Laboring over the swells of the Pacific Ocean, our boat follows the coastline of Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula that rises out of the ocean wrapped in a thick carpet of lush tropical rainforest and framed by the sandy strips of wild beaches. Most of the peninsula is protected by Corcovado National Park, and the sheer expanse of its wilderness is staggering.
Corcovado, which has been described by the National Geographic as “the most biologically intense place on earth in terms of biodiversity”, protects over 400 square kilometers of old-growth wet forests that host an unparalleled abundance of wildlife.
Led by a local guide, we arrive at a deserted beach that serves as the entry point to Sirena Ranger Station — one of the only four areas in the park open to visitors.
In the next three days, we see some of Costa Rica’s most incredible wildlife, including a number of threatened species that the park is designed to protect.
For wilderness areas like Corcovado to exist, government action is required and Costa Rica’s government is serious about protecting its natural heritage. Over 25% of the country’s territory is preserved under some level of protection. Costa Rica’s private sector also contributes to conservation efforts by creating private reserves dedicated to ecotourism and research.
There is also something that each of us can do to help protect the world’s remaining wilderness areas. Walking through the pristine jungle of the Puma Valley we were confronted with the ugly side of our society’s obsession with plastic: a rubber sandal hanging on a low branch of a tree, a deflated basketball wedged firmly between its gnarled roots, a multitude of plastic bottles half buried under the leaf litter.
All this trash is brought to Corcovado by the ocean. It arrives with the high tide and gets trapped by the vegetation as the tide retreats. It is a sobering realization that some of the rubbish littering the otherwise-pristine wilderness of the valley could have come from our own backyards.
Each time you feel tempted to choose convenience over commitment, remind yourself that every bit of plastic you thoughtlessly discard may end up lining the stomach of a whale or a seabird or littering a puma’s den half the world away.