Like many young men, Manuel Ramirez fell in love when was 15 years old. Unlike most, though, his heart swelled not for a person but for a peninsula.
On his first visit to the Osa Peninsula, which juts out from the southern Pacific coast of his native Costa Rica, Ramirez was awed by the land—a place where lush rainforest grows to meet the sea, where scarlet macaws streaked the sky.
“The power of nature— waves breaking so close to the shore and the size of thousand-year old trees—gave me an impression of how small we are as human beings,” Ramirez recalls, “and also the damage we were doing to those elements of nature.”
At the end of a twelve-hour hike across the Osa, Ramirez says he knew his heart had found a place to protect and love. He promised himself that he would never leave Osa and would dedicate his efforts to conservation and to Osa. At the time, Costa Rica was recovering from widespread deforestation that had eliminated over half of its original forests.
Since then, conservationists like Ramirez have helped bring national protection to 25 percent of Costa Rican land, including the world-renowned Corcovado National Park in the Osa Peninsula. The country is now a leader in biodiversity conservation and environmentally sustainable development, drawing ecotourists who want to hike volcanoes, tour rainforest canopies, and watch howler monkeys with little disruption from the outside world.
On the Osa peninsula—often referred to as the most biologically intense and diverse place on earth—Ramirez and his team at Osa Conservation have been dreaming of a different kind of ecotourism experience. They envisioned a conservation campus that would immerse all types of visitors in the land’s majesty, provide hands-on learning experiences and also create a healthy economy for local communities and industries.
That’s where blue moon fund stepped in.
In 2013, Osa Conservation strategically acquired Osa Verde, a property on the peninsula with 10 times more land than any local lodges, nearly 20 kilometers of trails and two miles of beachfront access. The land will soon house a bio lodge made of green materials, fed by natural spring water and powered by water and sun, as well as a sustainable farm where traditional land use practices are eco-friendly and yield a variety of pesticide-free crops.
Adrian Forsyth, founder of Osa Conservation, hopes the Osa Verde experience will give visitors a holistic perspective on conservation. “That’s the vision for this place, to start talking about all the things conservationists talk about through the portal of food and farming,” he says. “Our product there isn’t produce, it’s education—where people experience the actual reality of food production.”
Forsyth and Ramirez have both seen the growing trend of tourists seeking unique and specialized experiences, giving great hopes for Osa Verde’s success. As untouched natural areas become increasingly scarce around the world, Ramirez hopes that many young people will visit Osa Verde and experience the majesty of Costa Rica’s crown jewel and want to protect it; he hopes they will fall in love.
Safeguarding fragile resources
“In a remote and lush corner of southern Costa Rica lies a realm of giant trees, potbellied spider monkeys, harpy eagles, prowling jaguars and herds of white-lipped peccary. This is the Osa Peninsula and there is no place in the world like it.”