Born December 20, 1979, Sofía was raised in Heredia, Costa Rica. From the ages of 6 to 10 she lived in England, which accounts for her very good command of the English language. Both her love for nature and her country, comes from memories of her childhood when her parents took her to the many of the National Parks of Costa Rica.These trips were a major factor in her decision to study Biology at the University of Costa Rica.
Sofia began working with us as a Naturalist Guide in November of 2003. What she liked the most about guiding was the opportunity help her guests reflect on the complicated relationship between man and nature. "I am not an extremist," she says. "Many conservationists see only one side of the story. I like to give a balanced picture."
When Sofia was in training as a guide, here is what legendary biology teacher from Nolan High School in Dallas, Dr. Joe Kuban, had to say about her: "She was absolutely wonderful. The students were amazed that she was just a naturalist guide-in-training. I think she is mature beyond her years. Clearly, she has a grasp of ecology and natural history of organisms in Costa Rica...I would highly recommend her for any group visiting Costa Rica. She has the right passion and motivation/work ethic to be a fabulous guide."
After 7 years as a Naturalist Guide, Sofia and her husband Luis Alonso have started family. Their son, Gael, was born November 23, 2010 and Sofia is expecting a baby girl, Zoe. As a result, Sofia has decided to apply her knowledge in the field to designing itineraries for Guests first as a Travel Planner and then in May of 2012, as Operations Manager. Her experience in the field and as a Travel Planner is sure to be a great asset to Operations. When not working or taking care of Gael, Sofia enjoys all kinds of outdoor activities with her husband, Luis Alonso, and playing with her four Labradors, Lucca, Scott, Nico and Mia.
Jul. 10, 2008 “I shall never forget the wonder and beauty of this entire experience and the generosity of heart and beautiful natures of those who made it possible.”
I truly do not know where to start to thank you for the fantastic trip you planned for our little group of three. There is no doubt that we were treated royally and were made to feel so special that all of the team who made this trip possible are to be commended for a job exceptionally well done. I have recommended the same trip to all of my six children and their families. They all would absolutely love it! There is nothing that I did on this trip that my children, their spouses and the grandchildren could not do - with one exception. My daughter Annie is expecting a child in December so she has booked me to accompany her on this very trip seven years from now. The other nine grandchildren range in age from 6 - almost 18.
Sofia Cordero is a most amazing young woman - wise beyond her years. She is so knowledgeable about everything that we feel like we were privileged to get a course in Costa Rican history, architecture, topography, culture, flora, and fauna - all in six days, and while having enormous fun and feeling pampered at the same time. (It doesn't get any better.) Sofia is also an amazing psychologist. This young girl was dealing with a number of factors which would have made "Dr. Phil" cry. I had no idea that Mercedes' sister, Helga, had any restrictions as to her activities. But Helga is recovering from cancer and was either limited in what she could do, or was afraid to try something. Sofia always managed to make Helga feel extremely comfortable, not the least bit awkward, found an alternative for her, or encouraged her to participate if Sofia felt it was something Helga could possibly handle.
The turtle mating, turtle egg-laying, botanical tour of the Tortuga lodge gardens, river tour through the rainforest were all perfect for Helga. She could not do the white-water rafting, so Jonathan took care of her while the rest of us did it - they met up with us at the picnic area - a picnic we all adored! Helga did take a chance on the kayaking and although she couldn't do the zip-lines, Sofia saw to it that she had a ride in the gondola through the rainforest.
I am also very grateful for the multiple trips to the airport to pick up Helga due to her not having the yellow fever shot and missing her original flight. Sofia was also so very sweet to both Mercedes and me - she is the epitome of patience. Never once did she make us feel like we had to hurry. The words "Don't worry, be happy!" come to mind when I see Sofia waiting for us at the van with Jonathan. She was like a little guardian angel - always watching out for us and our welfare. One funny example of this was on our second night at Tortuga Lodge, there was a huge cicada on my window making that amazingly loud sound. Although she was in the building next to us (and on the second level), she heard the cicada and decided to check it out. Seeing that is was on my screen (love the no windows), she gently picked it up and put it back in the woods. I heard her and was able to thank her for allowing me to get to sleep. I also love the fact that no one would kill anything - not even a fly.
Then there is Jonathan - a perfect gentleman. He was always on time, the van was always spotless and thoughtfully provisioned (bottled water always available); we were never allowed to lift anything, he always stayed with the van so we never worried for a second that anything might go missing, he was always there to let us get "just one more thing" from our bags (about 100 times). Keeping the van clean was an extraordinary feat considering all the snacks we ate, water we drank, and the picnic lunch we ate while driving to the zip-line park. But somehow, during the time we'd leave the van and return - it was as if Mr. Clean appeared miraculously. Again, he made us feel very safe and secure and he was a fabulous driver. The last day, just after we did the zip-lining and were headed to the airport, there was a terrible rain storm. Normally, we would have been nervous wrecks because we passed two horrible accidents - overturned truck and overturned bus. But Jonathan drove so carefully that we all just relaxed - and got to the airport in plenty of time for our flight.
