Sustainability End of the Year Newsletter 2011

At Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge we are committed to the protection of our home:  the Golfo Dulce and the surrounding rainforests.  Reforestation, recycling, saving energy and water, using solar panels, and using biodegradable products for our daily living; are some of the practices we do to help the environment.

However, it is not enough to ensure a sustainable development in Osa. That is why we have partnerships with different conservation and cultural groups, which we help through donations and collaboration.   Our efforts towards conservation are greatly expanded due to the support of our guest’s donations.   Now that this year is coming to an end, Playa Nicuesa is proud to say that we collected $3555 in contribution thanks to our guest’s kindness.  These funds will be distributed to a variety of community and environmental organizations in the upcoming year to continue supporting our program that has resulted in over $18,000 in contribution to groups from donations received from our guest and Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge.

Non-governmental Organizations that fight for the preservation of the natural resources of the Costarican South Pacific have been given donations with these funds. Te NGOs include  MarVIva, PRETOMA, Yaguará, Coalición Ambiental and Nature Conservacy. With our help, organizations like PRETOMA can work on successful campaigns such as No Tuna Farms in Golfo Dulce, which makes a big difference for the preservation of the Gulf. PRETOMA undergoes all kind of efforts towards the conservation of endangered species like turtles, whales, and much more in this bio-diverse Gulf.

MarViva is also conscious of the treasure of the Pacific Ocean, and that is why they are committed to its conservation. This NGO works in Costa Rica, Colombia and Panamá. In Costa Rica they take care of the Golfo de Nicoya (North Pacific), Golfo Dulce (South Pacific) and Coco’s Island. MarViva’s goal is to extent the protection areas of the ocean, because as they say “the ocean is reborn in the protected areas”. They also promote the sustainable use of the marine resources by supporting the control and surveillance efforts as well as educating people on sustainable practices of fishing and tourism. The MarViva team often comes to our Lodge to share with our guests and employees information about conservation, sustainable fishing, and other topics of interest.

Not all of the South Pacific richness is only beneath the ocean; it is also in our jungle. This lush forest is the home of one of the three biggest wild cat of the world: the Jaguar. Playa Nicuesa supports Yaguará organization on its efforts towards the preservation of this big feline. This NGO fights against the extinction of the Jaguar and other felines of this area. Here at Nicuesa we have many of their cameras on hand to help monitor and protect the wild cat population.

On the other hand, Nicuesa also tries to support local communities.   This past year, part of the donations were given for local associations that for the development and preservation of the cultural life in the area.  One of these is the Folkloric Dance Group Yuré, from Puerto Jimenez High School that teaches youth native folkloric dances. The group is not only about learning to dance, one of the goals is to foment a respect and understanding of Costa Rican values and traditions at a time when the nation is struggling to conserve them.


BanderaAzul-BlueFlagBut not only we support conservation and local culture with  donations, we also make in kind donations, which means that the workers of Nicuesa donate their time and effort through their participation in campaigns,  meetings, events, beach cleanings and others.  In September of this year, all Nicuesa employees went to Puntarenitas beach (right in front of Golfito) and after a hard day work, it was left as clean as our own beach at the lodge that was awarded the blue flag award for maintaining a clean beach. This program was conceived by the national water utility, Aqueductos y Alcantarillados, in conjunction with the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, who began evaluating, and ranking water and environmental quality in coastal communities in 1996. Those that achieved a 90 percent score were awarded a Bandera Azul Ecológica (ecological blue flag) to fly as a symbol of excellence.


In this New Year that is among us, we hope to continue supporting all of these organizations and more, so that this pristine beautiful Gulf and jungle can maintain its magic and diversity. Again, thank you to our guests for your contribution to our efforts.


Tuna Farms: No longer a threat for our Golfo Dulce paradise!

Since the past November 7th 2011, tuna farms are only a memory on Golfo Dulce’s pristine waters.

A tuna farm is a floating cage in the open ocean, were tuna is born and feed until they reach the commercial size needed to be exported to Japan. The wasted produced by such a large quantity of tuna generate over nutrification of the water and red tides,  reduces dissolved oxygen amounts, causes fish kills and damage to other resources of the gulf.

Granjas Atuneras de Golfito, the company responsible for the tuna farm project in Punta Blanco (right in the entrance of Golfo Dulce), followed a 7 year operation to bring industrial aquaculture to the Southern Pacific Coast. During this time, the Costa Rica coalition against tuna farms fought back this project. PRETOMA, an environmental organization, started a campaign against it. The next video was part of the “No Tuna Farms” PRETOMA promotion, created by Andy Bystrom, a PRETOMA consultant.

PRETOMA is one of the groups that Playa Nicuesa has been supporting for over 3 years. Thanks to our guest’s donations we are able to raise money in order to contribute to causes like this.

