Conservation Ecology Ecotourism
Every year, many thousands of visitors come to Costa Rica because of one simple fact. Although Costa Rica covers only 0.03% of the surface of the earth, Costa Rica has approximately almost 6% of the world's bio diversity. For this reason alone, Costa Rica has become a Mecca for ecotourism, loosely defined as "come, look, see, experience, but don't touch", thus leaving this beautiful place intact for other to see next week, next year or next century.
Astonishingly, Costa Rica has 12 different climatic zones, and by some reports, as many as twenty-seven different weather patterns.
Perhaps even more astounding, almost five percent of all known species on earth can be found here.
Additionally, more species of butterflies can be found in Costa Rica than on the entire continent of Africa, and for bird watchers there are over 850 species... more than are in ALL of North America!
Costa Rica is located in Central America, between Nicaragua to the North and Panama to our South. It is not an island, despite what you saw in Jurassic Park!
Much of the country is in a fault zone and thus includes a large number of volcanoes and mountains. This is part of the Andean-Sierra Madre chain, and runs the length of the Costa Rica separating the Caribbean Sea to the east from the Pacific Ocean to the west. Costa Rica has twelve distinct ecological zones - incredibly, more than all of North America combined! While Costa Rica is assuredly in the tropics, the extreme variations in elevation provide climatic conditions that separate it from tropical climates elsewhere.
The Pacific coast lowlands averages about 90° F while the mountain Cerro Chirripó has peaks above 12,800 feet and where you will find daytime temperatures that seldom exceed 48° F.
So what will you find in Costa Rica?
- 1,000 species of butterflies
- 1,200 varieties of orchids and See this!
- 850 species of birds
- 130 species of freshwater fish
- 4,000 species of insects
- 160 species of amphibians
- 220 species of reptiles
- 1,600 species of fresh and salt water fish
- 208 species of mammals
- 9,000 species of plants
- Cloud forests
- Rain Forests
- Volcanoes (2 active!)
- Mangrove wetlands and swamps
Where to go in Costa Rica
If you really want to experience and learn about bio-diversity, you likely cannot find a better location than Costa Rica. While here, make it a point to visit Earth University. It is a special place!
Another notable location is INBioparque, a wonderful place located in Santo Domingo de Heredia. (See map at right. Click to enlarge.)
It is an amazing theme park offering interactive experiences with Nature. INBioparque offers daily round-trip shuttle service from most hotels in the San Jose area. The park is 100% wheelchair (and stroller) friendly! There are tours, a farm, a lagoon, an aquarium and other attractions (like the ANTS!). Price $15 adults, $8 kids. Open Tuesday through Sunday 8AM to 6 PM, but admissions closes at 4 PM.
One more great spot is Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge located in Dominical, Costa Rica. Few people know the jungles of Costa Rica than contributor Jack Ewing, the man behind Hacienda Barú, a national wildlife preserve covering 330 hectares (815 acres) on Costa Rica's Southern Pacific Coast near Dominical. If you are serious about ecology or eco-tourism as it is now called, you must place this location on your travel itinerary. Bird watching and eco-tours are the house specialties, but the trails are incredible if you just want to commune.
If you happen to be near San Jose, the capital, you are a short 30 minute drive to Zoo Ave. This is not Zoo Avenue. You say Zoe-Ahhvay with the emphasis on the Ahhvay. If driving from San Jose or the airport heading to Jaco, Quepos, Manuel Antonio, you will pass within one mile of the entrance. Stop while on the way!
Zoo Ave is a marvelous rescue center/zoo, but oddly, something very few tourists ever visit (unless they visit this site!). The times I have been there, it was almost all Costa Rican visitors. This is a shame as Zoo Ave is an incredible place covering 59 hectares of beautifully landscaped grounds and you cam see close up stuff you will never see in a thousand tourist visits. It is also a wildlife rescue center for injured critters. Birds and animals from all over Costa Rica are brought to the center for medical care. When they are cured, they are returned to the exact same spot they were found, regardless of where in was in the country. This is so as to not have any negative impact on the environment.
It sports a HUGE bird collection (the largest in Central America) including numerous toucans, cranes, curassows, parrots, more than 100 other Costa Rican bird species. Zoo Ave is one of only two zoos in the world to display the incredible. resplendent, and really hard to photograph quetzal (ket-zal).
To see one, read my Blog post about my stupid attempts to photograph a quetzal. You will also read how my wife revives dead birds, and I guarantee THAT will stick in you mind!