A note from the executive editor: Costa Rica Travel Blog has chosen to feature the following article for its in-depth description of one of Costa Rica’s most popular wildlife attractions lining the Carribbean coast and a handful of general travel tips, including this tidbit of knowledge: “if you bring peanut butter and jelly on the road make sure you bring a knife”. Thanks to Charlie for submitting her personal account to us. We hope the natural jungle and wildlife center visit offered a peaceful retreat and an idyllic escape from the concrete jungle you are used to in New York. Pura vida!
Featured Author: Charlie Miller (visit the Get Me Out Of Here Travel Blog)
Where does one take a boat to a cab to a bus to a cab to a bus to a cab, resulting in 15 hours of travel in a single day? I’m going to tell you.
In planning our Costa Rica itinerary this travel blogger made a tiny mistake. The day before leaving we were finalizing some of our plans when Kameron realized there were two extra days at the end of our trip. Had I booked an alternate date flight and until this very moment not noticed? Yup pretty much. This however was GOOD news. I mean who doesn’t want two extra days of vacation?
When I was initially planning our itinerary I used various blogs and travel sites to figure out where we should go and for how long. I would say about a day after I had finished booking our hostels and sorting things out I stumbled upon this website for the Jaguar Rescue Center. Why haven’t I heard of this place before? I hadn’t come across it in any other blogs or advice sites on where to visit. I immediately started watching videos of the center and falling in complete love with it. I showed Kameron and we both were like how can we make this happen?
Unfortunately the center is located in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca which is on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Our entire trip is based around the central and Pacific Coast. There was just no way to make a visit happen.
Sitting there the night before we were leaving and realizing that we had two extra days of our trip unbooked had me immediately on the computer trying to figure out if it would be possible to get from Drake Bay all the way across country in a single day so that we could make it to the center before we fly out. It turns out, you can! I don’t know that I would recommend it but it can be done. Any interested parties can contact me and I’ll gladly help you get set up to do it. There were some risks involved. We cancelled the hostel we were supposed to stay in for our last night and instead booked a place in Puerto Viejo for a couple nights. If we missed our connection on one of the buses or if there was a hangup in any of our points of travel then we would be stuck in San Jose without a hostel and on top of that have to pay for the night we missed in Puerto Viejo. Not the end of the world but for broke travelers it’s not the best situation either. On this trip it was important for us to prebook our lodging because January is the beginning of high season in Costa Rica and you risk being shut out. What has become a very long story short, we made our connections and made it to our hostel. Tip: if you bring peanut butter and jelly on the road make sure you bring a knife. I’m not going to tell you how we made sandwiches on the bus. Another tip: If you’re going to drink beer on a 5 hour bus ride don’t start in the first hour. The public bus drivers there are not going to conveniently pull over for you to pee. There was a guy on our bus who was basically dying and wound up peeing in his beer can and throwing it out the window. Can’t say that I blame him but as soon as we saw him crack his first can we saw it coming.
and now: The Jaguar Rescue Center
From the moment you enter the center you encounter animals roaming freely, being loosely tracked by volunteers. At the center the animals are not contained in cages all the time but are allowed to explore their environment while being trained and prepared to be released. Because of this you can see animals interacting with both people and other animals in ways that you don’t normally see in the wild.
It’s not just us humans that visit the center either. During our visit I happened to glance in a tree and spot an owl. Our guide Torey told us that the owl use to live at the center but has since been released back into the wild. He returns to the center whenever he wants to visit those that nursed him back to health. As we were about to leave, there were a bunch of monkeys hanging around. Torey told us that one of the monkeys use to live at the center and now that she is living back in the wild she returns for visits with her new pack. She even brings her baby and trusts Encar, one of the founders of the center, to examine it and make sure it’s healthy. There is a trust and friendship between the animals at the center and their caretakers that you may not be use to seeing between humans and wild animals.
How to visit
There are two ways to visit the center. You can do a group tour or a private tour. The private tours need to be scheduled in advance and are a bit more expensive, but if you have always dreamt of feeding a monkey or petting a baby ocelot then you’ve gotta do it. However if you’re on a tight budget the group tour is better then no tour and at only $18 it’s a steal.
Donate, donate, donate. The center receives no government funding for what they do and all of the animals in their care live off of donations. There are two founders, Encar and Sandro. They began the center out of their home and it has since expanded into what it is today. The main goal of the JRC is to rescue, rehabilitate, and rerelease animals back into the wild.
For more on the center visit their website: Jaguar Rescue Center
Check out their volunteer program as well.
In my opinion no trip to Costa Rica is complete without a visit here. The private tour might seem expensive at $50 a person but I assure you it is well worth it. Don’t believe me? Check out the video we made. And remember, every penny you pay goes toward the care of the animals you’ll meet.
About Charlie Miller:
I’m Charlie, a bartender in New York City. My 10 year anniversary for both living here and bartending is fast approaching and I’m looking for a change. A new adventure, new challenges to tackle, a new lifestyle. When I moved here I had big dreams like most. I was an actress and a singer and more than anything I wanted to be in movies. Over the years I’ve had some small successes in entertainment. Not anywhere near the level of my dreams but the more time that passes the more I have come to terms and am ok with that. I always have other creative projects that I’m working on whether it be my band, photography, video editing, hip hop dancing, sewing clothes, or whatever else I have gotten into over the course of my New York City journey. [continue reading…]
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