On November 12, 1983 Rara Avis S.A. was established as a Costa Rican corporation for the purpose of managing rainforest profitably and wisely. We chose this site for its adjacency to Braulio Carrillo National Park, its comfortable temperature, relatively level terrain, clear title, extraordinary beauty and biological richness, and proximity to San José (although access was far more difficult than it is now) and we bought it in time to stop plans to cut the trees for timber. We lobbied to have the boundaries of Braulio Carrillo National Park adjusted to border us, and in April of 1986, President Luis Alberto Monge signed the decree expanding Braulio Carrillo National Park to the boundaries of Rara Avis and the La Selva Biological Station. In the same year, we purchased the principal pieces of land and remodeled an old, disintegrating prison building in the former El Plastico penal colony. We received our first paying guests there (School for Field Studies students), paying five dollars per night.
In 1988 we received 546 visitors staying in El Plastico, began to receive substantial publicity about the project and the logic behind it; and with fallen hardwood tree lumber we built the beautiful Waterfall Lodge deep in the forest, adjacent to a big double waterfall. By that time, government agencies in Costa Rica and the U.S. had begun to talk about "ecotourism" as a solution to the deforestation problem.
In 1995, Rara Avis established its presence on the Internet (the first non-academic Website in Costa Rica). A year later, Rara Avis assumed the founding presidency of the Costa Rican association of private nature reserves and has exerted important political influence to promote private conservation efforts as a complement to government efforts.
Rara Avis is designed to show that rainforest is a valuable economic resource that should not be destroyed and that can produce substantial economic benefits for the surrounding communities. As such, we encourage tourism, biological research, and the development of new ways to use the rainforest without destroying it.
A LOT OF help is needed to create the necessary shift in current thinking and we firmly believe that if perceptions are altered, intelligent behavior will follow. It is this change in behavior that will preserve our planet.
THE EFFORT OF CONSERVATION
The tropical rainforest is not only a place of extreme beauty, but it is home to countless plants and animals, undiscovered foods and medicines and an infinite amount of genetic material with a vast potential for the future benefit of man. The tropical rainforest is a natural cleanser of our air and a stabilizer for our planet's atmosphere.
Deforestation is the most serious environmental threat facing most of the developing world. Unfortunately environmental concerns tend to be lost on people who need food and homes. Local farmers are by no means getting rich from subsistence farming, and some sort of more appropriate economic activity must replace their current means of survival. In addition, our global climate is changing at a dizzying speed and all of us are experiencing drought, storms and rising sea levels.
Rara Avis is a publicly held Costa Rican corporation whose principal goal is to demonstrate how the economically sound conservation and management of a tropical rainforest can serve the needs of landowners and governments, as well as the needs of the planet. As we prosper, we serve as a financial and ecological model for our neighbors both near and far. We have much to do, for we intend to change the way people think about endangered resources that are threatened by economic activities and a growing population.
Rara Avis Rainforest Lodge and Reserve has been host to a variety of educational and research-oriented pursuits, ranging from local elementary school students learning about the relationship between conservation and development, to international high school, university and graduate programs based on rainforest ecology, and to numerous field researchers continuing their investigations on a variety of plant and animal life.
We have been successful in disseminating many of our ideas for alternative forest usage, in making ourselves known as a tourist destination, and in meeting operating costs. However, we have a need to raise capital for the expansion and renovation of our facilities and programs in order to fully realize our goals.
We are but pioneers in our efforts, but we believe this approach may be the only sensible way to serve the needs of the many. The preservation of our rainforests is undoubtedly critical to the health of our planet.
We hope you will join in the fight to preserve those that remain!
CERTIFICATE FOR SUSTAINABLE TOURISM
This Costa Rican government program seeks to categorize and certify each tourism company according to the degree to which its operations comply to a model of sustainability.
Rara Avis has achieved three levels of the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) as a demonstration of its environmental and social stewardship.
ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL PRACTICES
From the day it started in 1983 efforts in conservation and social responsibility were of the greatest importance to us in order to demonstrate that ecotourism can be an effective tool for conserving rainforests and for involving local communities as participants and beneficiaries.
The reserve directly conserves 485 hectares (1200 acres) of tropical rainforest and has indirectly conserved an additional 1000 hectares (2500 acres). More than 95% of Rara Avis is primary, old-growth rainforest, located in the center of a small section of forest that apparently survived intact during the Pleistocene glaciations of the last 2.5 million years. As a result, this area has extraordinary importance for conservation, many endemic species, and very high biodiversity. There are many rare species, such as the stained-glass window palm, Geonomaepetiolata, the highest diversity of amphibians and reptiles of Costa Rica, more than 362 species of birds, and over 500 species of trees.
It receives over 8,200 mm (27 feet) of rain annually and protects the water sources of an important hydroelectric plant, contributing to Costa Rica being able to generate 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. Rara Avis is an important altitudinal corridor for the movements of endangered jaguars, pumas, quetzals, and great green macaws. It borders Braulio Carrillo National Park and serves to protect the boundaries of the park. By protecting its forest, our reserve has avoided the emission of over 337,000 tons of carbon dioxide that would have been emitted had the forest been cut, as was planned by the previous owners.
Among the company’s policies and achievements are:
- While exercising the presidency of the Costa Rican Network of Private Nature Reserves, obtained the support of the Costa Rican government for the conservation of the 5% or more of the country that is privately-owned rainforest
- Involved the population of the neighboring community of Las Horquetas as direct beneficiaries of the project. Nearly all employees of the company, including those in management positions, guides, and cooks, are from the village. This has required years of training of people who in some cases, had little or no formal schooling.
- Company policy prohibits discrimination of any kind. As a result, the majority of management positions over the years have been held by women. The company prohibits child labor, it prohibits sexual exploitation and harassment in all its forms and is LGBTQ friendly. All employees receive full legal benefits, social security medical coverage, and insurance.
- To minimize energy consumption, the buildings are designed to use natural illumination and ventilation. There is no electricity in the rooms, so obviously there is no heating or air conditioning. Electricity is used only to illuminate the dining room at night, using about 200 watts for four hours (about 0.1 kilowatt-hours per guest per night).. Solar panels are used to power radio communications and telephones. Internet access is available with 3G telephones, but in some areas when climate allows.
- Hot water is provided by efficient, tankless, flow-through gas heaters. As there is no hot water storage, there is very little wasted energy.
- All water used by the lodge comes from the river that flows alongside it, and the treated water is returned to the aquifer after anaerobic processing in three chambers and two drain fields, through a rock, sand, and clay filter. Only drinking water is chlorinated.
- There is no irrigation of the small green areas outside the forest, and only native plants and fruit trees are planted in them. No chemicals are used.
- Purchasing policy emphasizes:
- Products that are locally produced or supplied.
- Reduced packaging materials.
- Avoiding disposable beverage containers and other disposable items.
- Non-organic solid wastes are separated, and where possible, are returned to the supplier. Organic waste is used for compost on site.
The company maintains a close relationship with the community of Las Horquetas and has contributed to the school, the roads, bridges, and the community development association.