From Paralegal to Paradise: Costa Rica

In August of 1998, in between dolphin trips in the Bahamas, a good friend and I went for a week’s vacation to Costa Rica. I have always been called by Costa Rica, when I was 18 I announced to my parents that I was going to move there. I was told that if I did, I would not be receiving any financial help from them, so that ended that. For the time being, at least.

While traveling around Costa Rica we picked up the Tico Times, an English language weekly newspaper. I began to read it and was amazed when I came across an article about swimming with dolphins in Costa Rica. My heart began to pound. The article talked about how no one was actively running dolphin encounters in Costa Rica and how someone should do it. Could this possibly be a message for me, I thought? What a “coincidence” that this article had come out the very week I was visiting Costa Rica. I had not come to Costa Rica thinking about dolphins, it was a vacation with my friend to see the rainforest. My mind started to roll. The rest of our trip my friend and I entertained the possibilities of conducting dolphin swims in Costa Rica. It was perfect, the seasons were opposite of the Bahamas, I could be swimming with dolphins year round! I could do dolphin swims in the Bahamas May through October, and dolphin swims in Costa Rica November through May, living in Florida and flying around to wherever I had a trip. By the time we flew back to Florida, a plan was in the making.

But before I could leave the airport, something else amazing happened. We were riding in the tram that takes you to the customs area of the airport. I had on a shirt that said, “Salvemos Los Delfines” or “Save the Dolphins” in English. A lady standing directly across from me in the tram asked me, “Where did you get that shirt?” “By Arenal Volcano” I told her. “Do you like dolphins?”, she asked me. “Oh yes, they are my life. I take people to swim with dolphins in the Bahamas.” “Oh, well, my name is Maria del Mar and I am President of the Dolphin Foundation of Costa Rica”, she said. Again my heart began to pound. Again I felt like I was having a déjà vu. My girlfriend looked at me, nodding her head, already used to the miracles that happen to me. I told Maria I was thinking of setting up dolphin encounters in Costa Rica. We exchanged cards. I could not believe it. How was it that while I was thinking of doing something with dolphins in Costa Rica, the president of the Dolphin Foundation of Costa would be standing directly across from me in an airport tram? I then knew that something big was once again happening.

I got back to Florida and started to do some research about areas to conduct dolphin swims in Costa Rica. My idea was to plan a couple of trips there, see how it went, but stay in Florida and continue what I was doing in the Bahamas. But some crazy things started happening. EVERYTHING all of a sudden seemed to be about Costa Rica. I would turn on the TV and on the news there would be something about Costa Rica. I was listening to the radio, and in the middle of a song, were the words Costa Rica. I know I heard it because my friend who was with me heard it too. But the next time we heard this song, the words Costa Rica were not in it. The dolphins were playing tricks on me again. Then my landlord told me that he had lived in Costa Rica. My next door neighbor then told me he had done business in Costa Rica for years and took me to breakfast to tell me about it. Everyday, it seemed, someone mentioned Costa Rica to me. Crazy how the universe works!

My head was spinning. I had only moved to Florida five months earlier. I loved Coconut Grove, as it was a little mini-jungle in the middle of the city complete with Iguanas in the trees and macaws flying over head (escaped from the tourist attraction “Parrot Jungle” during a hurricane). I loved my condo, I loved being able to fly to Bimini to swim with dolphins in 20 minutes. I thought that I was going to stay in Florida for a long, long time. Could it be that my path was to now move to Costa Rica? All the signs seemed to be pointing in that direction. I have learned to follow those signs because they lead me down my divine path and to wonderful things. But where was I to go? I had no idea where there were dolphins, if there were dolphins that would swim with us, if there was a location suitable from which to conduct these encounters….. but I had that good feeling that I would be shown the way, as always. I made the decision that yes, I was going to do it! I was going to move to Costa Rica!!! After the decision was made, no one could stop me, not even my parents who were already sad that I had left California. But they had seen how things had fallen into place for me and were happy that I was so happy.

As soon as I made this decision, I received a telephone call from Maria del Mar, the President of the Dolphin Foundation, asking me to come and work for them. I told her I would love to be a part of it!! Wow, a job too!!!

