TODAY COSTA RICA – The treasure that makes Costa Rica bigger, located 532 kilometers from the coast of Puntarenas, is a natural paradise, admired in the world, but that only few people get to know in life.
Isla del Coco (Cocos Island) has some 3,000 visits a year, with two tour operators in charge of planning the trips that require a 36-hour round trip by boat. The target tourist is a foreigner, with a certain purchasing power due to the cost of the trip (a few years ago the trip was worth close to US$5,000) and with knowledge of diving in the spectacular ecosystems under the sea.
Among Costa Ricans (Ticos), the majority of visitors are researchers and, of course, the privileged group of 18 guardaparques (park rangers), who literally live in paradise for 30 consecutive days, on duty 24 hours, then back to the mainland for 22 days of rest.
Columbia News spoke with Lucas Campos. At 48 years of age, he has been working that dynamic for the last 13 years, spending almost half the year interned between nature and the sea.
He does not hesitate to say that he is “privileged. The island is a very small dot (on the map). 2,400 hectares of very green land,” said Lucas.
The guardaparque recognizes his love for work, although he is aware of the strong impact on his family.
“Over the years the family has adapted. Those who do not get used to it are the colleagues who have small children and that is quite hard due to the distance or the difficulties that a father or mother on the island is going through.”
Lucas explains that the days are intense work. The main challenge is illegal fishing in the protected area, so they must be permanently on alert. At night, before sleeping, and in the midst of the darkness of the ocean and the forest, there is room for a conversation, a game of volleyball or some distraction.
“There is no television to watch the news and the internet is not (fast) enough for that,” describes the park ranger, who adds that only in one spot can they get a cell signal.
Lucas highlights the commitment: “It’s too much to be able to describe those beauties to people. Fortunately, we have it here in Costa Rica. It is a bit expensive to access and everything, but we have it here and we try to give all the effort in our way to protect it.”
The Parque Nacional Isla del Coco (Cocos Island National Park) celebrated this Wednesday June 22, 44 years of foundation.
Great scientists praised it and compared it with the seven natural wonders of the world.
In 1997 UNESCO declared it a Natural Heritage of Humanity (Patrimonio Natural de la Humanidad), in 1998 as a Wetland of Importance by Ramsar (Humedal de Importancia por Ramsar) and since 2002, it has been a Historical Architectural Heritage of Costa Rica Patrimonio Histórico Arquitectónico de Costa Rica).
Those who work in this sanctuary sum it up very well. The island makes us a “world power and makes us a bigger country”.
“We have turned our eyes towards the sea and we have to understand how wonderful it is to have marine natural resources that make us a world power. I can say it in those terms,” says Gina Cuza, director of the Coco Marine Conservation Area ( Área de Conservación Marino Coco).
The maritime territory of the island makes Costa Rica 92% sea, with all that that represents.
“The Cocos National Park is a privileged place for us. It makes us border with four countries, not with two as we were educated as children, with Nicaragua and Panama. No, with its amplitude we can say that we border with Colombia and Ecuador. Cocos Island puts on the world map,” she added.
Isla del Coco makes Costa Rica 10 times larger, has unique species in the world, a forest at sea level and a richness in fishing resources. In addition, it is home to sharks and migratory species. One step sought is to position the destination as an optimal site for bird watching.
“We Costa Ricans feel that she is distant, but she is very much ours. Cocos Island, a Costa Rican paradise that should be known even more,” says Alejandra Villalobos, director of the Fundación Amigos Isla del Coco (Faico) – Amigos Isla del Coco Foundation, who invites everyone to take in all this natural wealth by reading, observing, and sharing.
“We should have had a subject called environmental education. Education, without a doubt, is a first weapon that makes it possible to strengthen terrestrial knowledge, but the marine context must also be considered. Let’s take advantage of technology. Those people who can use the Internet, should use their electronic devices to research the island. It is a first step and then to tell others what was found,” adds Faico’s spokeswoman.
Improving security and equipping park rangers with new technologies are immediate challenges for the country to guarantee a long life for our “little dot” treasure in the sea.
Isla del Coco facts:
Isla del Coco is an island in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 550 km southwest of the Costa Rican mainland. It constitutes the 11th of the 13 districts of Puntarenas Canton of the Province of Puntarenas.
- Area: 23.52 km² (9.08 square miles)
- Elevation: 0 cm
- Max length: 7.6 km
- Location: Approximately 550 km (340 mi) off the shore of Costa Rica
- Established: 1978
- UNESCO Site Id: 820