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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Our Costa Rica Zip Lines Contribute to Sustainable Alternative to Deforestation

Our zip lines in our Costa Rica parks are featured on The Travel Word through the article of Ethan Gelber, as being an alternative to deforestation. This article is the next in a series of portraits, long and short, of some of the people Ethan met and places he visited during a recent trip to Costa Rica. The subjects were chosen as noteworthy examples of Costa Rica’s distinct pura vida.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

Rainforests deserve all the positive notice they can get, even including when seen from zip lines in Costa Rica suspended between towering first-growth trees.

Rainforest Adventures Atlantic park zip line
At the Rainforest Adventures Atlantic park, one zip line spans the Corinto River, Costa Rica. The nearer platform is anchored to a large campano tree (Ilex skutchii)

That might seem like an odd logical leap, but at a time when global discussions about climate change are shifting (at last) away from whether we are speeding toward an imminent dangerous planetary tipping point to when we might no longer be able to undo the damage done, all efforts to conserve existing forests, regenerate degraded lands and develop sustainable agro-forestry systems merit a closer look.

This is especially true in places like Costa Rica, where a welcome combination of business innovation and prescient government policy has allowed eco-minded adventure enterprises to take root and flourish.

A Zip Line Lifeline

One notable alternative land-use practice in Costa Rica is adventure parks. The best of them place a huge priority on a well-preserved environment so that visitors can experience and learn about tropical ecosystems in their full glory. Wrapped in nature’s rich embrace, a wide variety of activities go on in some parks, such as river rafting, horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, rappelling/abseiling, bird watching and even waterfall climbing. There may even be butterfly or snake exhibitions, and specialized gardens showcasing interesting endemic plant species, like heliconias and bromelias. But one of the most popular new diversions is zip lines, usually as part of a canopy tour.

Costa Rica Zip Line
The zip line at the Rainforest Adventures Atlantic Park in Costa Rica includes many safety features, including a double cable, chest harness and proprietary braking system that eliminates the need to moderate speed by holding on to the cable.

A zip line is a suspended cable, set at an incline, along which harnessed people or supplies can slide using the force of gravity alone. While zip lines have been used for a long time as transport for to and from remote locations and over difficult terrain, they now also have found purpose in adventurous adrenaline activity.

A series of interconnected recreational zip lines running through a forest form what is now called a “canopy tour,” propelling people from one elevated position to another and allowing for thrilling close contact with treetop nature, where 70% of tropical forest life takes place, even when the whoops and hollers of thrilled participants frighten away most creatures.

Costa Rica is particularly well known for its canopy tours. There are dozens of operators, including one company that claims to have invented the sport, and courses that vault across beaches, rivers and canyons, and breeze through the heights of rain forests. The longest tours can take up to three hours to complete, allowing plenty of time for an introduction to some of Costa Rica’s most ubiquitous scream-resistant flora and fauna, like butterflies, giant iguanas, tree frogs and a wide selection of orchids.

Rainforest Adventures

Of course, not all tour operations are created equal; some have truly taken long-term sustainability to heart. One of the most ecologically enlightened of Costa Rica’s adventure parks is Rainforest Adventures, which owns two areas in the country. The first serves as a buffer zone adjacent to Braulio Carrillo National Park. Its 1,200-acre (475-hectare) reserve lies 28 miles (45 kilometers) from San José on the Atlantic side of the country. The second is a smaller 222-acre (90-hectare) ecotourism project near coastal Jaco, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) west of San José, with small waterfalls and views of the Pacific coast.

Costa Rica Aerial Tram
The gondolas of the aerial tram at the Rainforest Adventures Pacific park in Costa Rica hold eight people and a naturalist guide.

Both locations boast zip-line tours in addition to other activities designed to deliver a closeup taste of nature. Of special note is the 164-foot climb up a waterfall in the Pacific park and the aerial trams in both parks, the latter put in place – tram towers and cable – using helicopters so as not to cut down a single tree. The Atlantic park’s tram lasts an hour and 20 minutes and flies a distance of 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers). In its open-air gondola, a naturalist guide accompanies up to six people through primary-forest canopy at a slow 1¼ miles per hour (2 kph), perfect for educating guests about the importance of environmental awareness. Beyond that, numerous initiatives favor buying from and hiring locals, and proactively protecting the environment in accordance with a park-wide environmental management system.

In fact, as an acknowledged model for best practices in sustainable development and operations, Rainforest Adventures could arguably claim to oversee a couple of the world’s most sustainable parks. Those in Costa Rica have been verified with the highest possible rating by Rainforest Alliance, as well as an Ecological Flag, a Blue Flag, and a Decree of National Interest from the Costa Rican government, all in addition to top (five-leaf) ratings by Costa Rica’s Certification for Sustainable Tourism. The Atlantic park is also Costa Rica’s first tour operation to have been certified as 100% carbon neutral by EARTH University.

“Sustainability is the cornerstone of what we do at Rainforest Adventures,” commented Nicolas Staton, the company’s general manager for Costa Rica. “It’s there in every breath we take, every guest we load onto the tram, zip line, nature walk, etc. Or every bird or animal guests see sitting in our trees eating from the fruits of the forests we are conserving. This is what we live for and is a key element to every decision we make in regards to our operation.”

Read more about Zip Lines in Costa Rica: A Sustainable Alternative to Deforestation »

About Ethan Gelber:

Ethan Gelber
In addition to his freelance travel writing (Lonely Planet author, AFAR Ambassador, Huffington Post Travel blogger and more), Ethan has agitated tirelessly for responsible/sustainable travel practices, a focus on keeping things local, and quality and relevance in publishing and destination marketing. Among many other things, Ethan is a co-founder of OutBounding (a content curation tool), Destination Accelerator (education and networking for destination marketers) and EcoAdventure Media (support for eco-conscious brands), as well as a co-initiator of the Local Travel Movement (a platform for people passionate about local travel). For five years, Ethan has been Chief Communications Officer of the WHL Group, the largest local-travel company in the world, for which he founded and edits The Travel Word.


Thank you for this great post. Team

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