The Costa Rican rainforest makes for one heck of an alarm clock. Seriously, there might not be a better sound (and sight, for that matter) to which a person can wake up, and I’m speaking from recent personal experience here.
Last week, my wife and I were incredibly fortunate to disappear down to Manuel Antonio, a small town on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. My parents, who are absolute saints, agreed to watch our son while we took a week’s vacation, and we very much succeeded in relaxing. A lot of the credit for that goes to where we stayed.
The Prana Rainforest Retreat and Spa is immediately adjacent to the Manuel Antonio National Park. With a maximum occupancy of two people, guests receive a truly private experience. We relished our lazy days, simply enjoying each other’s company. I can’t tell you how many hours we let slip by just watching the rainforest and its native inhabitants. On some days, we saw more monkeys than people.Listening to the loud croaks of the howler monkeys and pleasant chirps of a toucan family coaxing its young out of their nest, I was struck by how different our experience was from visiting a zoo. Now don’t get me wrong – I have an immense amount of respect and appreciation for zoos and aquariums, at least those that are responsibly managed for the benefit of the animals. Still, the differences between witnessing wildlife in captivity and in the rainforest are immense.
When we visit a zoo, we are going to look at nature. Glass panels, wire fences and concrete walls keep the animals safely contained, away from people. Homosapiens over here, and everything else over there. Both literally and figuratively, zoos reinforce the idea that we are separate from nature.“Nay,” I say.
We are not separate from nature. We are nature. Walking along the muddy trails of that rainforest, I felt welcome. I experienced being a part of nature. It wasn’t my home, but I felt at home.
When was the last time you had the feeling of being a part of nature? Recently, I hope. It’s a feeling that is simultaneously humbling and uplifting, thrilling and calming. If by some tragedy you’ve never experienced that feeling, you should find a tent and go sleep outside. Let the sounds of nature be your alarm clock. I bet that the joy in your heart will numb any aches in your back from sleeping on the ground.