Bruce in kayak.

"We specialize in small group travel, which minimizes environmental impact, increases safety standards and allows for personalized, enriching and authentic experiences."

— Bruce Smith, founder and owner, Seascape Kayak Tours Inc.

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Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

A prayer for the crocodileDecember 2nd, 2009

Seascape has been back in Costa Rica now for a little less than three weeks, but the time has flown. We have already operated four day trips both from Curú Wildlife Refuge and from right in front of our home at the Hotel Tambor Tropical. We have run two multi-day kayaking and camping trips as well, one of which is currently in progress.

Between prep, cleanup and helping get folks out on the water with Bruce, I am slowly making my way through a new book by one of my favorite authors, anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis. Entitled The Wayfinders, the book compiles a series of lectures Davis gave recently in his native Canada. By exploring several key cultures that still interact with the world using intuitive knowledge rather than technology, The Wayfinders illustrates vividly why ancient wisdom still matters in the modern world. Davis opens the book with this quote from Mahatma Ghandi: “I want all the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

I love the culture of Costa Rica. I love the warmth of the people, the laid back approach to time, the beauty of the language and the attitude that is encapsulated in the popular phrase “Pura Vida!” Pure life. However, as with any culture, local people here make some choices with which I am not comfortable and to which I am certain I will never fully adjust.

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A LOCAL WOMAN EXAMINES THE CROCODILE TORSO

Sunday morning I arrived in Tambor with two clients I had picked up in San José. Bruce was just coming off the water after a paddle up the Rio Panica with the family of Tambor Tropical’s manager, Juan Carlos Cruz, and all were expressing their sadness at having just seen the torso of a large “cocodrilo” or crocodile that had been shot and then decapitated, de-tailed and left to wash about in the “boca” or mouth of the river.

As Wade Davis and many other students of culture have aptly described, modernity brought with it centuries ago an attitude in humans on many continents that nature is to be conquered, mastered, even destroyed. Instead of staying in tune with the natural world, humans decided to drown out its song. While ancient peoples hunted and killed animals for food, they did so with reverence and respect, honoring and dignifying the spirit that had given its life to provide nourishment. Today in many cultures, respect for life – whether animal or human – seems to have been forgotten.

In his Traveller’s Wildlife Guide to Costa Rica, Les Beletsky points out that, unlike the Nile Crocodile which is known to be aggressive, the American Crocodile found here in Central America – and in southern Florida, Mexico, and the South American countries of Columbia, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador – is not a particularly aggressive species and “there are few documented cases of American Crocodiles killing people.” According to Beletsky, most crocodilian species were “severely reduced in numbers during this century. Several were hunted to extinction for their skins.” While today in Costa Rica “Caiman are abundant and American Crocodiles less so, the crocs were much more common in mangrove swamps and coastal rivers up until the 1950s.” Fewer and fewer large adult individuals survive, even though these primitive creatures have only two enemies: large anaconda snakes – and man. For this reason, American Crocodiles, which can live up to 60 years, are listed as endangered.

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VULTURES WAIT FOR DUSK NEAR THE CARCASS, BEHIND THEM THE SHADOW OF THE LAND MASS THAT RESEMBLES A CROCODILE

Seeing the crocodile’s massive, headless and tailless body at a distance on the beach yesterday made me very sad, and I thought of the awe inspiring cocodrilo Bruce showed me last year near Tortuguero National Park, basking in the sunshine along a bank where one meandering river meets the Caribbean sea. From our kayaks, we were practicing one of Seascape’s sustainable guidelines, which is to view wildlife from a distance, respecting the animal’s territory. And it in turn respected us. Whoever shot this particular individual in Tambor did not use the meat or the skin, and very likely cut off the head and tail as trophies. Seeing the undignified lifeless trunk that was once a living creature, I was struck by the irony that Tambor Bay itself is graced with a beautiful vista of a land formation perfectly resembling a large crocodile, watching over the entire bahia like a sentinel.

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AMERICAN CROCODILE NEAR TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK

Few cultures exist today in which reptiles such as snakes, lizards and crocodiles are allowed to flourish unharmed. Growing up in Kentucky, I remember my dad carrying snakes as far from our home as possible, but nonetheless sparing their lives and teaching me to appreciate their place in nature. Most of my friends’ fathers, however, would have killed the snake on sight. Not far from Tambor there is a wildlife sanctuary called Rainsong that treats injured animals. One of the most touching stories on their web site concerns a Green Iguana that was found stoned nearly to death by school children.

It is my hope that more parents, whether in Los Estados Unidos or in Costa Rica, will teach their children to live and let live. Humans are not on the earth to rule nature, but to coexist with it and learn valuable lessons from the many life forms that surround us. As the almost full moon rises over Playa Tambor where the vultures are still working away on the carcass that was once a beautiful sentient creature, I am saying a prayer for another life crossing the Great River and for the American Crocodiles who are still enjoying the streams, estuaries and coastal habitats of this amazing country.

Frances