I made plans to go back to Costa Rica the following month to look for “my spot”. I went alone, but made plans to travel part of the way through Costa Rica with a friend I had met through Maria del Mar. We rented a car and drove up the Pacific side of Costa Rica all the way to the border of Nicaragua. We saw lots of great places, even went and saw dolphins in one area, but it didn’t feel right. I ended up traveling most of the Pacific Coast during that trip, but went home a bit discouraged, as nothing was coming together.

In the meantime, things between me and my new landlord in Florida were going sour. He hated my animals, especially my cats and my greenwing macaw, TJ, who likewise did not like him and would scream when he pulled up into the driveway. He gave me a month’s notice. I was under pressure now. I didn’t want to move twice, I wanted to go directly to Costa Rica. But I had nowhere to go.

I planned to Costa Rica again the next month, in October 1998 with a good friend of mine from Holland. I wrote a letter in my journal to God:

“Please guide me to the right places. Please guide me to where you want me to live and to where I should be working with you. Please guide me to the right people and the right connections. Please guide me at all times to my true destiny in Costa Rica. I am here to serve you and do whatever you want me to do. I do not depend upon persons or conditions for my prosperity. God is the source of my prosperity and you provide your own channels of supply to me now. I can clearly see that nothing or no one can stand between me and my own. I dissolve in my own mind and in the minds of all others any idea that my own can be withheld from me. That which is for my highest good now comes to me, and in my clear perception of truth, I welcome it! Nothing can oppose my good. No one can oppose my good. I now accomplish great things with ease. My life cannot be limited, my financial income cannot be limited. God in me now frees me from all limitation. I am rich in mind and manifestation now! The home I am seeking is seeking me and the law of good draws us together with love and understanding. Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!”

We planned to go to Costa Rica’s South Pacific, the only place I had not yet been. But some very strange things stopped us from leaving on time. The first thing that happened was when we got to the ticket counter, my passport was nowhere to be found. Somehow, between the car and the counter, it had fallen out of my bag. I was told I could go to Costa Rica with a certified birth certificate, which I had at home. My house was only 20 minutes from the airport, but there was no way we would make it to catch our flight. The flight attendant told us there was a later flight and to come back for that one. We did. This time, we got to the ticket counter and my friend was told that she could not fly to Costa Rica without showing her return ticket to Holland. We had left this at my condo for safe keeping. We were not going to Costa Rica on this day.

That night, I received a call from someone who worked at the airport. She had found my passport in the parking lot. She had not turned it in to security because she said that passports get lost that way, and had brought it home with her. There was no way for me to get it before the morning, but I had my birth certificate, so it didn’t matter. I made arrangements with her to pick it up when I got back.

We tried again the next morning, stating that if we weren’t able to board the plane, we were not going. We got through just fine. I do not know why we were delayed in this way, I can only think that perhaps it was so that I would meet someone I was supposed to meet or because of bad weather…..I still do not know for sure. But I know that everything happens for a reason and I do not question why.

We first went to the Golfo Dulce, which was beautiful. There were lots of dolphins there, we were told, but the weather was too rough to go out and see them. It still didn’t feel right. I didn’t have that “go for it” feeling at all.

We headed out for our last stop, Drake Bay. I was feeling a bit desperate. I had to be out of my condo in one month. Nothing had felt like it was the right place. During our travels, Hurricane Mitch had arrived in Costa Rica, so when we arrived in Drake Bay, I had no idea what it was like because we were so wet and cold all I could think about was getting dry. We never did get out on the ocean that trip, but one of the local guides told me that there were lots of dolphins in the area….. I don’t know why but this light went on in my head. I JUST KNEW THIS WAS IT!!

I asked about rentals in the area and was taken to a couple of places that weren’t my style. I asked about rent and found out that my guide was taking me to places that rented for about $100 a month, no wonder! I said we could raise that a bit…..and then he took me to another property. He explained that the owner lived in Canada and that he had a caretaker there. It was pouring rain as we went. When we got there, we slipped and slided up the hill to a blue tarp enrobed house. We went inside to find the place in a total mess. But I saw the potential…..10 acres, on a point, in the rainforest with an ocean view on three sides. WOW WOW WOW!!!

At the house, along with other locals, was this very cute guy who had a dolphin earring in his ear. He said his name was Villa (pronounced Veeya). He said he liked my dolphin jewelry too and I told him (in my limited Spanish, I still had only one semester of Spanish in seventh grade at this point) that I had lost a lot of dolphin jewelry in the ocean. He said he had too.

