La Palma, Playa Blanca & Rancho Quemado

José Calvo, Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 20 Dec 2019

La Palma, Playa Blanca & Rancho Quemado, 12/20/2019, National Geographic Quest

  • Aboard the National Geographic Quest
  • Costa Rica, Panama & Colombia

Today is one of the best days of our trip, in which we get to meet the Costa Ricans whose lives we have changed for the better. Today is the day that we explore beyond forests and trails: We explore the hearts and homes of these people.

Guests here today may choose their activities for the morning and afternoon. The first outing option is a combination of two projects, where we visit Doña Rosa and Don Juan’s gold panning venture and then visit Don Carmen’s Trapiche (sugarcane mill) run by Johnny and Noemi. The former used to depend on extraction along forests and riverbanks, though they no longer have to, because they have developed a way that has allowed them to walk from the very hard gold-panning labor. However, most importantly to teach, as they proudly say, their children that through hard work, dreams and perseverance, much can be achieved. For Noemi and Johnny, retaking her father’s abandoned sugar mill, refurbishing it and putting it once more into use to rescue an almost abandoned tradition is another dream come true.

Our second choice was to visit the project named Jacana, ran by two women Eida and Yorleny. Their families took a hard economic blow during the mid-nineties, after embarking in planting hearts of palm in the Osa Peninsula region, and were at the point of losing it all, their land, their homes, their stability, but they would not have it. They decided they would do something about it, and with what little they still had, they began their 15-year vision for their future: a project oriented on educational tourism and a small heart of palm enterprise.

Finca Kobo’s chocolate tour and botanical garden run by Alex and his young family is a project of at least 17 years, after he revamped his parent’s farm into a magnificent botanical garden and long-lost cacao plantation practice, as well as a sustainable farm. Nowadays, Alex can produce small quantities of 100% organic chocolate, which is his key economic crop along with the tourist groups visiting him from all around the peninsula.

Last but not least, we could pick to go to a rainforest hike in the Finca Danta, run by Merlin and his family. Also redoing his father’s property, which used to be comprised of local crops, he realized that he was not made to be a farmer but still loved his home and land. Out he went to fulfill his vision, and he now owns a very popular and personal lodge, which includes a nice array of hiking trails.

Whichever outing we chose to visit, they were all game changers for the families maintaining them, but also and hopefully life changing for us as well. It is always good to know that our decisions can and do make better the lives of others. Further, we got great exposure to a lot of plants and wildlife that we wouldn’t have experienced had we not chosen to partake, including riverside wrens, boa constrictor, bright rumped attila, Central American squirrel monkeys, butterflies, scarlet macaws, leafcutter ants, and many, many more.

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