Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris

Ecotourism and Conservation in Costa Rica

By traveling with Cheesemans’ to Costa Rica, you directly support the local community, as well as the people who work in ecotourism. Paco Madrigal, our guide for our trips, and Heather Frid Jiménez are founders and co-owners of our local operator. They have long-lasting personal relationships with all the owners of the lodges and private locations you visit on our Costa Rica itineraries. In addition to these grassroots relationships, they support conservation and ecotourism in a variety of ways, such as, hand selecting local students who have shown interest and dedication to nature and wildlife to join specialized tours that include conservation service projects and environmental education. Victor, a local scholarship student who spoke very little English and had never traveled outside of his town, joined one of their US high school student tours in 2005 and now has a career as a bilingual, naturalist guide. Last, but certainly not least, they offer tours to other conservation groups, where a percentage of proceeds go toward local conservation efforts.

Ensenada Lodge Birding © Marc Lombardi

Ensenada Lodge Birding © Marc Lombardi

Costa Rica’s ecotourism industry gives local people sustainable job alternatives that help further conservation. For example, Selva Verde Lodge hires 60+ people from the local community who otherwise may have to work for pesticide-using banana and pineapple companies, logging, poaching, or hunting (which was commonplace before the rise of ecotourism). Also, while Paco was born and raised in Costa Rica, many other companies send guides from their own countries instead of hiring someone local, which is detrimental to Costa Rica’s ecotourism economy. The more we empower local people to understand the benefits of conserving natural habitats, the more successful conservation can be.

Selva Verde Lodge & Resort

Selva Verde Lodge & Resort



How Can You Make A Difference?


How You Can Actively Contribute

  • Keep an eBird list for each outing – you don’t need to track EVERY bird you see. See our Reading and Resource List for more details.
  • Take GPS-referenced wildlife and nature photos, and upload to iNaturalist. See our Reading and Resource List for more details.
  • Give a talk about your experience to a local wildlife or nature group or host a virtual webinar to reach a much wider audience!
  • Share your experiences on social media so others can learn more.
  • Submit a written, video, or audio testimonial for Cheesemans’ to share with future travelers.
  • Support local vendors if you buy memorabilia to take home.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle to refill rather than accepting plastic bottles. Paco carries water in the vehicle for you to refill while on the road in addition to the water the lodges provide for you.
  • Ask for the lodging to not replace your towels or bedding during multiple night stays.
  • Turn off lights and fans when leaving your room.
  • Bring biodegradable soap, to protect the world’s water and to save on waste from bottles hotels provide. Many hotels are switching to dispensers in the bathrooms.
  • We’d love to hear other ways you are actively participating, so please share that with us on our Costa Rica Facebook group.

Organizations You Can Support

  • Union de Ornitologos de Costa Rica – This organization works for the conservation and research of birds and to distribute ornithological knowledge in Costa Rica.
  • Costa Rica por Siempre – They seek the conservation of marine and terrestrial ecosystems through the management of funds and alliances with governments, the private sector, and civil society.
  • Ñai – A group of young professionals from diverse backgrounds working on research and education projects to conserve tapir populations and their habitat in Costa Rica.
  • MarViva – An organization that works to support the strengthening of the legal framework which regulates human activities in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, by facilitating multisectoral processes for the planning, creation, and participatory governance of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia.
  • HeartSong – HeartSong was born from the culmination of years of reimagining learning to honor the innate creative spirit of children. The HeartSong approach evolved from decades of study and experience in alternative education and innovative learning by HeartSong director and co-owner of our local operator, Heather Frid Jiménez. After the economic damage of COVID, they could really use aid to take flight.