Part two of an eight-part series that examines how Bodhi Surf + Yoga ranks as an ecotourism destination, read part one here
In her book, “Ecotourism and Sustainable Development, Who Owns Paradise?,” Martha Honey lists the characteristics of real ecotourism. In other words, how to know when you have found an authentic, environmentally-conscious business, or whether their “sustainability” spiel is just a selling point. Honey writes that ecotourism must involve travel to natural, often remote, destinations, which are under some kind of environmental protection. In a broad sense, ecotourism is defined as, “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment and improves the well-being of local people,” (“Ecotourism”). The Bodhi Surf + Yoga team wants to see how they measure up to Martha Honey’s criteria, so they have given me the task of exploring and reporting the truth of their journey so far. Although this first characteristic sounds simple, read below to learn just how unique Bodhi’s locale truly is.
An untouched corner of the world
Geographically, Bodhi Surf School lies within the Osa Area of Conservation, of which approximately 80% is under protection. Their home is Bahia Ballena which at the doorstep of Marino Ballena National Park. It was the first marine national park in Costa Rica, which some call “the gateway to the Osa Peninsula”. The park was created to protect marine wildlife, including coral reefs and the migrating humpback whales that visit the area twice a year for birthing. The Costa Ballena (Whale Coast) has maintained pristine beaches and abundant wildlife, as large-scale development has not reached these areas, (“About the Osa”). In addition to neighboring the park, Bodhi’s surf lessons are held within the marine conservation area. Bodhi is also surrounded by other amazing, natural attractions. Some of the country’s best preserved coral reefs are a mere 75-minute boat ride away, at Caño Island Biological Reserve, where dolphins, whales, sea turtles, sharks, and fish are also frequent sightings. Many of Bodhi’s guests travel to the island with local, impact-conscious business, Bahia Aventuras, for a day of snorkeling or scuba diving.
The anchors (Travis and Pilar) and gypsies (Adrianne and Gibran) of Bodhi Surf + Yoga, consistent with their commitment to transparency, encourage other nature-lovers to visit their home of Costa Ballena, to share in its beauty and abundance. Their hope is that appreciation will lead to preservation. Examining the area from a macro perspective, the Osa Area of Conservation embodies:
- The most significant wetland ecosystem and mangrove forests of Central America
- The largest remaining tract of lowland rainforest in Pacific Mesoamerica
- 2-3% of flora found nowhere else in the world
- 323 endemic species of plants and vertebrates
- The largest population of scarlet macaws in Central America
- More than 4,000 vascular plants, 10,000 insects, and 700 species of trees (which is more than all the Northern temperate regions combined)
- 463 species of birds
- 140 mammals, including 25 species of dolphins and whales
- 4 species of sea turtles (“About the Osa”)
This area forms part of one of the planet’s most biologically intense ecosystems, one that is said to hold 2.5% of the biological diversity this side of planet earth! Bodhi is and hour and a half away from Corcovado National Park, which encompasses 13 major ecosystems, including lowland rainforest, highland cloud forest, mangrove swamps, and coastal marine habitats. Corcovado protects one-third of the Osa Peninsula, and is home to some of Costa Rica’s most endangered species, including Jaguars, Scarlet Macaws, Tapirs, and Red-backed Squirrel Monkeys.
Considering culture as well as geography
The indigenous reserves of the Terraba and Boruca people are nearby, and artifacts of their ancestors — “the magical stone spheres” — can be found at Archeological Site Finca 6. Close to the Diquis Delta near the Terraba-Sierpe National Wetlands it is a recognized Ramsar site and home to the largest mangrove forest on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Finca 6 consists of dozens of mysterious stone spheres formed from igneous rock composed of cooled molten magma. This site was declared a World Heritage archaeological site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It links us to our ancestors and their mysterious past, sparking imagination and preserving details of a way of life that could be otherwise lost. There is a museum on-site that seeks to educate visitors on the mystery of Finca 6, (“Sito Museo Finca 6”). This region is only a 40-minute drive South of Bodhi Surf + Yoga.
The area’s coastal mountain chain forms the Path of the Tapir, which helps link the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. ASANA, a local non-profit, is working with local, private landowners to secure the area so that the development they do in the future is more sustainable. This organization is focused on the conservation of the Path of the Tapir, as well as the surrounding area. ASANA states, “…if the Osa is to remain biologically healthy, the Corridor and its associated natural areas hold the greatest promise of serving the Peninsula as its primary biodiversity insurance policy,” (“ASANA”).
One of only three tropical fjords in the world, The Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf) possesses a unique and vulnerable ecology. Situated between the Osa Peninsula and Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific Coast, the Golfo Dulce receives over 200 inches of rainfall each year. This contributes to some of the tallest, oldest trees, including mangroves which protect the marine life and produce an abundance of carbon. Visitors can swim, hike, bird watch, or relax on the secluded beaches.
The Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve protects the lowland forests surrounding the Golfo Dulce, which is distinguished by towering evergreens. Covering more than 149,500 acres, the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve provides an abundance of life to surrounding national parks, including Corcovado and Piedras Blancas, (“Deep Sea Exploration”).
Working to conserve paradise
Because of the area’s abundant, natural beauty, tourism is on the rise. The Tico Times recently featured an article on the growth of tourism in Costa Rica, which says, “According to figures from the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT), the tourism sector was responsible for more than $2.8 billion in revenue during 2015 and employs roughly 600,000 people in Costa Rica through direct and indirect employment,” (Dyer). These figures have increased rapidly throughout recent history. Like plants competing for sunlight, growing steadily alongside the growth in tourism is the growth in environmental impact. This area is currently facing challenges, and that is why it is so important for businesses like Bodhi Surf + Yoga to work together to conserve this paradise. If they don’t, who will? (Check out more about current environmental challenges the area is facing here.) With paradise comes a responsibility to protect it. This is why Bodhi strives to be Ocean Guardians — both as community members and as a company — to ensure the survival of their idyllic home. Check out some pictures, research the area, or better yet, go and see for yourself. You will quickly sense the vast and irreplaceable beauty that Bodhi Surf + Yoga lives within.
Look out for the next blog in this series, which will examine Bodhi’s efforts to minimize their environmental impact!
Read part three of the series here
Written by Sam Rose
“Ecotourism Definition.” Ecotourism Definition. International Ecotourism Society, 1990. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.
“About the Osa.” Osa Conservation. n.p, n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2016.
“Sitio Museo Finca 6.” Museo Nacional De Costa Rica. Museo Nacional De Costa Rica, 2016. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.
“ASANA: Where Do We Work.” ASANA. Asana Org., 2011. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.
Dyer, Zach. “Costa Rican Tourism Sets New Record with 2.6 Million Visitors in 2015.” The Tico Times. Producciones Magnolia, 15 Jan. 2016. Web. 19 Jan. 2016
“Deep Sea Exploration to Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica.” Undersea Hunter. Underseahunter Group, 2014. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.