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El Silencio

by Shakia Stewart

The next day we drove into the mountains to a community called El Silencio or, ‘The Silence’. I wondered why it was called this, but as we drove further and further up into the rainforest and into the community hidden among the rocks and trees it made much more sense – we were miles away from any other town and a far cry away from the busy,┬ánoisy┬ácapital city! It was absolutely chucking it down with rain when we arrived, a proper tropical rainstorm!

El Silencio is a cooperative community, which means 90% of the 500 or so inhabitants of El Silencio work within and for the community itself. They help injured or abandoned animals, from monkeys, to wild boar, to parrots, and they also have a milk farm, and a chicken farm, which is all sold locally. They even make their own cheese! Volunteers who come to El Silencio stay with families here, and they get involved in everything from feeding the animals and cleaning out their cages, to milking the cows, selling local produce at the supermarket, and helping out at the community school. The amazing thing about this place was how involved you can be…you become a member of one of the families, eat with them, dance with them at the bailes on the weekends, sing with them at the karoke nights, help teach their children and help reach the objectives of the cooperative, which focuses on sustainability, local economy, and looking after the incredible environment which they inhabit.

After an amazing lunch overlooking a valley of palm trees extending as far as the eye could see it was time to head off to the next destination, Manuel Antonio. This was such a mad contrast, as we headed to the coast and found our hotel in probably the most touristy part of Costa Rica I have visited so far. There were loads of bars and flashing lights, people trying to sell you things left, right and centre, blaring music and too many tourists (I know, I am one!! But I like to pretend I’m not…)

The great thing about this place though, is this is home to Manuel Antonio national park, teaming with all kinds of flora and fauna; this is the place to come to experience the insane biodiversity of Costa Rica! Plus, the sunset on the beach was AWESOME. And I do love a good sunset!

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