Abel Vargas could not have been a more perfect guide for our little group - I realize that now even more so after looking closely at all the photos, which Mauricio took. Aside from having a wonderful personality, Abel was an amazing rafting guide. He worked so hard that I believe I could say he was not only doing all the work, but he was quietly correcting what little paddling Mercedes and I were attempting to do, often not even doing it "together". That whole day trip was fantastic and the lunch was truly memorable. Abel is also to be commended (or committed) for his sticking with the van until the end. Driving home from Pejibaye, it started to rain and we got caught in traffic due to a fatal car accident. This extended the ride by at least 1 ½ hours. Sofia thoughtfully called ahead to the Finca Rosa Blanca to change our dinner reservation so we were fine about it all. Having passed through the town that Abel lives in on the way to the river that morning, we suggested that he be dropped off at his home rather than go back to San Jose and then have to drive home so late. He wouldn't hear of it and insisted that he see us back to the hotel. I believe almost anyone else would have grabbed at the chance to get home at a decent hour and not at a terribly late hour (only to have another trip the next day). Abel's kayaking guide, Alejandro Contreras, was also wonderful. I believe he is trying out for the Olympics being held this August in Beijing. I asked him to please let me know if he makes the team because I would like him to meet my son - Jim Bell - who will be producing NBC's Today Show daily from Beijing. Perhaps we can arrange an interview with him. I renew that request here and would seriously like for him to contact me at any of my coordinates below to advise on the results of his try-out.
Don (Fernando Estrada), our personal boat captain just radiated confidence. He was so clever at spotting all the animals in the forest, had lots of patience waiting for us to take photos, was very kind and gentle - sensitive to my somewhat bad hip every time I had to get in or out of the various boats or kayak. His narrative on the turtle egg-laying was incredible. You can see how much the Costa Ricans wish to protect "their" turtles and are justifiably very proud of their ecological accomplishments to date. What a wonderfully worthy endeavor! The Costa Ricans are years ahead of the USA and anyone else I know of in the matter of environmental sensitivity - we all can learn a lot from Costa Rica.
Walter, our personal waiter, took amazing care of us. Helga is a vegetarian so Walter made sure she was aware of the contents of every dish on the table. Because she doesn't eat a great quantity, we were all able to try her dishes. The food at the Tortuga Lodge was absolutely gourmet. I had no idea what to expect - but certainly did not anticipate eating like a king (queen) as we did. Four courses at every meal - oh, dear! Of course we couldn't waste any of it. When I get a list together, I'd like to request some of the recipes.
I could go on and on about all the others at the lodge who were so polite, friendly, helpful. They really work as a team - none of that "That's not my job", or "That's not my table", etc. I really feel like they were part of my family and I was a part of theirs. We were warned in the beginning that we would be "at the mercy of Mother Nature". However, we simply lucked out and the weather never once interfered with any scheduled activity. I absolutely loved all the "surprises" - picnic at the Pejibaye River, Prosecco compliments of Michael, second go at the turtle egg-laying, and the pièce-de-résistance - the utterly magnificent dinner on the promontory. Completely indescribable! Greetings with piña coladas at the dock, magic lanterns hanging from every tree limb, hors-d'oeuvres at one table, dinner at another and kicked off with a fantastic creation of a Caesar salad by Walter, skewers of grilled beef, pork, shrimp, scallops, and vegetables, roasted potatoes and yucca served by Walter, Louis and Dona Gloria, and all topped off by another fantastic creation of Bananas Foster - again by Walter. I shall never forget the wonder and beauty of this entire experience and the generosity of heart and beautiful natures of those who made it possible and thus contributed to an indelible memory I shall carry for the rest of my life. Thank you for this dream come true. Pura vida forever!
Rosemary Bell, FL
Feb. 13, 2008 “We had some excellent service and a very comfortable stay.”
Dear Mike and Natalie: Thank you for your message. Here are some quick notes about our trip: First of all, let us thank Priscilla Jimenez, who was extremely precise, quick and helpful in planning our trip. We've had some wonderful times in CR. We've seen everything we wanted to see and even more. Our guide Sofia Cordero was absolutely wonderful. She's very skilled, knowledgeable, caring, explains a lot of interesting facts about CR showing that hint of enthusiasm that makes her so delightful to be with. Our driver Ramon, as well as all the other drivers we've had, was very skilled, prudent and respectful of traffic laws.