We left Drake Bay and Costa Rica and when I got back to the States, I called the owner of the property to see if he wanted to rent the property and for how much. I almost fell out of my car (I was driving my friend to the airport at the time) when he said he would rent it for $500 a month. I was expecting at least $1,000!!! So, we made up a rental agreement and it was finalized.

Oh my God, I was really moving to Costa Rica!!!! Now came all the arrangements on how to get me, my stuff, and my animals into the country……but that all went very smoothly. I made arrangements to live in Escazu for the first month (a suburb of the capital, San Jose) so that I could get bank accounts, make some connections and wait for my rental agreement to start in December.

First, I needed to sell a lot of stuff. I wrote in my journal:

My belongings are sold to the right people at the right price. All things are sold with ease. I release all belongings to their highest good. All belongings go to their rightful owners. They belong to somebody else now.

On November 30, 1998, only three months after my first visit to Costa Rica, I left Florida to start my next new life. I had written my journal:

The plane is on time. My belongings and animals arrive safely and undamaged. Customs waives us right through. There are no problems of any kind. And that is exactly how it happened! Everything arrived safely and undamaged, I never got stopped even for a minute in Customs even though I was importing a greenwing macaw. It all went smoothly and perfectly!

We settled into our temporary home in Escazu. I went about the business I had to do, one of which was to get an analog cellular line. Because Drake Bay is so remote, only the three watt bag phones (the ones that were used when cell phones first came out) would work properly, and they are analog. I had purchased the analog phone while still in Florida, but was warned by the salesperson, “You will never be able to get an analog line in Costa Rica. They do not give them out anymore as everything is now digital.” I went to the phone company in Costa Rica. I was told, “You will not be able to get a analog line, we do not give them out anymore.” I went home and wrote in my journal, “I have an analog line. There are no problems getting this analog line.” The next day I went back to the phone company and asked to talk to a manager. I brought my brochure with me and spoke to a very nice man. I told him we were doing research on dolphins and whales in Drake Bay and an analog line was very important. In five minutes I had an official letter stating that I was allowed to have an analog line and brought it up to the front desk and waaaalaaaa, I had an analog line. NEVER tell me NEVER!!!!

I was about two weeks away from moving to Drake Bay when I got a call from the owner of the property. Someone had made an offer on the property and he was going to sell it!!!! What was I going to do? Here I was thinking I was moving in two weeks, in a temporary house with five animals!!! If I wanted to live on this property, I was going to have to buy it, but with what money????? I was in a temporary panic, the kind that I forget all I know on how to manifest things. But it didn’t last long and I got to writing in my journal:

I own the property. There are no problems with the purchase of this property. I have all the finances I need to purchase this property. I am a rich child of God and am completely provided for. If this property is mine by divine right, I have it. I cannot do this by myself but God can and is creating miracles here and now. Thank you! Thank you! Thank You!

The next day, I went to the attorney’s office who was handling the sale. I brought a letter of my intention to buy with a payment schedule. And I also brought all my pictures of dolphins. I explained to him what I wanted to do with the property. He said he would talk to the owner. I had a very anxious day waiting to hear. Finally I got the call from the attorney. “We are going to sell the property to you, Sierra.” “Why?” I asked. “Because of the dolphins.  We like what you want to do with the property,” he told me. Wow!!! The dolphins did it again.

However, the excitement was short lived as the following day the attorney called me again to say that the other potential buyer was very upset because he had given the attorney a check first and he wanted the chance to come up with a higher offer. I told the attorney that I wasn’t going to get in a bidding war, I couldn’t, and that my offer stood. I hung up the phone and prayed. And of course, wrote in my journal:

“God is my attorney. I call upon the Law of Divine Justice. God makes a way where human sense says there is no way. I bless the situation. I bless the other buyer. If this property is mine by divine right, I have it. The divine plan of my life is manifesting for me now quickly and in peace, Thank You Thank You Thank You!

The next day the attorney called to say that even though the other buyer had made an offer $10,000 more than mine, the owner still wanted to sell to me because my payment schedule was more workable for him. I hung up the phone and cried. Once again, God had created miracles for me, just because I had asked and trusted!!!!!

