Mañana es ahora. Tomorrow is now.
This is a sign I’ve just seen whilst travelling here in Costa Rica. Even Los Ticos, the people from Costa Rica, who are renowned as leaders in sustainable practices, are not resting on their laurels. Marvin, our driver-guide on the journey down to the Osa Peninsula, explains that 98% of Costa Rica’s electricity is generated from renewable sources with the aim to reach 100% by 2024. Amazingly impressive.
As well as green energy production, biodiversity is also a focus. Costa Rica has a unique location; when land rose from the ocean during the Cenozoic period, the rough geographical areas of North and South America became connected so more species were able to migrate. Now the country homes around 500,000 of the world’s species, hundreds of which are endemic and some on the endangered list. The good news is that over the last 30 years the country has experienced a surge in reforestation, meaning that nature has more space and opportunity to thrive. Much of this work has been carried out by private companies and passionate individuals.
The stunningly located Pacuare Lodge started out as a farm and my guide, Luis, tells me that as a young boy, when his father was the manager, he recalls grassy areas where there is now maturing secondary forest. This change is down to forward-thinking owners Roberto and Luz. During my visit, I watch with fascination as Giovanni, another guide, shows camera trap video footage of jaguars and of a sloth being attacked by a jaguarundi – footage taken on the property. Roberto and Luz have given these animals, amongst many others, a place to roam whilst also running a successful lodge.
It’s not just the animals who have warranted their care and attention. The main centrepiece of the Lodge is The Nest; a platform high in the tree canopy where guests can dine, but also where the canopy zipline adventure ends. The design and construction of The Nest has been managed to give priority to the tree’s protection. Nothing has been drilled into the tree or permanently attached. Whilst fully secure, the system is adjustable to allow the tree to grow. It is abundantly clear that they believe every tree matters to make the whole forest continue to flourish.
When the Lodge first came into being, it was powered by candles and a clunky generator, now there are solar panels, water turbines and a modern battery system. I am amazed at how seamlessly the different areas of the lodge work together to use energy efficiently; the kitchen has priority at meal times, afterwards the pool can be cleaned and finally the laundry gets fitted in. It just takes planning and good communication. I learnt all this on a sustainability tour with Luis. However, I was mostly impressed by the fact that excess oil from the kitchen is sent to make biodiesel to run a farm’s tractor, which in turn produces food for the Lodge. A masterpiece of simplistic genius.
Blake Delatte is another man with a mission whom I was lucky enough to meet at SCP Corcovado Wilderness Lodge. He is part of the team who took over the Lodge back in December 2022. From our first conversation, I saw that the Soul, Community and Planet acronym embodies much more than just a business plan. His eyes lit up as he detailed the plans for the Lodge. The new dive centre will allow coral regeneration projects to start, all run and monitored by Innoceana, a global marine conservation organisation.
Their new camera traps are already sending data to scientists and the new hanging paths are being planned to allow nature to continue unimpeded by human activity. Close to his heart is the link with communities, with the ‘each stay does good’ initiative pushing funding to local towns and villages. His enthusiasm and drive for the current project to supply clean water is inspiring to hear. The vision for the lodge doesn’t end there. He talks about investing in soil science, helping whales avoid marine hazards and a new apothecary. The aim: to feed the soul.
During my stay, Blake made it possible for me to have some time connecting with my soul and the soul of Costa Rica high up in a Baco tree. The team responsible for the project were at the Lodge and I jumped at the chance to effortlessly glide 30 metres into the canopy and take in the sunset whilst watching spider monkeys moving around just below me. My soul has been recharged.
Costa Rica is certainly the gold standard for sustainability across the world and their ‘pura vida’ ethos is part of this from an early age. But there is always more to do. I did hear stories of a lack of rangers in Corcovado National Park meaning illegal hunting and logging are increasing. And I saw very few electric cars on the road despite the green energy that the country produces.
People like Roberto, Luz and Blake are making positive changes that inspire others and are proving that commerce and sustainability do not have to be mutually exclusive. There is still work to do but with the passion and drive of Los Ticos maybe Costa Rica will become the first carbon neutral country.