San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Kéköldi Wak Ka Koneke

Kéköldi Wak Ka Koneke is a 24-member civil association set on bringing a few hundred hectares of coastal Talamanca back under indigenous control, protection and scientific observation, according to its president, Sebastián Hernández.

The association, whose Bribrí name means “caretakers of the land of Kéköldi,” started buying land about 15 years ago with the help of international donors, Hernández said. It now has between 300 and 400 hectares of land, much of which was formerly agricultural, he said. Kéköldi is the name of the river flowing through the properties.

Walking the muddy trails inland from the road between the beach towns of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo on the south Caribbean coast, visitors will find an iguana farm, nets for the study of ground birds, a few family dwellings, an almost-completed guest house and scientific center, an 11-meter observation tower and millions of trees, plants, birds, frogs, snakes, insects and other creatures.

The association releases iguanas into the wild, hosts visiting biologists and hawk-counters, plants trees and shares the wonders of the forest with occasional visitors.

“We can’t compete with the area’s tourism industry,” Hernández said. “We decided to bet on the scientific aspect,” he said, explaining that many donations to Kéköldi’s projects are from conservation organizations, and that the new center is designed more for visiting scientists and volunteers than sun-seeking tourists.

Visits should be arranged in advance, and can be coordinated through the association’s Web site,

For more information, contact association member Alex Baez at 838-0179 or e-mail


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