When Rafael and Claire came to Tortuguero in 1987, there was almost no visitor coming in, no running water, no public transportation or health center. They both felt in love with Tortuguero magnificent rainforest and discovered the sublime connection between rainforest and cocoa. For them, cocoa is the rainforest candy.
Later on, Rafael worked for the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (today the Sea Turtle Conservancy) to create and organize the first sea turtle tour in Costa Rica. This proposal was legally approved by the government to reduce the negative impact during sea turtles nesting season, by the increasing tourism activities.
Since the number of visitor kept increasing, they created a NGO (2001) to protect the rainforest of Tortuguero, as well as to provide environmental education and training courses for the local guides. One of the most important accomplishment by this NGO has been the purchase and protection of a buffer zone, right next to the boundaries of the national park, keeping it safe from the expansion of the village. A biological station run by the Asociation of Volunteers for the National Parks (ASVO) has honored Rafael by naming it “Robles-Kaufman Biological Station”, and after his partner in Ohio, USA, PhD. Donald Kaufman, the sponsor and director of the fundraising campaign.
For 30 years, Rafael has been a naturalist guide all over Central America for companies such as NatGeo, Lindblad Expeditions and others. He is author of several field guides, trail designer consultant, environmental education and guide training professor.
In 2016, in a new journey of their life, Rafael & Claire decided to open the Cacao & Chocolate tour in Tortuguero village. They are running Casa Cecropia together, as a place where to rescue local cultural features and to provide ecological experiences, for the nature & cultural lovers coming to Tortuguero.