Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is famous for its lush forests and its exotic and ubiquitous wildlife, so I wanted to get a taste of that during my brief stay. A quick trip to the Internet cafe near my hotel in San Jose got me off and running. I found a place that was not too far from the city and sounded interesting—The Butterfly Farm. Although there was a company that put on a tour that included The Butterfly Farm and one more interesting stop, I couldn't get a hold of them, so I contacted The Butterfly Farm directly. My plan was to ask the folks there for a recommendation on what to do next. I was really just interested in filling up one day with a few cool activities.

The Butterfly Farm will send a van to a few of the main hotels in San Jose and pick you up, take you to the farm, and give you a tour, all for $35. That sounded like a pretty good deal, so I took a taxi the brief distance to one of their pickup points and got a ride. Their facilities are quite nice and their staff very professional. They also speak English, which I think is important since, even if you speak Spanish, some of the lingo they use is specialized.

So what is The Butterfly Farm, exactly? Well, it's a company that has about 300 breeders around Costa Rica who breed butterflies (Some of the breeders make up to $3,000 per month—pretty smokin' wages for a someone living in Latin America). They then sell the butterflies to zoos and other people and companies around the world who need or want them. For example, once the queen of Holland was having some big shindig, so she ordered 5,000 blue butterflies and let them out at this event for spectacular effect. The Seattle Zoo & Aquarium also buys some of their butterflies from The Butterfly Farm. Some music video also included a gazillion butterflies, so this is where they came for their supply.

The way they can supply so many butterflies is because of the breeders who are working for them. The Farm itself doesn't breed any of these butterflies. They breed only enough to make the tour interesting. They walk you through the process of the growth of the butterfly from the time they're a caterpillar to the time they fly away—at least as far as the net will let them fly (the main part of The Butterfly Farm is enclosed in a giant net). In the wild, only 2% of butterflies survive, but in these controlled environments, 95% make it to the air, so there are lots of these amazing creatures for you to observe.

After my time at The Butterfly Farm, I asked them for a recommendation for something else to do. There is a zoo called Zoo Ave not horribly far away. Their van took me part way and I took a taxi the rest of the way. This zoo has loads of birds—as you might have gathered from the name—and a variety of other random wildlife. It's actually some kind of reserve to help injured birds. The English portion of their Web site doesn't seem to work, so if your Spanish is good, you can get more details on their Web site.

I realize there is an enormous amount of nature and wildlife to see in Costa Rica—a day isn't quite adequate. However, it takes money (i.e., time) and I'm just about out of that. So, I got a little taste of it, then moved on. I'll give it a fairer shake next time around.


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