Written by: Trevor Tierney, KSTR Volunteer
Kids Saving the Rainforest recently partnered with Blue Banyan Inn, an environmentally friendly bed and breakfast located right outside of Manuel Antonio. The Blue Banyan is part of a 75-acre ecologically sustainable community, encompassing KSTR’s new Wildlife Sanctuary and International Volunteer Center, tilapia farms, nurseries, and botanical gardens. As a KSTR volunteer, I spent part of my time working at the Blue Banyan Inn, helping them move towards their goal of becoming fully self-sustainable. My primary job, along with Rodrigo and Tio, two of the workers on staff, was to harvest a food source for the animals housed at the sanctuary.
Every Wednesday, Rodrigo, Tio, and I drove through the thousands of palm and teak trees that buffer the Blue Banyan Inn and protect the animals within from the noise and stress of civilization. The property is surrounded by primary and secondary rainforest with expansive mountain ranges looming in the distance, separating one of the greenest parts of country from the Pacific Ocean just 20 minutes away. Wildlife is abundant in the area, and on several mornings I spotted scarlet macaws flying over the valley on their way to forage for ripe fruit. Tiki, the resident blue and gold macaw at the Inn also welcomed us to his world each day with endless chatter.
The patches of fruit trees, vines, and compost holes on the farm needed to be tended. Our first task was to clean the brush from the pineapple, maracuya, and cana crops. Wielding only machetes and our determination, we conquered chest high weeds, razor sharp leaves, insects, and of course the sun. The rewards, however, were well worth it. At lunchtime we picked the best-looking pineapples we could find, and after having resisted them all morning, we finally got to enjoy their natural sweetness. The pineapple, like many of the fruits grown on the farm, would also serve as food for the animals in the sanctuary.
Once the land was cleared, Cristian, an employee of the nearby Palma Tica Company and expert in agriculture, helped us design a compost heap and a plant nursery. He generously supplied KSTR with a few hundred kilos of cow dung to start our heap, which, knee deep, we shoveled evenly among the decomposing greens of the recently trimmed farmland. The grubs 5 to 6 feet down in the compost heap were the largest I have ever seen, and that was exactly what we wanted for nutrient rich compost.
Christian also offered advice on how to care for the fruit trees on the property. In order to produce the most fruit, we trimmed the trees into a cup shape, as he suggested, so that the sunlight could get to the leaves on the inside of the tree.
This led to one of my memorable experiences at the farm. I was about 10 feet up in a limon tree with my machete cutting some of the inside branches when I felt a sting on my neck. Having lived in the rainforest for 8 months, this was nothing new and I assumed it was an ant. “Hormigas!” Rodrigo said from down below. “Si, hormigas,” I said and continued cutting. Seconds later, I was stung multiple more times. Rodrigo was trying to tell me something, but I was too busy trying not to fall out of the tree while holding the machete and trying to deal with the stings to really understand. Suddenly, I turned around to see a baseball-sized bee hive with hornets swarming around my head. I immediately jumped from the tree, not realizing I was heading straight for Rodrigo and Tio below. The look on their faces was unforgettable as I landed with a machete in one hand and bees flying everywhere. I picked up a dead bee, looked at Rodrigo and said, “Hormigas!!??”. “No” he said, “abejas….” Apparently, there was a bit of a language barrier that time, but in the end we all laughed it off.
The new Organic Farm at the KSTR International Volunteer Center now has two functioning compost heaps and healthy crops of pineapples, sugar cane, and passion fruit. Along with planting and caring for dozens of banana, limon, water apple, mango, wild cashew, and guayaba trees, we also helped complete the new plant nursery. Our efforts will increase the amount of crops KSTR can harvest to feed the animals—and even the guests—at the Blue Banyan Inn. With KSTR’s help, this beautiful community will give back to the land and animals that make it so special, and I’m very grateful to have been a part of that process.