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Tours of a Lifetime
National Geographic 2010, 2012
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Travel & Leisure, March 2012

The Dream Goes On

Michael Kaye, CEO and Founder Costa Rica Expeditions.

"Our goal is to create unique travel experiences that transcend conventional sightseeing and travel. Our dream is to promote the type of tourism which is mutually beneficial and nourishing to both the visitor and the visited."
-Michael Kaye, June 1981

I wrote the above sentence for a brochure in June of 1981. I still can't say it any better. Though lots of things have changed since then, the basic direction and philosophy that I expressed more 30 years ago still holds true. Here's the rest of what I wrote: Costa Rica Expeditions was founded in 1978 to help the sophisticated traveler explore Costa Rica - its flora and fauna, its people and culture, its wild and beautiful places. Over the years we have been very fortunate in being able to gather together a very special team of guides, both Costa Rican nationals and foreigners.

Naturalists, artists, horticulturists, political scientists, river guides - all have in common a deep love and knowledge of Costa Rica and a desire to share. Since 1978, our growth in terms of numbers of programs and number of participants has been greater than our wildest dreams. Even more important, the experience of sharing Costa Rica has been an extremely gratifying one. Yet, as I sit down to write about the incredible beauty and richness of Costa Rica, a doubt lingers. I recently reread an article about one of our trips to Corcovado that appeared in a 1981 issue of the WASHINGTON STAR. The descriptions of the jungle and the wildlife are eloquent, but what sticks in my mind is an account of an experience outside the small town where charter flights depart to Corcovado:

"Palmar was a movie-set town with run-down storefronts off a dirt main street. Cows ambled about and the only game in town was bingo. To refresh ourselves, Roger, Don and I jumped into a nearby river, after which we cut through a farmer's field to get back to Palmar. The campesino, machete in hand, hailed us, introduced us to his family, and whacked a watermelon off the vine for us to eat. A trail of seeds and red juice followed us back to our pension."
(Jungle Adventure Deep Inside Costa Rica's Incredible Rain Forest, Harriet Heyman.)

How many people walking through that field will it take before the campesino starts resenting the tourist, rather than inviting him to share a watermelon? So far, our guests have done us proud, but sheer numbers can take their toll. Costa Rica needs visitors but, as we have seen with US parks, visitation can quickly get out of control. How many is too much? Our dream is to promote the type of tourism that is mutually beneficial and nourishing to both the visitor and the visited. We want you to come. We advise you to come soon. We beg you to please tread softly.
-Michael Kaye, San Jose, Costa Rica

The Dream Goes On

Although the number of visitors has increased many fold since 1981, Costa Ricans are, for the most part, still amazingly open to guests from abroad. Although some of the wild and beautiful places that we used to visit have been damaged by development, others have actually recovered as result of a heightened consciousness of the importance of conservation. It is heartening to note that tourism has often played an important role in conservation and sustainable development in Costa Rica. Although the phrases had yet to be uttered, the concepts Legendary Service and Unforgettable Memories, and Vacation Time is Precious, were honored in practice in 1981 as they are now. Even more important, the experience of sharing Costa Rica is just as gratifying today as it was then.

-Michael Kaye, Escazu, Costa Rica, August 2012