Manuel Antonio National Park (closed on Mondays) contains three beautiful beaches, casual forest trails, and a dense rainforest teaming with animal life. In 2011, it was named by Forbes as one of the world’s most beautiful parks.
We had an amazing experience with Great Green Macaw at the Ara Manzanillo Project near Puerto Viejo on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast, where we saw an amazing programme to help the Green Macaw recover its lost range.
This got me wondering whether there was a similar programme for the Scarlet Macaws, that are found on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. After some research, I found a wildlife sanctuary called NATUWA, which was ideally located on our route between Monteverde and Manuel Antonio (with a slight detour).
The area around NATUWA is mostly open, cultivated farmland so it is a surprising place to find a wildlife sanctuary. Apparently, not so long ago the property on which the NATUWA sits was farmland, but today it is returning to its natural state; a rainforest. It is amazing, when allowed, how quickly the rainforests can recover if allowed – these trees and plants grow at incredible rates in these climates!
NATUWA is a little tricky to find, passing through a couple of small villages on the way. There is not much in the way of signage to you out! To be honest I am not sure how many visitors actually make it here. When we arrived there were only us and two other people scheduled to take the tour. There is no self-guided tour option, so you will be accompanied around by one of the volunteers who work at the sanctuary.
One of the main draws for us coming was to see the conservation work they do for the macaws. We had learned a lot about the great green macaws during our visit to Ara Manzanillo but wanted to learn more about conservation work for the scarlet macaws. These macaws are less in danger of extinction but nonetheless face many challenges in the environment. The sanctuary does not have a captive breeding programme for the scarlet macaws. Instead, it focuses its efforts on combating the looting of nests and the illegal trade of chicks and works with the local communities in the installation of artificial nests for the wild scarlet macaws. Also, NATUWA assists in the restoration of the habitat that these birds require.
The great green and scarlet macaws are housed in two giant aviaries. There are dozens of birds in each aviary. The aviaries have been built in the shape of huge doughnuts which allow the birds to free fly around and around, which was very interesting to watch. As well as the captive scarlet macaws, there are a number of birds that live in the grounds of NATUWA.
In addition to great green and scarlet macaws, they have other exotic birds on display. This includes some indigenous species such as toucans and some non-indigenous species such as blue and yellow and hyacinth macaws from South America and some parrots from further away; cockatoos and African grey parrots. All these birds have been recovered from the illegal pet trade.
NATUWA is not all about birds, they also have a lot of rescued animals who cannot be returned to the wild, so they are kept here to protect them. The sloths pretty much have free reign of the property, and if you are lucky like us, you can get an up-close view. They also have all the indigenous monkeys of Costa Rica; howler, white-faced capuchin, the acrobatic spider and cute squirrel monkeys.
Birds and primates are easy to spot in the wild but some of the larger mammals are shy and retiring, or simply just like to hang out at night. So, seeing the tapirs and jaguars at NATUWA might be your only chance to see these beautiful creatures.
Planning your visit to Natuwa
|Address:||From RECOPE in Puntarenas, 12km highway to Guanacaste, in the entrance to Aranjuez, 5km south|
|Telephone:||T: +(506) 86444666|
Monday to Sundays
Adults $20 / children under 12 free