Established in 1996, the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary is devoted to the rehabilitation of orphan and injured animals. As a matter of fact, in the beginning the focus was exclusively on injured birds. Then word spread and any injured animal was taken here by default. None were turned away.
Along with our friends Larry and Sandi of the sailing boat “I Yam what I Yam” we take a panga early in the morning, determined to visit the Sanctuary. It is only accessible by water.
Just a little after 8 in the morning we’re approaching the entrance of the Sanctuary. All I can see is a very pretty beach and thick jungle right behind it. I’m wondering if I should have thought of bringing a machete…
By the time we get off the panga and waddle the few steps to the beach, our guides show up to welcome us, magically appearing from the thick vegetation.
Aaron and James are just two of the many (but never enough!) volunteers that study and work at the Sanctuary. They explain that we’re going to be allowed to see only a small part of the recovering wildlife. It’s the sanctuary’s policy to keep under wraps the big animals, for fear of the brazen poachers that still plague the area.
Pretty soon we start our trek in the jungle, stopping at a big cage hosting two Red Macaws. Both have been injured so severely that will never be able to fly again and fend for themselves. They became a sort of household pet: friendly and playful, they come out of their cage to be introduced.
For some reason I feel disappointed; after seeing these beautiful creatures flying overhead every day for the past few weeks, seeing them caged deeply saddens me. I find myself straying from the little group and venturing out close by, just to listen to the sounds of the jungle.
Sure enough, when you’re not looking things reveal themselves to you… Soon I’m feverishly taking pictures, while Tom whispers urgently to join them and keep following.
I feel like an unruly child, not a new feeling actually… But I just can’t seem to pay attention to the guides recounting stories of the rescued animals while all around me jungle-life is going on! I’m much happier discovering my immediate surroundings by myself…
As a result, I totally miss pretty much everything being said but end up capturing images of strange animals I’ve never seen before… Just what I came here for!
The guided trek lasts a couple of hours; completing the loop, we return to the spot where we started and sit down in a circle on tree stumps.
Carol Crews, the woman who started all this operation about 17 years ago, shows up at the end of our tour to thank us for visiting and answer any questions we may have. She’s accompanied by a young female Spider Monkey named Sweetie.
Carol is a very lively and spirited woman who left San Francisco a long time ago and found her true calling here. As she talks about her charges, her blue eyes sparkle with intensity and passion. She’s fiercely protective of each and every animal in her care. I’m convinced these animals couldn’t be in better hands!
All the while, Sweetie gets to know the people around her. She truly lives up to her name, stealing Tom’s heart at the first touch.
This is what she does: she sits beside you, and gently takes your hand to a spot on her body she wants tickled or scratched. Once she’s done with that particular spot, she’ll touch your hand with her index finger and then point at another part she wants scratched. If you’re slow in responding, again she takes your hand and moves it where needed.
Tom is smitten, Sweetie clearly likes Tom: they spend quite some time cuddling together.
I can’t help thinking about how much I have to beg Tom for the occasional back rub, and here’s Sweetie getting massaged and tickled to her heart’s content! What’s your secret, girl???
The “humanness” of it all is startling. The way Sweetie sits, stands, looks around, stares at you in the eye is incredibly… human! My first close encounter with a Spider Monkey left me speechless.
We pass along the final salutations and thanks, then Carol hops on a waiting Panga with Sweetie draped around her neck, zooming off in the sparkling waters.
What an experience! We can’t stop talking about it for the whole trip back to base.
Truth be told, Sweetie made the day.
She will long live in our memories, along with the incredible Osa Wildlife Sanctuary and its beauty.