What Your Visit Means to Veragua Rainforest Adventure Park Costa Rica
Tourism with a meaning: Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure in Costa Rica helps create a better life for everyone in their local Caribbean communities.
A visit to Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure in Costa Rica gives you everything you could ask for in a Costa Rica rainforest tour – nature, wildlife, rainforest, waterfalls, research, and adventure attractions like an aerial tram and a canopy zip line tour.
What sets Veragua Rainforest apart from many other rainforest tours in Costa Rica, however, is its strong commitment to the local people.
Call it community outreach, social responsibility, or tourism with a meaning, for the past eight years since its opening, Veragua Rainforest staff and founders have worked hand in hand with their local Caribbean communities to create a better life for everyone.
“Since Day One we have been making an impact on people’s lives,” said Rocio Lopez, Education Program Coordinator at Veragua Rainforest. “We are changing the lives and history of the people in this community. We are changing their whole perspective.”
Surrounded by rainforest in the mountains near the port of Limon on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast, the 3,212-acre private reserve of Veragua Rainforest shares its border with the impressive La Amistad International Park (“Friendship International Park”), the second largest nature reserve in Central America. It is a life-rich region of unprecedented biodiversity.
It also is an impoverished area that traditionally has subsisted on logging, mono-agriculture and hunting for its population’s existence. Located within two miles of Veragua are the two tiny communities of Brisas de Veragua de Limon and Union of the Peje River. From the beginning, Veragua Rainforest founders have focused on creating new possibilities for livelihood, conservation and education.
“We’re turning the region into a conservation-focused area, giving locals jobs and teaching them to protect their resources. We’re very involved in the community with education and infrastructure,” explained Veragua co-owner Marti Jimenez.
Eight years of impact on the community has created a big difference, Lopez said. Research is taking place in the forest, trees are being planted to reforest the locality, and educational programs at local schools are teaching another world view and way of life to the new generation. “We want to make a life change with these kids through education,” said Lopez.
Veragua has adopted the local elementary schools in Brisas and Peje. Between 20 and 30 children attend each of the tiny, one classroom schools that combine first through sixth grades all together with one teacher, who doubles as principal, janitor, etc.
Through the Veragua Foundation for Education & Rainforest Research, Veragua Rainforest gives regular maintenance to the schools by painting and fixing structures like ceilings, bathrooms, walls and floors. Veragua is looking for support from the private sector now to build new universal access bathrooms at Brisas School. Veragua biologists and guides instruct students in environmental protection, and lead tree-planting days in the community. School groups come to Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure several times a year to enjoy all of the facilities and tours.
In Costa Rica, students are required to wear school uniforms, which parents must provide. Parents also must pay for their children’s school books and school supplies, such as pencils, notebooks, etc. In these economy-strapped villages, families often don’t have extra funds for these things; and the schools don’t have extra resources to help much.
That’s where Veragua Rainforest helps out with international educational programs, inviting student groups from the United States to visit Costa Rica and Veragua through organizations like Eco-Teach. Groups bring donated supplies and help with cultural interaction with the children, maintenance projects, tree planting, etc.
How Can You Help?
Other funding for the Veragua Foundation comes from donations. You can contact Veragua to give a donation, bring a student group to do hands-on projects, or to volunteer. You can also donate online at http://www.veraguarainforest.com/foundation/.
“We want to thank people for their visit to Veragua, and let them know that they are supporting the children and families of Costa Rica,” said Lopez.
Article by Shannon Farley