Heidi in Corcovado
I have always loved nature and wildlife. Before I could read and understand the content, I thumbed through old National Geographic magazines that my grandmother had accumulated over the years. It was in those magazines I learned of the country, Costa Rica. I dreamed of visiting a place like that someday
In 2014, after many years of wishing and saving, I planned my first trip to Costa Rica. I spent two weeks traversing the country. I was mesmerized by the beauty and nature in Costa Rica instantly. I was up before the sun each morning, not just because of the howler monkeys nearby, but because I could not wait to be immersed in the wonders the new day offered. Just when I thought it could get no better, I arrived at my last destination, Agujitas (Drake Bay).
I will never be able to describe in words the feelings I had that first time the boat exited the Sierpe River and headed out into the open water towards Drake Bay. It is an adventure for sure, but also brings a sense of peace. After exploring the area for a few days my heart and soul felt full and whole. As mentioned before, I love nature and wildlife so it is no wonder I instantly felt an immediate connection to Drake Bay. It is a heavenly place for someone looking for pristine places to birdwatch or explores the biodiversity the Osa Peninsula has to offer. There was something else though that took me a while to put a finger on, that allowed me to fall in love with the Osa Peninsula. Something more than the nature and wildlife I coveted so much. It is admittedly easy to overlook the things right in front of you in the flurry of excitement when discovering something new to you. When it finally hit me I was slightly embarrassed. The OSA Peninsula is a magical place, there is no question, but it is the people, not the place that makes it so. The interactions I had with the people in the area made as much of an impact on me as the splendid nature and wildlife found there. Genuine, friendly, welcoming, humble, considerate are a few, small words I would use to describe the people I had the pleasure to meet. While I will never profess to remember all the names of the people I met, I always remember the face of a kind and generous person and am forever touched by the impact they had on me. I was planning my return visit to Drake Bay before I left the first time. I did return, a few times in fact over the next few years. Never disappointed, always planning my next visit before I left.
In 2020, the world changed. We were all thrust into the grip of a global pandemic. We were all challenged with various hardships ranging from the extreme to minor. I did what I could here in my local community and quickly my thoughts turned to the place I love most. I know how isolated the Osa Peninsula is from the rest of Costa Rica. Getting resources to this area of the country can be challenging under the best of circumstances. I wanted to help but had no idea how. I quickly reached out to some contacts I had made over the years and was introduced to The Corcovado Foundation.
From the time I made my first donation, I began to learn about the various programs supported by the Foundation. Prior to the pandemic, The Corcovado Foundation was instrumental in providing environmental education in local communities, sea turtle conservation, and support to National Parks to name a few. The Foundation quickly switched gears in the midst of the pandemic and started delivery of essential goods (food, cleaning supplies, and pet food) to families struggling with little or no income while the tourism industry had been virtually shut down. They developed programs to maintain sustainable/regenerative agricultural programs in the local towns and organized castration (Spay/neuter) events for local cats and dogs in an effort to minimize the impacts of pets on the wild resources.
In April 2021, I was afforded the opportunity to see first-hand some of the programs funded and/or supported by The Corcovado Foundation. My adventure began with a small band of intrepid rangers tasked with monitoring the jaguar population in Corcovado National Park. It was some of the most intense hiking I have ever done. The terrain was slick and coming from New York where it was snowing and 33 degrees F (1 Celsius), the heat and humidity in Corcovado was challenging (as expected). My feet failed me on the first day of hiking and I developed severe blisters on both feet. Sounds like perfection, right? There were times I jokingly thought “If the Corcovado Foundation wants me to continue to provide support to the organization, why are they trying to kill me”? Just repeating those words makes me smile as they bring back a flood of some of the absolute best memories I have ever had. I had the luxury of sleeping in a hammock in the middle of the most amazing tract of rainforest I have ever seen. I watched deer, tamandua, coatis, white lipped peccaries, monkeys, and agoutis (to name only a few) going about their daily lives. I admit tears welled up in my eyes and I was rendered speechless the first time I saw a simple black and white photo of a jaguar from a trail camera we checked. I know better than to believe I will ever see one of these elusive creatures in person, but it has been life altering to know I walked the same path as one of these beauties. First and foremost I am reminded of the dedication of my traveling companions; Jason, Evelyn, “Champion” and Dani. This group makes treks like this multiple times a month across much of the Osa Peninsula looking for signs of jaguars and monitoring trail cameras along the way. It was an absolute honor to travel along with them on this particular journey of theirs. I will treasure this experience for eternity and yes, I would do it again, no question.
The last part of my trip took me back to where my love for the Osa Peninsula all began, Drake Bay. Here I met with Helena, the Environmental Education Director of the Corcovado Foundation. I learned much more about the programs and efforts to continue them during the pandemic. Remote\virtual learning for children across the globe has been a challenge. Imagine those same challenges in isolated area with less than ideal internet connectivity and fewer economic resources. In my opinion, instilling the virtues and ideals of sustaining our natural world and maintaining our natural resources to the young people around the world should be our top priority. They are the leaders of the future and the hope for us all. Programs like Junior Rangers and environmental workshops as well as virtual “environmental challenges” are critical pieces of the Corcovado Foundation’s work. After nice meal and great conversation, we took a quick drive to Los Planes to participate in one if the organization's programs to promote sustainable agriculture. Here I was introduced to several families who were harvesting and sharing seeds and plant cuttings that could be taken home and started in their own gardens. Once harvesting was completed the group moved to a pavilion where they discussed what the seeds were, when / how to plant and were provided a composting guide as well. We shared some amazing cookies, coffee and laughter. What a sense of community!
It took me full circle to the aforementioned reason the Osa Peninsula is so magical… it’s the people. It’s the rangers who spend countless nights away from family and friends in harsh conditions, in an effort to protect and monitor some of the most elusive, endangered creatures and ecosystems in world. It’s the volunteers and staff that make environmental learning programs exciting and engaging and shape our future leaders and protectors of our natural wonders. It’s the people in the community who come together to share resources and knowledge in an effort to make their community sustainable and more resilient during a global pandemic. It’s the organization that recognizes the immediate needs of the community’s most vulnerable members and mobilizes, quickly, to ensure they have the basic needs to survive. It’s the epitome of pura vida. It is what the Corcovado Foundation does and what they are made of.
The few programs that I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see in person merely scratch the surface of the work the Corcovado Foundation does not only on the Osa Peninsula, but across the country as well. It is the reason I do and will continue to support the good work the Foundation does.
With the sincerest gratitude for all you do,