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White Hawk Project: Saving Virgin Costa Rican Rainforest

1/18/2011 12:00:00 AM

Tags: Costa Rica, Osa Peninsula, White Hawk Project, rainforest, travel

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailLana Wedmore knew from the first time she set foot on the Osa Peninsula 30 years ago that she wanted to build a place for people to experience its magic and find a way to keep it pristine. “The Peninsula de Osa had captured me,” she says. “The peace I felt when I looked at the rainforest and the wildside of the isolation all intrigued me to live here. I wanted to preserve and protect a part of this amazing rainforest and protect the Peninsula de Osa while we can.” 

Lana built Luna Lodge on top of a ridge overlooking the lush Carate River Valley as a way to give people from all over the world an authentic rainforest experience. Guests sleep in sustainably built open-air cabanas at night and explore the valley’s rich biodiversity during hikes deep into the primary rainforest and kayak rides in the lagoon. They come back with stories of seeing monkeys and peccaries, enormous shoemaker and pilon trees, scarlet macaws and white hawks. Through Luna Lodge, Lana offers guests the rare and invaluable privilege of feeling, smelling, touching and seeing the vast, teeming life of the rainforest. “Save the rainforest” becomes much more than a slogan.

More than 50 percent of all the biodiversity in the world is in a belt 8 degrees above and below the equator, and Costa Rica falls within that belt, Lana told me. Carate Beach is the longest stretch of lowland tropical rainforest left in the world; you can literally walk for two and a half days without seeing a physical structure.

Lana has protected 60 acres abutting Corcovado National Forest, but she’s worried. All of the land from Luna Lodge to the beach is for sale, and nothing’s stopping a high-rise “eco-lodge” or housing development from parking itself on Carate Beach. Already the locals have fended off—for now—a line of houses atop a neighboring ridge, which would have cut off the wildlife corridor from Corcovado to the southern end of the Osa Peninsula. Every one of the 12 farms that are for sale carries that same threat.

In honor of her totem bird, Lana created the Costa Rica White Hawk Project to buy the forested lands to protect the wildlife in the Carate River Valley. The project needs $1.6 million to purchase the landing and create a protected corridor that would act as an extension of Corcodova National Park and maintain the authenticity of flora and fauna by allowing the natural reproduction, growth and range of native species. Since its inception in 20TK, the project has raised about $22,500—about half as much as it needs to buy one of the many farms that make up the whole.

costa rica 

Lana talked to us about the White Hawk Project last night, as we drank in the jungle noises and the moist, fragrant air in Luna Lodge’s open-air dining room. As Lana’s guests asked questions and offered up ideas for possible funding (more than a few guests have written generous checks on the spot), I tried to imagine the valley below dotted with houses. The vision was far too harsh to contemplate on this smooth tropical evening. The Osa Peninsula is the kind of place where magic happens, and the White Hawk Project is a wand.

To find out more about the White Hawk Project, email Donations are tax deductible.

Carate Beach is the longest stretch of lowland tropical rainforest left in the world. Photo by Barbara Bourne 


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