Playa Nicuesa also joined the coalition efforts to fight the Tuna Farms. In May 2009, Nicuesa’s owner Michael and the Sustainability Coordinator at that time Jodi, went down to Pavones were the Costa Rica’s first national rally to halt tuna farming took place. From this event 704 citizens signed a letter delivered by PRETOMA to the President Oscar Arias.

After all the protest and opposition to the farm, Costa Rica’s Environmental Secretariat (SETENA) stated it would no longer consider Granjas Atuneras de Golfito SA’s  petition to construct a yellow fin tuna aquaculture project, or tuna farm, at the mouth of the Golfo Dulce.  SETENA’s decision permanently closes the case on Granjas Atuneras, meaning that finally justice is done.

The gulf now is protected against tuna farm pollution, preserving the rich waters of Golfo Dulce. We can be certain that community efforts on keeping the health of this paradise will never stop, and the Nicuesa family is going to support these efforts every time! 

Our guests say you feel like you’re family at Nicuesa

The most frequent comment that guests leave on the on the check out sheet is that you feel like your family at Nicuesa. The laid back atmosphere combined with highly attentive service makes Nicuesa a special place.

The intermingling of guests and staff – be it sitting down for meals with locals, fishing off the pier with Tomas (a non-english speaker that communicates just fine with fellow fishermen), or traipsing through the jungle in search of creepy crawlies with Jonathan – gives visitors a more authentic impression of Costa Rica and its world renowned friendly citizens.
Activities planned throughout the year offer an experience of Costa Rican traditions and local culture.

Whether guests are learning the Boruca secrets of how to dye yarn naturally, being served typical Costa Rican food on our “Cultural Night”, making tamales for Christmas or learning to dance to traditional music

you can see how one may feel like a Costa Rica home is being opened up to them.
Unplanned happenings throughout the day also make guests feel more like family than visitors.

For example experimenting with achiote (a natural red dye) on Jonathan’s infamous Edible Landscaping Tour or learning tropical dances like salsa and meringue after dinner. Guests always leave with a smile and stay in touch with staff by sending pictures, packages or even returning several times.


How is Nicuesa Carbon Neutral?

Costa Rica has the goal to be carbon neutral by 2021.
Playa Nicuesa began the process to become carbon neutral in 2008, which is when we enrolled in the ENCC (National Strategy for Climate Change) to support the country’s goals. The hotel has been doing in-house analyses and purchasing carbon credits to offset our emissions since that time. The compensation of emissions was achieved through donations to FONAFIFO (the National Foundation for Forestry Financing). This organization applied the funds directly to reforestation programs on the Osa Peninsula.

In 2010, Nicuesa progressed significantly towards becoming a Carbon Neutral business. We completed step 2, an inventory and report of all greenhouse gases emitted, with the assistance of an external consulting company. A company may choose which elements of three different scopes to include in their assessment. Only scopes 1 and 3 apply to Nicuesa and we chose to include the following elements: electricity use, fuel use, employee commuting, vehicle travel, air travel for employees, guest activity trips, paper use, printing, shipping and appliance/equipment purchase. Nicuesa chose not to include emissions from international guest travel in hopes that the tools provided on our website will serve as encouragement for guests to join us in our efforts and offset their international flights, as all flights within Costa Rica are already carbon neutral.
As part of our work with the ENCC we are now identifying ways to reduce emissions in a formal climate action plan and completing a second greenhouse gas assessment. After these are complete, we will again compensate for our c02 emissions through FONAFIFO. This year rather than buying credits that will subsequently turn into reforestation efforts, as has been done in previous years, our credits will go towards protecting forests from being cut down in the first place – a process called avoided deforestation. Avoided deforestation is achieved by paying farmers or land holders to not cut down the trees on their land, or a payment for the environmental service of preserving the carbon stored in the trees and soil in a forest. Costa Rica has been a trail blazer in payments for environmental services and now has a negative deforestation rate.
Nicuesa is already carbon neutral as it offsets any emissions it may have. However, to become certified and recognized as such it must comply with the fifth and final step in the process – to be approved by the ENCC under their brand as a Carbon Neutral Business. This can only be done after they finalize and publish the criteria.

Forest & Sea Adventures

It was a nice walk to the waterfall with Camila and Joaquin from Chile. It was a lovely and quiet morning with white faced monkeys swinging by, ameivas lizards scurrying along the ground and butterfly’s fluttering around us.


The best part was planting a cedar sapling in the regenerating secondary forest that leads to the primary forest surrounding the stream flowing from the waterfall, located within the Piedras Blancas National Park. Later that same day I went with these new friends on their honeymoon to snorkel in the Golfo Dulce.

