In spite of tragic accidents and criticism, most of the beaches of this country do not have Coast Guards. Contrary to common belief, the beaches of Costa Rica can be very dangerous. Sure, some more so than others, but nevertheless, there is no protection offered for swimmers. A research shows that one person drowns every 3.5 days in Costa Rica. Since 2008, 557 persons have drowned and that is unacceptable! Last year 76 people drowned, and this year, already 50 lost their lives.
A couple of weeks ago, three US teenagers drowned in Playa Bejuco, on the Central Pacific between Esterillos and Parrita. Because they were US citizens, young and on a mission working in Churches and Orphanages, they tragedy did not go unnoticed, however, more often than not the victims are Costa Ricans.
The local residents of beach communities have appealed and asked for help, addressing the National Lifeguard Association (yes, there is one!) and the Red Cross, but to no avail. This is a serious case of mismanagement and total lack of care; some beaches here are treacherous and yet, extremely popular! Many attract tourism because they are perfect for surfing however, beaches like that are exceedingly dangerous if you are not on a board! The rip tide will sweep you away and you cannot get back on shore. If you are on a board, however, you just wait for the nest big wave to take you back.
The reason for this lack of support, it would seem, rests in the salaries; Coast Guards will risk their lives to save you, however well trained they may be, and they should be paid accordingly. There are apparently 600 registered life guards in Costa Rica, yet only 130 are actually on post. The Municipalities cannot afford to pay them, while the Costa Rican Tourism Board is not making any effort; as a result, people die. Volunteers do their best but this is more than insufficient.
Beach security, both in the sea and on the beach, has been an ongoing and growing problem as tourism is rapidly growing, yet the Tourist Board is looking the other way. This is yet another example of bad management and lack of knowledge. How can they expect to carry on attracting people on the beaches when this puts their lives in danger, without mentioning the ever rising crime, from stealing cars to robbing taking place on the beaches?
Tourism is the number one source of income in Costa Rica; most particularly, people come here for the wonderful beaches. Tourists should be treated with respect, care and everything should be made to make sure that they have a safe and pleasant trip, not a dangerous one. While they are warned of the rip tides, this is not enough. Please, give us Coast Guards!
|Written by Mireille|
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