Safety on the Osa
Updated: Oct 2, 2018
When planning a student trip, safety is high priority. As an educator, bringing a group of students to the most remote coastal jungle of Costa Rica can raise questions about safety, which is why we have developed extensive safety precautions to keep you at ease while the students are under your watch. One of these precautions includes the installation of the highest quality satellite antennae and boosters to bring cell phone service to our facilities in case of an emergency. We have Kolbi cell phone chips for any group leaders or students who want to be able to contact their parents or home institution without the need for an international cell phone plan. Kolbi chips can also be acquired at the airport.
Water & Food
All tap water on site is passed through a UV filter and is safe to drink, including water from showers. Food is handled by licensed cooks who practice food safety with tourists in mind, meaning all vegetables are thoroughly washed.
Protocols & Certifications
Talking about safety risks can be intimidating when traveling to any location. Luckily, when traveling with our program, the risks of robbery, assault, drug use, and disease are reduced to a bare minimum here in our boat access only paradise. With that in mind, we still embrace and prepare students and leaders for all possible risks for injury in our orientations and risk assessment. We have never had an emergency at The Jaguar's Jungle wherein evacuation was required, however, we do have evacuation plans if a situation were to arise. All tour guides and coordinators are first aid and CPR certified, and we have a certified EMT on site. We have two boats on the property and the nearest clinic is a 15 min ride away. We have a complete first aid kit on site including sutures if the need were to arise. The nearest fully equipped hospital is in Cortez. In the case of a grave emergency, evacuation to Cortez is arranged via airlift. In the very rare case of a snake bite, transportation would be arranged to the Hospital in Cortez. Victims of venomous snake bites have about 24 hours before they must be treated in a hospital. To prevent snake bites, we include a preparation guide in our risk management guide and in our first day orientation. Snake bites are very rare on the Osa and more common in populated areas where mice are prevalent. Our staff is trained to handle venomous snake bites before arrival to a hospital.
Risk Management Guide
The following guidelines focus on establishing safe practices for fieldwork conducted in the tropical rain forests of Costa Rica. No amount of regulation is more effective in safe practices than personal vigilance. Therefore, proper training in safety concerns and mitigation are the best way to prevent safety issues. The purpose of this guide is to identify potential hazards when working in a remote tropical rain forest location and establish procedures to reduce their likelihood. The following procedures are based on individuals with no known medical conditions and strong physical capabilities.
1. Suitable maps will be provided of the fieldwork area, including information of support services such as medical clinics, hospitals, and telephone service areas.
2. Properly informed designated contacts should be established within a home institution by the group leader.
3. Schedules and methods should be established for maintaining contact with a home institution.
4. When planning coastal work, information about tides, currents, and weather conditions that could affect safety should be considered. At Study Corcovado, tides are predicted by use of tidal watches and guides are familiar with wave and current tendencies.
5. Rainforest environments present hazards that university students are not accustomed to such as the possibility of a poisonous spider, snake, scorpion, or other organism being present in a cabin, bed sheets, boots, and in the field. Footwear should always be shaken out before being put on. The same goes for sheets, pillows, and clothes. High boots and knee socks should always be worn in the field to minimize scratches, wounds, or bites from insects, plants, and snakes.
6. Do not touch spiders or questionable insects.
7. One should never walk through tall grass bordering a tropical rainforest, regardless of protective attire. There is a high chance of snake bites.
8. In the case of a venomous snake bite, the victim should not run or partake in strenuous activity. Never apply tunicates to limbs that have been bitten by a venomous snake.
9. One should practice thorough tick checks after returning from the field during the dry season. These ticks are smaller and harder to find than North American ticks. They do not carry Lyme’s Disease, but they must be removed to avoid infections. Submersing and scrubbing oneself in water is the best way to rid oneself of these tiny ticks. (A dip in the ocean after a hike will to the trick.)
10. Any insect bite, open wound, or scratch of ANY kind should be treated with Neosporin or disinfectant multiple times a day. Likelihood of infection is greatly enhanced in tropical environments.
11. Use mosquito repellent and mosquito nets at night.
12. Wash feet every night with soap to avoid fungus or “jungle foot rot,” in the rainy season.
13. Never wear wet socks.
14. Tetanus shots are a must when conducting any fieldwork, especially in developing countries.
15. Hepatitis A & B, influenza, and rabies shots are recommended for Costa Rica.
16. One should never go into the field without a more than adequate water supply.
17. Never trust a wild animal, even if they are commonly seen as a docile species.
18. Avoid resting against trees in the field or grabbing them for support when hiking, as there could be poisonous caterpillars or long spikes on certain species of palms.
19. Do not work in the field alone.
20. Always have a knife in the field.
21. Be aware of where drinking water comes from, and how it is treated.
22. Never walk anywhere at night without a flashlight. The likelihood of stepping on a poisonous organism or running into a wild animal is high.
23. Proper sun protection should be practiced especially if traveling on a boat. The water amplifies the sun’s rays so always have extra sunscreen for boat trips even in the early morning sun.
24. Always have a first aid kit equipped with medicine for fever and diarrhea, disinfectants, Neosporin, a venom extractor, bandages, hand soap, tweezers, medical tape, butterfly bandages, antiseptic wipes, safety pins, and antihistamine tablets.
25. Do not stand under coconut trees. A falling coconut can be fatal or cause serious head injury.
26. In the case that one runs into a pack or White-lipped peccaries, the pack should be avoided. Packs of White-lipped peccaries have a distinct odor from a distance. If the odor is smelled, one should either take a different route or proceed with extreme caution. In the case that the peccaries detect one’s presence, and they charge, the best thing to do is climb a tree and wait for them to leave.
27. Never run from a wild cat. They are more likely to attack if something is running from them.