Back in 2001...
Cocovivo started as a conservation project; eco-tourism came later.
We focus on three areas:
Over one hundred years ago, Cocovivo's 55 acres of rainforest was cut down by the banana company to create plantations. After the United Fruit Company left, the land was kept clear by cattle ranchers. When Ulrich bought the property in 2001, it was still being used for grazing. Over the course of his first 3 years at Cocovivo, Ulrich planted 5,000 trees--mostly endangered native hardwood species. Twenty years later, it's hard to believe this beautiful, shaded land was once grazed clean. The resilience of the rainforest is amazing.
Coral Reef Restoration
Our reef is our most precious (and precarious) asset here at Cocovivo. Protecting is requires a multi-pronged approach, but it's an uphill battle against raising water temperatures (Fall of 2023 was especially devastating with temperature spikes causing widespread bleaching).
Coral reefs do not exist in isolation. In Bocas del Toro, they are part of a broader eco-system that includes the mangroves. The mangroves act as a filtration system, catching sediments and pesticides that run off the hillsides when it rains. Their roots also create protective nurseries for reef fish. Many hotels cut down their mangroves to create a cleaner (and less smelly) coastline, but we've prioritized our reef and allowed our mangroves to flourish.
A sunken sailboat with a ferro-cement hull has become an artificial reef for corals, sponges, and sealife. Cement is porous and non-toxic and thus a popular substrate for coral restoration. The wheelhouse and hull of the provide hiding space for larger fish like grouper (that would otherwise not be able to find a home amindst the slender finger coral), thus balancing out the ecosystem.
Experiments in Electrolysis
Since 2019, we've been experimenting with using low levels of electric current to catalysis coral growth in controlled experiments. The electrolysis process is very similar to what happens organically within corals as part of their growth cycle, and therefore can potentially accelerate coral growth. Message us for links to research papers on the topic.
During our off-season, we offer exchange programs for coral researchers. In the past, we have hosted a scientist who designed a protocol for documenting our reef over time and a mechanical engineer who built an underwater submersible for automating coral reef restoration. Contact us for more information about the program.
Just a five minute boat ride from "downtown" Cocovivo is our Bella Vista Red Frog Sanctuary, 70 acres of conservation land that's home to our flourishing strawberry poison dart frog population. As the other islands become more developed, these iconic red frogs are becoming harder and harder to spot. However, at Bella Vista Sanctuary, you will be inundated with opportunities to photograph these usually elusive creatures. Guided tours of the sanctuary are available through your hosts at Cocovivo!