In May, one of Rafa Gallo’s dreams came true.
Since 2018, he had passionately supported the Colombian Rafting for Peace (Remando por la Paz) team and their tourism organization Caguan Expeditions. In September that year, he sent two top Rios Tropicales guides, Roy Obando and Max Solano, to train the Colombians in rafting. Then, in May 2019, he completed his dream of bringing the Remando por la Paz team to compete in the International Rafting Federation’s World Rafting Championship in Australia. And in November 2019, he joined them again in Colombia for the first Colombian National Rafting Championship held in San Vicente del Caguán.
But there was one dream left: to bring the group to Costa Rica so they could learn by experience how successful ecotourism businesses operate.
Thanks to the Gallo-Jimenez family and close friends, Grupo Mawamba, the Pacuare Outdoor Center, and those who gave funds in the RAFAuction fundraiser and fundraisers held in Colombia, that dream was finally realized. A group of eight members from the Rafting for Peace team and Caguan Expeditions traveled from Colombia to Costa Rica from May 4 to 15 to learn about ecotourism.
“I am super satisfied we were able to accomplish my dad’s dream to bring the team and community members here to learn about Costa Rica’s famous ecotourism,” said Roberto Gallo, RAFA Board President. “I think the trip was successful because the people leading the projects in Colombia left with a lot of information to apply to their operations.”
The group spent the first few days in Sitio Mata, a rural community by Turrialba that has created a homestay program for visiting students and tourists. Then they rafted the Pacuare River to the Rios Lodge to learn about rafting tourism and how a remote ecotourism lodge can operate sustainably and successfully. They spent part of a day helping to reforest the Pacuare River Basin to see how conservation can be combined with ecotourism.
After the Pacuare, the group journeyed to Mawamba Lodge in Tortuguero for a few days of intensive training in professional hospitality and customer service. The group crossed the country to Nosara for the final part of their trip, spending a few well-deserved days relaxing at the beach and learning to surf.
Team RAFA took a week off from training for the WRC 2022 to help host the group in return for all the hospitality they received from the Colombians in 2019 and 2021 during their visits there for rafting competitions.
The Colombians spent their last full day in Costa Rica holding a press conference and souvenir shopping in San Jose. They returned home full of ideas, information, and more dreams.
“It was an amazing personal experience for them. For several in the group, it was the first time they had traveled outside Colombia. They were very grateful. Now it is time for them to turn their gratitude into action,” said Mauricio Artiñano, former Mission Planning Officer at the United Nations Mission in Colombia – Planning Team. Mauricio is the informal “godfather” of the group.
“Rafa always said he wanted to bring the group to Costa Rica. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to be with us in person. Still, his legacy is immense and continues living in all the people he inspired,” said Carlos Ariel, director of Caguan Expeditions. “So many people joined forces to bring us to Costa Rica, and we are deeply grateful. We felt Rafa’s spirit being with his family and friends everywhere we went. Now, it’s our turn to return to Colombia and build upon all these dreams.”