Down East 2013 ©
The tiny Central American country of Costa Rica could teach Maine a few things.
Two million tourists a year drive the Costa Rican economy that employs half the working population. Their environment is their economy. Where have we heard that before?
In April Linda and I visited Costa Rica for the first time, staying at the vacation home that Bruce and Peggy Bornstein of Wayne, Maine, built high above the Pacific Ocean in Nosara.
The Bornstein’s heavenly perch is called Casa de Suenos, House of Dreams . They share their dream with friends and also rent it out when they’re not there. Our visit to Casa de Suenos was our Viaje de Suenos, Trip of Dreams.
Nosara is a remote area on the Nicoya Peninsula. The last 30 kilometers to get there are over atrocious gravel roads. We drove through a river and rarely got beyond third gear in our five-gear four-wheel drive vehicle. It was a real adventure!
Costa Rica comprises only .01 percent of the earth’s landmass, but harbors 5 percent of the earth’s biodiversity, including more than 10,000 identified plant species, 9,000 butterflies and moths, and 500 species of mammal, reptiles, and amphibians.
For avid birders like Linda and I, the astonishing 880 species of birds in this country that’s the size of West Virginia was what brought us there.
Google these birds and prepare to be astonished: Elegant and Violacaeous Trogans, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Long-tailed Manakin, White-fronted Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Great Kiskadee, Rufous-naped Wren, Orange-chinned Parakeet, and Canivet’s Emerald. The names alone are exciting. Wait til you see the birds!
In the past decade, Costa Rica has taken strong steps to protect its rich biodiversity. More than 11 percent of the country is protected in a national park system and another 10 to 15 percent in private and public reserves.
But we saw all of our birds around the Bornstein’s house, at the beach, or in the city of Liberia. We also saw variegated squirrels, coati, a Black Ctenosaw (think giant lizard), and entire families of Howler Monkeys. They surrounded our house and entertained us for hours.
Costa Rica offers lots of activities for tourists from ziplines to world-class fishing. But you should never go there without a bird book and binoculars.
When I was looking for advice about birding in Costa Rica, I turned to Maine’s top birding guide, Bob Duchesne, a state legislator and the author of the Maine Birding Guide.
“Costa Rica is UNBELIEVABLE!” exclaimed Bob. “It has as many birds as all of North America. I’ve never seen anything like it. Costa Rica is one of the reasons I got interested in nature-based tourism in Maine. I said to myself, if Costa Rica can do it, why can’t we?”