|The corruption of Manuel Antonio|
|Written by OHmommy|
|Wednesday, 29 December 2010 21:53|
At seven in the morning the gates to Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica open and greed takes over.
Visitors from across the globe gather in line an hour before, waiting in the blistering Costa Rican sun (a steaming eighty-five degrees at sunrise in the winter). By seven-thirty, only thirty minutes after the park opens, the gates close. "We are at capacity. Six hundred people have entered the park." the guardsmen yell out into the crowd of anxious visitors. People turn to each other conveying their dismay. "We've traveled half way across the world to see one of the last beaches left with wild monkeys and sloths." "How could this be? We arrived well before the gates opened!"
"We only allow six hundred people at a time." the guardsmen explain.
They lock the gates at 7:30am.
Only from the other side of the gate it doesn't look like six-hundred people are in.
Standing in line, "official Manuel Antonio" guides approach people offering them instant access into the park when purchasing a nature tour. "Park access is ten dollars per person - for an additional twenty dollars per person you will have a guide. And instant entrance." they say.
Behind us are hundreds of people who arrive just minutes after us. The line wraps around two NYC blocks and then some, of tiresome travelers anxious to explore the wonders of Manuel Antonio. A park unlike any other in the world.
Patiently waiting for one person to come out so that one person can go in, we start to notice the "official Manuel Antonio" nature guides walking right in to buy tickets.
Dziadek, my father, was on the other side of the gate as one of the last "six-hundred" persons allowed in, said that the "official Manuel Antonio" nature tour guide pictured above purchased eighty tickets at ten dollars a piece after gates closed. And he was one of twenty or more guides purchasing tickets since there's no limit set.
The first "nature tour" arrives with a "guide", bypassing the line that now reaches three city blocks long of people patiently waiting to enter the national park.
As the sun grows hotter and the line doubles in size so does the price of the "nature tour". "You have to wait until a person leaves the park... it will be hours. We can get you in now. Ten dollars for park access per person and an additional thirty dollars per person you will have a guide - to get you in right now."
We hem and haw and wait.
Another "official Manuel Antonio" tour guide approaches the gates. They talk. Heads nod. And they smile.
Minutes later a new "nature tour" arrives running past all others waiting in line, following the "official Manuel Antonio" guide.
By eight in the morning we notice at least twenty "official Manuel Antonio" tour guides walking right in to purchase tickets, while all other visitors wait behind closed gates. "We came to see the brown pelicans. We might not be able to." birdwatchers from Hamburg sigh, in the line growing longer outside of the gates.
The sun grows even hotter at a half past eight but the "official Manuel Antonio" guides are persistent. "We can get you in now. Ten dollars for park access per person and an additional forty dollars per person you will have a guide - to get you in right now."
And more "nature tours" arrive bypassing the people that have been waiting since seven in the morning to gain entrance into the park.
How are these "nature tours" that arrive hours too late without waiting in lines, getting into the park? Well, you need an "official Manuel Antonio" tour guide to get you in...
Only a handful of the hundreds of people patiently waiting to get into the national park (after the gates closed) got it. Those lucky enough to gain entrance experienced one of the most natural jungles left on this earth where sloths cross your path and monkeys jump over your heads. Breathtaking beauty.
The physical park hasn't changed since the last time I visited 15 years ago but the gate has. More people have discovered the gem that Manuel Antonio is and the locals are aware of this. I asked the guardsmen employed by the Costa Rican government (who was raking in the cash all day long through scalping tickets) what he had to say about me taking photos and documenting it all. His exact words: "This good. Bring us more business." Just make sure if you visit Manuel Antonio you arrive at five in the morning to be first at the gate allowing you to bypass all official tour guides. The government needs to step in if they want visitors to return. I'm worried about returning tomorrow.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 30 December 2010 23:50|