3 Ways To Have Memorable Wildlife Experiences Without Harming The Animals
There’s nothing quite like experiencing unique animals up close, but the unfortunate reality is that in search of this thrill, we often compromise the safety and well-being of the animals we want to see. The good news is that it IS possible to witness awe-inspiring animals up close in a way that actually benefits the animals.
There are countless ways to behold the wonder of wild animals without putting the animals or yourself in danger. We suggest starting here, with these 3 awesome ways to experience wildlife without harming them.
Reserva Playa Tortuga
Reserva Playa Tortuga is a nonprofit biological research and education center located on the Térraba River, in Ojochal, Southern Costa Rica. This place is 100% dedicated to seeing that the environment is kept in tip-top shape–and they’re willing to do their part to make sure it happens. They dedicate their days to gathering environment data and making this data widely accessible so that the environment is monitored accurately, and future research ventures have a base of knowledge to look back on. They’re ambitiously pursuing several other goals, that you can find more about here.
A visit to the Reserva Playa Tortuga will enable you to experience wildlife for yourself, while promoting the very work that keeps these animals safe. Reserva Playa Tortuga offers the special opportunity to volunteer through them. This opportunity is the perfect way to learn more about the environment of Southern Costa Rica and what it takes to ensure the environment is monitored accurately, all while observing the wildlife living in and around the Reserve. More than 11 species of mammals live in the reserve, including, raccoons, coatis, kinkajous, weasels, River Otters, Tayra, monkeys–most commonly Capuchin Monkeys, anteaters, Opossums, and sloths.
Volunteering at the Reserva Playa Tortuga is sure to be one of the most educational, and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to experience the wildlife of Southern Costa Rica up close. You can find a complete guide with all the specifics of volunteering at Reserva Playa Tortuga on their website.
Visiting Animal Rescue Centers and Sanctuaries
Visiting Animal Rescue Centers And Sanctuaries is another way you can experience Costa Rican wildlife up close while supporting the overall well-being of the wildlife community. The animals at animal rescue sanctuaries are being rehabilitated with the hope that they will be released back into the wild. Your visit to these sanctuaries provides you with an up-close, rare look into these animals lives in a way that is educational, safe, and supporting of the organization providing the animals care.
What Are Animal Rescue Centers And Sanctuaries?
Animal Sanctuaries are permanent homes for animals that for one reason or another can never be released into the wild again. These homes function as safe havens for animals that have been harmed physically or emotionally, or wrongfully kept as pets, whereas they are unable to function in the wild. Unlike zoo’s, animals in animal sanctuaries would never be paraded around for the sake of entertainment. Only facilitated tours are allowed, where the primary goal is educating the public on the proper way to treat animals.
Some Animal Sanctuaries function as both a permanent safe-haven and a rescue and rehabilitation center. The rescue aspect of animal sanctuaries implies that they have the goal of rescuing harmed animals, and rehabilitation them so that they can one day be released back into the wild, or in the case of domesticated animals, that they would be placed in homes.
What Makes Your Support So Vital
Most Animal Sanctuaries and Rescue Centers function as a nonprofit, meaning they rarely, if ever, receive financial support from the government. This makes the support of the community and visitors absolutely vital to each center’s work. To help keep things running, centers will often have guided tours available for a small fee. By paying this fee, you are donating to help see the shelter thrive in exchange for an unforgettable experience with animals that you would rarely see up close in the wild.
Why Animal Sanctuaries Are So Important
Costa Rica is particularly chalk-full of unique wildlife, creating an unfortunate environment for the illegal pet trade to thrive. As a result, animals that should naturally be in the wild are kept in far-from-adequate places where even their most natural needs are not met. For example, several animals need to eat certain types of leaves, yet when held illegally, they are fed rice, resulting in a devastating nutritional deficiency. Similarly, we’ve all seen horror stories of large animals kept in small cages. This leads to serious psychological damage for the animal. These shelters provide vital care to animals that need both immediate relief and the patient, hard work that will see them through the rehabilitation processes, that they may hopefully be released back into the wild one day.
Southern Costa Rica’s Animal Sanctuaries:
Southern Costa Rica has two incredible animal sanctuaries, both of which offer the community meaningful experiences with wildlife.
Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary
The Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary is home to a variety of hurting and vulnerable animals. Some of these animals have been rescued by the government out of the illegal pet trade while others were found abandoned or orphaned as babies, or injured as adults. Word of mouth has made Alturas one of the leading animal sanctuaries in the area, and often people from the community find and bring these hurting animals here because they know they will be taken care of.
Alturas’ primary goal is to rescue, rehabilitate and release the animals back into the wild, but for those animals that can no longer thrive in the wild, they provide a forever-home in as near natural conditions as they can.
Alturas is located in the beach town of Dominical, Southern Costa Rica. You can find Alturas easily on this map.
How/When To Visit
Alturas is closed Mondays, but open from Tuesday through Sunday with hour and a half tours running at 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm. Call ahead to reserve a spot in the tour you would like.
Alturas asks that each tour participant makes a minimum donation of $25 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under. Costa Rican Nationals are welcome to join for a minimum donation of $20 for adults, and $10 for children 12 and under.
Since animals are constantly coming in, and being released back into the wild, there’s no way to tell exactly what types of animals you will see. In the past, Alturas has been home to animals such as the Squirrel Monkey and Spider Monkey, the Scarlet Macaw and the Toucan, Two and Three-Toed Sloths, and Anteaters–just to name a few!
One thing’s for sure, a trip to the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary will mean an unforgettable experience with wildlife you may have never seen before.
Fundacion Santuario Silvestre de Osa (Osa Wildlife Sanctuary)
The Osa Wildlife Sanctuary the first to open in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica. Since the very beginning, they have been dedicated to seeing animals rehabilitated and released back into the wild. But it doesn’t just stop there for them–they are committed to see the community as a whole step up and work to see change throughout the environment. Whether it be through educational tours, volunteer programs, supporting government legislation, or hiring locals to maximize local economies, the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary is working hard to benefit several different spheres of the community.
The Osa Wildlife Sanctuary is located on the Golfo Dulce coast of the Osa Peninsula in Southern Costa Rica. It’s at Cana Blanca, right next to the Piedras Blancas National Park.
As we mentioned before, it’s difficult to know exactly what animals you will see when you visit. While the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary is constantly releasing animals back into the wild, they also provide a life-long safe haven to the animals that will be unable to return to the wild. In the past, the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary has been home to all four monkeys native to Costa Rica, the Scarlet Macaws, Chestnut-mandible Toucans, Mealy Parrots, Two-Toed sloths, and ocelots!
Contact them to find out the next available tours!
If you’re headed to Costa Rica and want to experience the wildlife here for yourself, there are few better ways than by visiting an animal sanctuary. Visiting Animal Sanctuaries are a win-win-win–allowing you to witness unique animals up close while supporting the work of those that promote proper treatment of wild animals. You don’t have to compromise the wellbeing of wild animals to have a unique and memorable experience.
Have you visited any of the animal sanctuaries in Costa Rica? If so, what was your experience like? Share your stories in the comments below!