The Focal Point: Living Forests of Costa Rica

Written by Shaun Swartz

Welcome to the first installation of our new series called “The Focal Point”!

We’re sharing photos and stories each week from our journeys abroad. Have an image or story you want to share? Send it to us and don’t be shy! Send it via email (, Instagram DM (@GoBeyondStudentTravel), hire a sky-writer to write it in the clouds, maybe even send us a small tub of cottage cheese with a greeting card…well, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea. So without further ado, this week’s story and GoBeyond photo of the week comes to us from deep within the jungle of Costa Rica – Enjoy!


You can almost set your watch by the afternoon thunderstorms during Costa Rica’s rainy season – but this day was different.

With no clouds in sight, we entered the Costa Rican rainforest as rare witnesses to the Borucan ceremony in which sacred forest spirits are honored for providing life-supporting rain to the biodiversity within. Yet, as we approached the river bed a familiar sound began to swell over the beating of drums – rainfall, fast and hard. The rain crescendoed and smoke filled the air as the unseen drum kept cadence for an invisible symphony. Out of the Costa Rican rainforest, Borucan men materialized in traditional garb, their presence completely unregistered. Feet frozen and eyes locked, I stood in awe as rain soaked us to the bone.

It’s not often that I have a complete failure with my camera equipment, but as I removed my camera from the safety of its waterproof bag to capture what I was seeing, a tremendous roll of thunder let loose overhead; in that same moment my lens fell off, landed in the river, and floated away. I grabbed the next lens I could find in my bag and threw it back on, only to find that my batteries weren’t working. In that moment I realized that some things just aren’t meant to be captured. It wasn’t until we left that I turned back around to take one more look that my camera batteries came back to life and I was able to snap GoBeyond’s photo of the week.

This site is considered sacred to the Borucan Indigenous population and commands reverence from those who visit. And whether or not one chooses to believe in these sacred forest spirits of the Costa Rica rainforest, I can tell you with certainty that this ceremony was the most spiritual thing I’ve ever experienced in my 29 years of life.


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