Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve
Last Updated: Apr 05, 2013
The Kekoldi people were once part of the Bribri indigenous tribe, but formed their own, separate group years ago. Today, they live at the base of the Talamanca Mountains, in a reserve that is known for migrating birds of prey, green iguana protection efforts, medicinal herb gardens and beautiful handmade crafts.
Location : 3 miles north of Puerto Viejo
Altitude : Sea level
Area : 12,350+ acres
Telephone : 2257-6465
Entrance Fee : Free
Visitors to the Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve are invited to hike the reserve, learn about medicinal herbs and their traditional uses, and tour the Iguana Farm. Since 1990, the Iguana Farm has worked to research the green iguana, encourage reproduction and protect the fragile species. In 1994, members of the Kekoldi, Bribri and Cabecar indigenous groups formed the Kekoldi Wak Ka Koneke, or Kekoldi Caretakers. Together, these individuals work to preserve indigenous culture, protect their lands and purchase additional acreage to reforest and conserve.
Organized hikes through the reserve are common, and are the best way to get a first-hand look at Kekoldi life. Since there is no central village, homes are scattered around the region; most Kekoldi work and live off of their land. Like the Bribri, typical homes are hand-built with local wood and woven roofs – the houses often last for many decades, though the roofs must be replaced every 10-15 years. Interestingly, Kekoldi women are given the laborious task of roof weaving, each generation passing the tradition down to their daughters.
Bird watching hikes are also commonplace at the reserve, since 17 species of eagles, hawks and falcons migrate through the park. In fact, the Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve has been classified as one of the best places in the world to view migrating raptors – up to three million birds are counted each year, with up to 60,000 flying overhead each day.
In addition to the above tours, the Kekoldi Reserve is well known for its fantastic waterfall and nature hike. After hiking through primary and secondary forest, visitors are treated to spectacular views from the 722-foot high watchtower, which looks out over Puerto Viejo and the Caribbean. From there, the route continues along strenuous trails to a spectacular waterfall and swimming hole where hikers are rewarded with a cool, refreshing dip before hiking back out of the reserve.
Note that while entrance to the reserve is free, you must reserve a guided hike or tour to enter.
The Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve offers few amenities to travelers, but there are several restaurants, homestays and small lodging facilities.
The best way to visit the reserve is with a local tour company, which will provide transportation and a knowledgeable guide.