If you like vacations that leave you breathless, with a soft environmental footprint, Rainforest Adventure Parks is for you. With Rainforest Adventure you can drift through the rain forest with the birds without ever touching the ground and sleep in the trees at night.
Last week the Earth University and Costa Rican Tourism Institute named the Rainforest Adventure Parks two parks, Rainforest Adventures, Costa Rica Atlantic as the most eco-friendly parks. The build out of these parks far exceeded solar power, electric vehicles and LED lighting.
After a two-year process, EARTH University officially certified the Atlantic park as carbon neutral, Costa Rica’s first tour operation to receive a carbon neutral title. And in 2012, both parks were verified by Rainforest Alliance – a standard recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council – achieving the highest rating possible.
“When we decided to build Rainforest Adventures and Costa Rica Atlantic, we had two choices: cut down trees to build our aerial tram experience, or find a way to preserve the pristine environment,” said Joaquín von der Goltz, president of Rainforest Adventures. “While it was complicated and expensive to construct the aerial tram without removing trees, for me, the decision was easy – we had to protect the rainforest. Otherwise, why build a park to help educate visitors on the importance of rainforest conservation?”
During the construction of the Costa Rica Atlantic park, local loggers were hired to help build an aerial tram lift. Rather than cut down part of the 1,200-acre rainforest in order to create a lift-line (much like a chairlift at a ski resort), the tram was completed without cutting down a single tree. The result was an untouched rainforest environment, where guests could travel at canopy level, and view the flora and fauna.
To further complicate the construction of the aerial tram, loggers discovered a ‘Grandfather Tree’ (a large tree that is connected to all other nearby trees through the provision of nutrients in the soil) on the planned route. This required von der Goltz to redraw the route to save the tree and the surrounding rainforest.
This initial commitment to sustainability continues to present day. The environmental management system includes: an energy savings plan where all electricity is measured and reduced whenever possible, thereby reducing the reliance on bio-diesel; a management plan for liquid and solid waste generated in parks; a water saving plan that involves water-saving taps, urinals and toilets; and a response plan for the care and management of potential spills. The recycling program for guests and local teams includes international signage to help identify the correct containers for plastic, metal, glass, paper, compostable and non-recyclable waste.
In addition to these programs, Rainforest Adventures has a commitment to buying local, and encouraging their guests to do the same. The parks have an agreement with local artisans in which they are invited to showcase their crafts for sale to guests. And, more than 95 per cent of food and beverage available for park guests is derived from local products produced by local farmers.
With a focus on social sustainability, Rainforest Adventures employs about 150 local, multilingual guides at their parks (many of these guides once made a living by hunting or by cutting down trees in the rainforests). Each guide adds depth and colour to the visitor experience by sharing insider information about the region’s native plants and animals and about local customs, cultures and traditions.
Continuing their focus on youth, Rainforest Adventures developed a Youth Leadership Program for Sustainable Development at the Atlantic park. Park collaborators work with students who attend the five schools within the buffer zone of adjacent Braulio Carrillo National Park to inspire and encourage them to improve and protect the surrounding rainforest and its animal inhabitants.
To plan your own green-rainforest vacation, and learn more visit www.rainforestadventure.com.