Someone I have not mentioned until now is Jerry. Jerry was a captain on one of the boats I was working with in the Bahamas and we became good friends. Jerry lived in the Florida Keys and had lost all his belongings in a recent hurricane. He called me up right before I was leaving for Costa Rica and asked if I needed any help. I was very happy to have Jerry come along with me because it would have been overwhelming to try to start up all by myself. Jerry is still here and is now known as Jerry of all Trades because he can fix or “Jerry Rig” just about everything. Jerry has brought us from not having even any electricity at all, to a well-functioning hotel. He is a true friend.

When we arrived in the late afternoon of December 29, we came across the bay to an amazing purple sunset and I knew I had found my true home. Ten acres of ocean front property, on a point, waves crashing on two sides, and monkeys, toucans, iguanas and all the animals of the Discover Channel in the trees and surrounding jungle I still had never gotten out onto the ocean. But I was running on trust and it had worked so well for me up to this point.

Our initial plan was to run dolphin encounters and have our guests stay at other hotels in the area, which we did for a short time. But Jerry and I found that we really missed “hanging out” with our guests, and didn’t feel we had enough time with them by just going out on the tours. So, we decided to become a small eco lodge. We erected three tents on platforms, and started to bring people to Drake Bay to see the rainforest and dolphins. And learn about running a hotel. We became Delfin Amor (Dolphin Love) Eco Lodge.

I had purchased a small boat to start getting us out on the water. We traveled to different areas looking for dolphins. We saw dolphins every time we went out and eventually discovered a large group of 500 or more. I was in paradise!! In the Bahamas, we always see very small pods of dolphins, sometimes two, sometimes 10, and rarely, 40 or so. But 500!! I had never seen so many dolphins in one place!! I just couldn’t believe what I had magically and effortlessly stepped into. But of course I could believe it, the path had been so magical through all the rapid changes in my life and now, somehow, I found myself surrounded by dolphins! In my front yard!

As we explored the waters surrounding Drake Bay, we came to discover that there are over 25 species of dolphins and whales that live here or pass through. We have the longest season of humpback whales in the world as we get migrations from both North America and South America. We have had the pleasure to meet Orcas, Psuedo Orcas, Pilot Whales, Humpback Whales, Sei Whales, Fin Whales, Rough Tooth Dolphins, Common Dolphins, Spinner Dolphins, Bottlenose Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins, and of course, our most common friends, the Pantropical Spotted Dolphins. There are thousands of them here!!!!! Within 20 minutes of the property!!

Along with all the dolphins and whales we have discovered, we have also found that there is a lot of commercial fishing in the area. Long lines, shrimpers and the whole dolphin/tuna netting happens here (we are in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, after all). We decided we needed to protect the area and create a marine sanctuary. We talked about becoming a non-profit foundation, but found that it was a very expensive and lengthy process in Costa Rica. But very quickly, magic happened again…..

In April of 2000, we rescued a striped dolphin who was trying to beach herself. I wrote an article about it for a local paper. Several days later, Maria del Mar, the lady who I had met in the tram after my first trip (the President of the Dolphin Foundation of Costa Rica), called me to say that the foundation was falling apart because she couldn’t get anyone to help her. She wanted to GIVE ME the foundation because we were doing such great work. Just like that, we were able to become a non-profit foundation, without the cost and a minimum of paperwork.

I knew then that I was sent here by God and the dolphins and whales to share their divine nature with others. Everything had fallen into place so magically and easily because they want me to help spread their messages of joy and divine ways of being.

I later founded The Vida Marina Foundation and our data collection and participation and publication in scientific conferences has furthered the reality of creating a protected marine area off the Osa Peninsula. I have also written two books, one of which is a bestseller, and you can find them in our Gift Shop.

I decided to close Delfin Amor Eco Lodge to the public and on May 1, 2007 because running a hotel was not my true dream and also brought about a lot of stress (and mermaids don’t do stress!!)  When something no longer brings you joy, it is time to move on. We continue our work to create a protected marine area here by continuing our research tours.  Visit our MPA for OSA page, sign our petition to create the MPA and learn more about our research and the threats posed here.

This has truly been a magical, divine path and I thank God, the Angels above, and the Angels of the Sea for all they have done to make my wildest dreams come true. I am a messenger of nature. I am a messenger of the dolphins and whales in particular. How cool is that? I am truly blessed to share my life with the divine dolphins and whales… and all of you!!

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