Rural Village Sustainability In Tortuguero, Costa Rica with Rafael Robles on The Sustainable Jungle Podcast #sustainablejungle

Podcast #29 · Rafael Robles · Rural Village Sustainability In Tortuguero, Costa Rica

“Sustainable development means the balance between the human quality of life and conservation. Costa Rica has really good examples of that and Tortuguero trying to prove that that can be done. We’re trying to prove to the world that we can live in the mecca for nature lovers without destroying it.”

Rafael Robles

Rafael Robles is a biologist, researcher and an esteemed leader in the rural town of Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Rafa has also lived and worked in Mexico and has contributed to conservation projects all over the world. He is passionate about his country and their significant efforts to protect their wild places. Rafa has spent a lifetime protecting and improving both human and “wild” life in Tortuguero, Costa Rica and has made extraordinary contributions to making this a model sustainable, rural town.

Subscribe to the show:  iTunes  |  Spotify  |  Stitcher  |  Podbean 

We visited the small village of Tortuguero Costa Rica with our friends from the Oropopo Experience and were really impressed by the village’s intense focus on sustainability and protecting their wild. We were fortunate to get time with local leader, Rafa and enjoyed sitting down in his very ‘alive’ garden (we had a sloth hanging about overhead!) on the edge of the Tortuguero National Park to discuss the following:

  • Intro to Tortuguero’s very unique positioning in Costa Rica (~01:00)
  • Rafa’s background, growing up in Costa Rica, leaving for 8 years and reflections on coming home (~02:00)
  • How Rafa originally became interested in serious conservation, how he came to be working in Tortuguero and what it was like living in small village Tortuguero in the late 80s (~03:15)
  • Brief history of Tortuguero’s economic activity and how Tortugeuro has grown into neighbouring village across the river, San Francisco (~06:20)
  • Early growing pains, health problems in the village and how these were overcome (~08:25)
  • What makes Tortuguero a sustainable town? (~09:20)
  • Why and how Tortuguero has managed to do that (including their approach to plastic waste) (~11:00)
  • An incredible story about surviving a poisonous snake bite to illustrate how the village sticks together to help each other (~13:40)
  • Why Rafa left Tortuguero for 20 years (~17:10)
  • How Rafa helped protect the rainforest before he left together with a friend from the USA (~19:15)
  • The importance of education and how it’s impacted Tortuguero (~21:45)
  • Importance of ecotourism to this village and how Tortuguero’s leaders thought ahead to protect their natural resources (~24:00)
  • The negative impact of the first visitors on Tortuguero’s turtles, what the village did to protect and preserve this area, how Rafa was central to this change for Tortuguero and Costa Rica more broadly and the results of this change (~25:30)
  • Rafa’s definition of Ecotourism – what he would expect of nature loving sustainable tourists (~29:52)
  • Tension between the tourism industry and environmentalists – limited capacity for more tourists and contemplating what to do about it (~31:20; 34:00)
  • Why Costa Rica’s National Park system is respect-worthy and how it got that way (~32:00)
  • Why Costa Rica has been so successful in conserving it’s wild places (~36:10)
  • Fighting for Tortuguero against an illegal road (~38:00)
  • The highlights of visiting Tortuguero (~39:50)
  • How to find Rafa and learn more about visiting Tortuguero (~42:00)
  • What Rafa does now in Tortuguero (~43:50)

“We really believe that poverty is what threatens conservation. If somebody here is starving and the kids are crying because they have nothing to eat, they will go at night and go hunt something but if you can make your living from showing that animal to visitors, you start paying more attention to that animal. Year after year you have more visitors coming to see the same animal and you start seeing that conservation is important.”

Rafael Robles

Notable Links

Casa Cecropia (Rafa’s Company – book a Turtle walk, Chocolate tour and Canoe Tour):

Rafa’s Airbnb:

Tortuguero Village:

Oropopo Experience:

Rural Village Sustainability In Tortuguero, Costa Rica with Rafael Robles on The Sustainable Jungle Podcast #sustainablejungle

Leave a comment