Diving and Snorkeling in Uvita and Ojochal, Costa Rica: A Guide to Marine Conservation in Costa Rica's Southern Pacific Zone

Members of the Innoceana Ojochal were privileged enough to be invited to an annual Christmas Festival, situated in the middle of the Boruca community, up in the mountains of South Costa Rica. Each year, patrons from around the world donate presents to be given to the children of the Boruca community. These presents typically include clothes, toys, or shoes and are handed out by none other than Santa Claus himself!    

So, what does a group of dedicated marine conservationists have to do at an indigenous Christmas festival? Well, the festival was focused around the children, bringing them happiness and gifts, something Innoceana feels passionately about. We did not have any physical presents to offer, but we could offer the gift of exploration, adventure, and discovery. 

During research dives, Innoceana’s team members have taken a 360 degree camera and recorded marvelous encounters with marine animals. We took these 360°  videos and utilized them to create an immersive virtual reality experience, in other words, bringing the observer underwater with us. This is an incredibly powerful experience, for more reasons than one. The indigenous Boruca community used to live near the sea, until the Spanish colonizers came and they were forced to flee to the Talamanca Mountains. Although they were displaced, the Boruca are strong people who made a new environment theirs; however, their roots will always be connected to the ocean. Since the Boruca can not be by the ocean, we found it fitting that we would bring the ocean to them. 

After Santa handed out personalized gifts to each of the 100 children, and their bellies were full from the delicious food the Boruca women prepared, it was time to spark their interest in the wonders found below! Watching the children navigate and explore the ocean via virtual reality was something that I, and all those present, will never forget. The children lit up with excitement, shouting “¡Tortuga, Tortuga!” and pointing to where they saw the sea turtle passing by. Each pair of virtual reality goggles was playing a different video, some of sea turtles and some with a hammerhead shark, so after the child had felt he or she had experienced that part of the ocean to its fullest, they could dive into two different ocean scenes which were waiting for them to explore. 

The event was wrapped up with traditional Costa Rican music, Cumbia, and of course, lots of dancing. The magic that comes with Christmas time, undoubtedly could be felt. Children were laughing, parents were singing, and joy was felt by all. Watching the children feel pure wonder and awe at the marvels of the ocean reminds us that nature, from the tallest forests to the depths of the ocean, should be admired and protected by all who inhabit the earth. 

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