Our project began with the founding of the non-profit organization Rainforest of the Austrians in 1991. Until 2014, the small Austrian NGO purchased 43 properties within the Esquinas forest and donated them to the Costa Rican government. More than 10,000 acres have been incorporated into Piedras Blancas National Park. Thousands of individuals and a few sponsors, mostly from Austria, have donated $4,000,000 to save the Esquinas Rainforest. Since 2015, Rainforest of the Austrians has been involved in the reforestation of a biological corridor connecting the Fila Cruces with Piedras Blancas NP.
Since 2003, Rainforest of the Austrians has supported the protection of the forest against illegal logging and poaching by paying the salaries of park rangers and constructing a ranger station in La Gamba. Rainforest of the Austrians has donated more than $100,000 to Zoo Ave, Yaguará and Osa Conservation towards the reintroduction and protection of endangered species, especially scarlet macaws and wildcats.
For his conservation efforts, Michael Schnitzler, director of Rainforest of the Austrians and owner of Esquinas Lodge, was named Honorary Member of the Costa Rican National Park Service and received a Presidential Decree from Costa Rica's President Solís. In Europe, Rainforest of the Austrians received the prestigious Binding Prize in Liechtenstein and Michael Schnitzler was awarded the Austrian government's highest environmental prize, the Konrad Lorenz Prize.
In 1993, an old farmhouse in La Gamba - on the same property as Esquinas Rainforest Lodge - was purchased by Rainforest of the Austrians as a base for research projects in the Esquinas rainforest undertaken by the University of Vienna. During the following years, it evolved into an internationally acclaimed research station, La Gamba Tropical Field Station. Today, the station comprises several buildings, a kitchen and dining area, dormitories, a laboratory, efficient scientific equipment and a botanical garden. It can accomodate up to 30 visiting students and researchers.
The Field Station is the ideal place for students, scientists and amateur biologists to study a lowland tropical rainforest and deepen their appreciation and understanding of this complex and fascinating ecosystem. The surrounding forest has been the topic of more than 100 bachelor's and master's theses as well as numerous books and articles. The station disseminates the idea of the protection of nature in the local community by giving tours and lectures to schoolchildren. Thanks to scholarships donated by Austrian individuals, many children from La Gamba have been able to attend high school.
Today, the station is run in conjunction with the University of Vienna and belongs to the “Association for the Sponsoring of the Field Station La Gamba”, which is financed by grants, private sponsors, and membership fees. The station, Rainforest of the Austrians, and Esquinas Lodge are mutually involved in the creation of a biological corridor connecting the Fila Cruces with the Esquinas Rainforest.
Seeing their future threatened by restrictions set up by the Park Service, a group of local farmers and former loggers in the village of La Gamba decided to turn to nature tourism as an alternative to the exploitation of the Esquinas rainforest. In 1993, the Republic of Austria decided to finance the project and appointed Rainforest of the Austrians to oversee and direct the project. The construction of Esquinas Rainforest Lodge was completed in 1994.
The Austrian government donated the lodge to Rainforest of the Austrians in 1998, and in 2005 it was privatized but remains in Austrian hands. The ultimate goal is to prove that a small ecolodge, accomodating no more than 40 guests, can generate enough income to raise the living standard of a whole community. Esquinas is the largest employer in La Gamba, offering at least 15 permanent jobs. Except for management and office personell, all employees at the lodge are from the local town.
The lodge has contributed more than $200,000 for community projects, including the renovation of the water system, the community town hall and the school, as well as the construction of a playground and a police station.
The Esquinas Rainforest used to be connected with the Fila Cruces, a 5000-feet high, forested mountain ridge. Today, the forest cover is interrupted by farmland and pastures. The plant and animal life in the remaining "forest islands" is becoming isolated. Since 2010, the efforts of Rainforest of the Austrians and La Gamba Field Station have focused on the Biological Corridor La Gamba (COBIGA) with two principal goals :
Preservation of biodiversity by connecting isolated patches of forest
Reduction of carbon dioxide by sequestering it in biomass
When you are staying at Esquinas Lodge, we invite you to purchase an Adopt-a-Tree certificate. Donations are forwarded to La Gamba Field Station and are used to plant trees and purchase land. Up to now, three farms have been reforested with 20,000 trees from 100 different species. Esquinas Rainforest Lodge has donated more than $80,000 to the COBIGA project, enabling the planting of around 4,000 trees to compensate for it's CO2 emissions.