Original Post by me on TPEcolodge.wordpress.com
Often I am renewed with a sense of tranquility and serenity when spending extended periods of time in nature. Recently, I was lucky to return to my friends Maricel, Marconey, and Gretel’s property in the rural community of Tres Piedras in remote southwestern Costa Rica, currently known as Tres Piedras Ecolodge. I lived here 2 years earlier, with two of my friends Tessa and Victor, for 5 months while doing field research on carbon storage, and I was returning to visit friends and enjoy the solitude of being so close to the natural world.
I was also excited to introduce Marcel and Marconey to Jack Ewing, owner and founder of Hacienda Baru National Wildlife Refuge and Lodge and author of Monkeys are Made of Chocolate. I had the opportunity to meet Jack during a class trip in 2012 with SUNY Binghamton University Professor Dick Andrus. On the class trip, Jack explained to students how he started his ecotourism business and, in the process, how he preserved a substantial swath of land containing ecologically sensitive mangrove forests and other tropical ecosystems.
During this most recent trip to Costa Rica, Maricel, Marconey, and I took a drive about 40 minutes outside of Tres Piedras to meet Jack at Hacienda Baru, located on the West coast of Costa Rica, just north of Dominical Beach.
I had reconnected with Jack online when Tessa, Victor and I lived in Tres Piedras in 2016 and were brainstorming ways for Maricel and her family to build their ecotourism business when we lived in Tres Piedras for 5 months. It wasn’t until recently that we were able to all come together and meet on March 9th, 2018. Hacienda Baru has been in operation for over 30 years, so we were extremely grateful to be making connections someone as experienced as Jack.
Moreover, Jack was extremely warm and welcoming when we visited a couple of weeks ago. He sat down with us and talked about the challenges of running an ecotourism business, and he also had some helpful suggestions as to how to differentiate the business of Maricel and her family from the already existing ecotourism businesses flourishing in Costa Rica. Being so rural, Tres Piedras Ecolodge offers a unique experience to appreciate an authentic Costa Rican rural community, where traditions are still celebrated by the people who call Tres Piedras home.
Additionally, Jack also introduced us to Juan Carlos who works for Hacienda Baru as a tour guide. He and another tour guide (who showed us the medical plant garden! see below) were interested in hearing Maricel and Marconey describe their ecotourism ideas, and in doing so gave more clarity and direction as to what type of operation could be possible at Tres Piedras Ecolodge in the future for Maricel, Gretel, Marconey and their family.
The next steps are more clear, as funds are needed for repairs to the cabins to make them more appealing to visitors, and one way of accomplishing this is to use government subsidies for conservation to fund the business’ upfront costs. Although the woman in charge of this paperwork was ill while I was visiting Hacienda Baru, Maricel and Marconey intend to visit her when she is recovered and well.
Finally, I am humbled to have had this experience to go to Hacienda Baru with my friends Maricel and Marconey. Check out a picture below of our walk on the trails together after meeting with Jack and his employees! 🙂