that can’t make it to the program there is also the option of adopting and naming a nesting turtle too.
The challenge that the program faces now is how to generate sufficient income from ecotourism alone to pay for the local payroll each year. The planned construction of a new program headquarters will provide a rent-free office for the community association, ACOTPRO, a permanent camp for volunteers, a community center and auditorium, and a tourist information venue from which to promote local ecotours and sell artisan products and merchandise for years to come. This base will permit the reduction of indirect costs to the extent that self-sufficiency of the program through ecotourism will become feasible. However, the program has raised only half of the funds required to complete the construction, and so donations are desperately needed in order to bring this next phase of the community development to fruition.
For more details about any of the above ecotour options or more information about how you can help the program, please visit www.corcovadofoundation.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 8888 0745 (Drake Bay).
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