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Costa Rica has over one million hectares of natural reserves. These have been established in the course of the 20th century by private efforts and (increasingly) by the government of Costa Rica. While these natural reserves are clearly an important touristic asset for the country, these reserves do much more for the people. They create an awareness and pride of their natural resources.

Nowadays, many Costa Rican (tico) children are taught in school the value of the rainforest and the complexity of ecological interactions. About half of Costa Rica’s children live surrounded by, at least patches of, intact nature. For the other kids that grow up in urban areas, efforts are made to put them in touch with ecology as well. But of course, this is always an organisational and logistic problem due to financial straits. (Edunamica, for instance, is a private organisation that strives to boost talented students throughout the country; these students are later taking on coaching functions. Ecological education is becoming an increasingly important issue here. But one should of course not forget that there are often more pressing everyday matters for the inhabitants of Costa Rica.)

Also for Europeans and Americans the rainforest seems like a great place to educate ourselves about ecology. But do not forget that we are always outsiders and interrupt nature’s undisturbed way by visiting. On the other hand, national park entrance fees are an important support to maintain such areas. Make sure to pay the entrance fee… Also, nature guides in Costa Rica are fabulously educated and have a lot to tell you. So if you are really interested in learning something and you want more than just catch glimpse of some monkeys, than this is well worth its while. Not only will you bring some important knowledge home, but you will also support the spreading of knowledge in a new emerging profession, which in turn will spread again more knowledge: the guia natural (nature guide) of Central American nature.

By the way, the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism makes admirable efforts to properly educate and certify these guides. Costa Rica is clearly a regional leader in these issues and tourism has profited a lot from it already.


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