During our brief time in Costa Rica, we knew that we'd have to make a visit to a place which rescues and rehabilitates the wildlife for which the country is so famous. For a variety of reasons which we'll keep for a separate post, we don't support zoos. However, the non-profit Jaguar Centre in Puerto Viejo is something very different.
It provides a refuge for animals rescued from the roadside, abandoned by owners who should never have had them in the first place and takes in those which have been injured or orphaned in the wild. The rescue centre is a temporary home for them to be rehabilitated and restored to health so that they can eventually be released back into the wild.
We were able to observe so many species during our visit; gangs of cheeky monkeys playing together, anteaters with a taste for yoghurt, sloths of all ages, deer, toucans and other colourful birds flying around, a myriad of reptiles and creepy crawlies to a couple of wild cats, it was a real privilege to see these animals up close whilst being aware that the majority of them are only here to be cared for and, eventually, returned to their natural habitat.
If you're visiting the beaches and rainforests of the Puerto Viejo region, in the south-east part of Costa Rica just over the border with Panama, we'd certainly recommend a visit. Although the complex is very popular, and therefore exceedingly busy when tours are held, they are thankfully limited to only a few hours every day and visitors are escorted through with a guide (English and Spanish available). The price of entry goes directly towards supporting the Centre and its efforts to protect the wildlife of the region.
where: The Jaguar Rescue Centre is located outside the town of Puerto Viejo. If you've rented a bike for the day or are walking from town, then simply head in the direction of Manzanillo and you will see the road for the Centre on the right hand side with a big sign.
Alternatively, take any bus in the direction of Manzanillo and it can drop you off opposite the entrance.
when: Guided tours are available Monday to Saturday at 9.30 a.m. and 11.30 a.m. Each tour lasts for 90 minutes. Due to demand, we'd recommend you show up about 15 minutes early.
how much: $9,500 colones (£12 / $18) per person. More expensive personalised tours are also available, as are day or night tours to the centre's La Ceiba Nature Reserve, set in the rainforest which is where a lot of the animals are released.
Visit the Jaguar Rescue Centre's website for more information.
Still not convinced? Then just watch this behind-the-scenes video of the monkeys from the centre making a movie! They're the cutest things EVER!