With our heads immersed in the blue-green waters, we took a lot of photos of the wonderful world of the coral reefs. There was an abundance of colorful fish like rainbow fish to entertain our eyes.

It was incredible to see these two different worlds all in one day – the lush vibrant green of the lowland tropical forest and the emerald green-blue waters filled with multi-colored fish!

Ecological Blue Flag Program

Playa Nicuesa has been recognized for its commitment to a clean beach and environmental consciousness in its community by receiving the Blue Flag. Costa Rica has expanded the Ecological Blue Flag Program, which started in in Spain, to include many categories with the purpose of verifying the implementation of activities in communities and schools that contribute to the protection of water sources, forests and coastlines.

Playa Nicuesa has been participating in the beaches category of the Blue Flag Program for over a year now. To receive the Flag the hotel must test quality of drinking water as well as ocean water, coordinate beach clean ups, ensure a responsible waste management system in the community including garbage bins along the coastline, educate the community about the importance of water and other environmentally related topics and regularly inspect the coastline to ensure there are no industrial or domestic discharges.
The motivation to participate in this program came from a few employees that began to gather garbage that washed up along the beach in their free time.

Now they have expanded that initiative and have educated the community on a wide variety of topics related to water, planned beach clean ups in our own backyard as well as in several neighboring beaches. Even guests have gotten drawn into the fold by joining in on beach clean ups and learning how garbage arrives even on pristine and protected shorelines.

It was a wonderful morning with a lovely family – Kurt, Tally, TJ, Tanner, Tom, Laurie and I in the mangroves. We started by creeping up the river, pausing frequently to look at the snakes and birds along the shoreline and flying above us.

We stopped and anchored in an incredibly peaceful part of the river where we could absorb the sights and sounds more fully while eating breakfast and sipping on our coffee.

Throughout the trip we had an amazing time taking pictures, the best of which were

the grey breasted martin,

northern tree boa,


and the green heron.

Guests always comment that they feel they are entering a different world as they glide through the black and red mangroves found in Rio Esquinas observing these species.


Beach Cleanup in Puntarenitas Coinciding with the International Coastal Cleanup

On September 19th all of Nicuesa’s employees joined the Red Cross, Fire Fighters and many other local businesses to remove the growing amount of plastic bottles, Styrofoam and garbage on the island of Puntarenitas. Puntarenitas is located offshore from Golfito, (the closest town to Playa Nicuesa) and we hope to soon make it as pristine as the clean shores that we enjoy at Playa Nicuesa. Nicuesa’s Sustainability Coordinator, who organized the cleanup, also enlisted the help of Terra Nostra – an NGO focused on cleaning up Costa Rica’s rivers and beaches.
The group of around 50 volunteers collected over 7,000 plastic bottles, 5,000 pieces of Styrofoam, 900 bottle caps and much more within the span of only 4 hours. The beach resembled a dump in some places and reminded all those participating of the reasons why the three r’s are encouraged – more than 100,000 marine animals die every year as a result of getting caught in or trying to eat plastic floating in the ocean!
Due to time restraints the group had to call it a day before being able to finish. Thus, Nicuesa along with the community hopes to continue the effort in the near future. Additionally, Nicuesa is also part of the Tourism Chamber of Commerce in Golfito, which aims to clean up the city and educate people how to properly dispose of solid wastes.
September is the international month of beach clean-ups. If you go on the website of the Ocean Conservancy you can find out where there is a clean up close to you or even organize one yourself for the upcoming year!

Waterfall hike- The Monkeys were on the Monkey Trail

Coming back from the waterfall, walking down the Monkey trail we heard a big noise and the tree branches breaking. We stopped completely and stood quiet paying attention to the forest to realize that it was the jungle mafia, yes the White Face Capuchin Monkeys giving us a warning: “HEY YOU GUYS! This is our territory”.

 Mike and Lisa were captivated by the scout of the group and the troop behavior. These are the smartest monkeys in the Tropical Rainforest, they are opportunists (they eat everything) and they can live up to 45 years. Capuchin Monkeys travel in packs from 6 to 8 males and as Mark and Lisa witness it, they fight to protect their territory.  
Guide: Freiman


It was around 8:30pm and we were walking near a Castaño tree where you find the fallen tree fruits on the ground making this a meeting place for many mammals (preys and predators) as the White Collar Peccary that feeds from the fruit seeds. We stopped and quietly started looking around and what a unusual surprise I got, right there it was: the Ocelot! So I whispered to Kelly and Kate to let them know about it and we started following it from a very close distance and he didn’t even pay attention to us like if he did not care at all. Then the Ocelot suddenly stopped and turned back, we were just one meter away from him and then it got lost in the vegetation. It was a magical moment and an exciting Night Walk for all of us.

Guide: Freiman