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The Osa Peninsula: First Impressions

Destination: Osa Peninsula

He always told me the Osa Peninsula was one of the most magical places on earth.

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But, as we bounced down the dusty and painfully bumpy road to the southern town of Matapalo where my friend is building his dream house, I still harbored some doubts.

I had no idea what to expect from this spontaneous four-day vacation to what National Geographic called, "One of the most biologically intense places on earth." Even as we drove deeper into the jungle, the mystique of this place escaped me. But, knowing my travel companion practically worships the Osa wilderness, I kept my skepticism secret - worried I might not share his spiritual connection to these ancient forests. 

Three hours later, all that changed. Facts on the pages of a guidebook suddenly transformed into a multidimensional wonder as I watched the Osa come to life.

We sat side-by-side perched atop a rocky bluff where whispers faded into a shared silence - conversation seemed trivial when there was so much to listen to.

Behind us, the sounds of the rainforest – the whir and buzz of teeming cicadas and katydids – grew louder while in front, the roar of the Pacific crashing on the jagged coastline – each ecosystem thriving off the other. Gazing at the southernmost tip of the peninsula, where the churning Pacific meets the calmer waters of the Golfo Dulce. I was entranced by the rhythm of this place.

Walking back to the hotel, I stopped to stare up at a giant ceiba tree – humbled by the fact its twisted and tangled buttress roots could be supporting well over 100 years of growth.

As the trip went on, humility gave way to awe and appreciation of the prehistoric environment. Beyond spectacular sights of fiery-winged scarlet macaws and brightly-colored toucans, it was the people who lived among these myriad species of wildlife who made the strongest impression on me.

Rob Bailey, owner of the eco-lodge where we stayed in Matapalo is someone who exemplifies the rare circumstance where man is able to respect and live in harmony with nature.

A California native, Bailey has inhabited the Matapalo jungles for nearly 25 years. Here is a man who adapted to live in one of Central America's wildest regions – no technology, no paved roads, no local supermarket – without ever fighting the environment around him.

Instead, Bailey built a home that later grew into a rustic hotel and lodge, completely out of fallen purpleheart trees that had collapsed in the rainforest from weather and other natural causes.

From personal home to renowned eco-lodge, Bailey saw the potential to craft a business that would not only help preserve and maintain the forest, but would also allow him to share with visitors the allure of Matapalo that brought Bailey here in the first place. Not only that, but by using recycled material and pure well water from natural springs, Bailey – like others in the area – understands his livelihood directly depends on the preservation of the vast ecosystems in the Osa.

The trip ended far too soon and although I've only just scratched the surface of the Osa Peninsula, its magnificent coastlines and sprawling rainforests are burned into my brain.

Even more entrenched in my memory is a deeper understanding. Sure, we all talk about the environment – how we're "going green" by buying LED light bulbs and using recycled shopping bags – but it wasn't until this trip I truly began to grasp the roots of conservation and the need to preserve the ecosystems that support us.

In a place where nature rules, people like Rob Bailey are inevitably attached to the land – conserving and appreciating her in a very real way. There is so much more I want to unearth from these jungles and I know I will be back soon – but in the meantime, at least I've been more conscious about turning off the lights and composting my veggies!

The Osa Peninsula: First Impressions in Pictures

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