Hotels were wonderful. Grano de Oro is something to be seen... Arenal Manoa has huge rooms and a view that is worth the trip. Jardin del Eden is absolutely perfect with friendly people and a very good restaurant. We've only been a little disappointed by the town of Tamarindo. Inside of the hotels everything is like paradise. Outside, the town is dirty, the roads are unpaved, there's no water draining so pools of mud are everywhere, at night nobody's around and that makes you feel a little unsafe. Our opinion is that Tamarindo has been through a 'Reverse development' process... hotels first, infrastructures after... but infrastructures are more important that hotels, only they don’t give revenue in the short run... To summarize, a wonderful vacation. It was expensive, that's true. But we had some excellent service and a very comfortable stay. Thanks to all at CRE!
Paolo & Silvia Rossi, Italy
Sep. 10, 2006 “Costa Rica Expeditions is truly a world-class company who has raised the bar of expectations for service.”
Michael & Natalie: We will be providing a response to the two questions you posed before we went on the study group tour soon. However, we felt compelled first to write about the stark contrast between the great service of your staff and that of Air Canada when Tove's bag went missing on the way to San Jose. Air Canada squandered every opportunity to make up for their mishandling, while everyone from CRE went well beyond the call of duty to assist us.
It began at the airport where the AC agent was not sympathetic to her plight: no clothes, toiletries, or essential medicine. No idea of how they would deal with us leaving San Jose for Tortuga Lodge before the bag would arrive on their next flight. Not even a 'care package' so Tove could brush her teeth! Then we came out of customs to a most patient CRE transfer guide (Alejandra I believe - sorry for the spelling) who immediately gave Tove a package with essentials plus a T-shirt. And she told us how CRE would take over the effort to get Tove's bag and get it to us.
My last contact with Air Canada was to let them know CRE would be acting for us. They were not very communicative then. And from what I can tell, not any more so when your staff contacted them. Come Monday, we were informed by your staff at Tortuga Lodge that the bag had not arrived on the Air Canada flight. In fact, Air Canada did not know where the bag was. When there was no more information by Tuesday, your team sprang into action.
First they organized for your doctor to write prescriptions for Tove's heart medicine and for those drugs to be flown to Tortuga Lodge. Then they prepared a package for Tove that included essentials like underwear, more T-shirts, and a pair of Capri pants along with the meds. Herrol Mora, our travel planner, included a nice note apologizing for our inconvenience (even though it was not your fault). The medicine was becoming essential, but the rest was both unexpected and deeply appreciated. And finally the bag arrived and your staff brought it to us on the bus that picked us up for our return to San Jose.
We want to mention specifically the effforts of Herrol, Sofia Cordero our guide, the manager of Tortuga Lodge (Jonathon?), and Alejandra who were the folks who helped us directly. At the same time, we realize there were others behind the scenes who also helped us. We deeply appreciate the concern and efforts of all who were a part of helping us out. These efforts certainly went well beyond what could have been expected by any company not responsible for the problem in the first place. Everybody took every opportunity to turn this into an event where we would come away saying: Wow, that was great!
This simply confirmed our feelings that Costa Rica Expeditions is truly a world-class company who has raised the bar of expectations for service. We believe this is something organic that can only come from enlightened leadership, such as you have obviously provided (v Robert Milton of Air Canada). And is manifest in the way your staff go about their work with a smile on their face, a concern for the guests, and a commitment to do what it takes to make our time in Costa Rica truly memorable. We can assure you of two things: we will be returning again to Costa Rica perhaps many times, each time we will be with CRE, and we never miss an opportunity to spread the word about such a remarkable company and its tours. Please let everybody know how much we appreciate their efforts.
Aug. 8, 2006 “I had an excellent experience with Costa Rica Expeditions.”
I apologize for my delay in replying to your email. Once again I have had an excellent experience with Costa Rica Expeditions. Sofia was a wonderful guide (full of information) and I must also give credit to Don Fernando who operated the canal boat and who was our turtle guide during our nighttime visit to the nesting sites.
As always all the activities flowed together very nicely even when it was necessary to make adjustments due to the weather or when is was more appropriate to modify the schedule to a more suitable time. I do have a problem with sitting off and relaxing (I am working on this) however, I will say that Sofia ensured that there was always something for us to participate in if we wished to do so.
I hope to be back in Costa Rica in January or February 2007, during which I hope to catch at least one of the Costa Rican festivals…It was a pleasure to meet you (Michael) at the Parque Del Lago Hotel In San Jose and once again Costa Rica Expeditions has put together a most enjoyable trip to Tortuguero.
Jan. 9, 2006 “A magnificent itinerary.”
Hello Ms. Alpizar: Yes, our family made it safely back to West Palm Beach, after a wonderful, relaxing and stimulating trip to your beautiful country. I want to thank you and your colleagues for co-coordinating a magnificent itinerary. Your attention to every detail was impressive and I will not hesitate to recommend your company to friends and family who are contemplating a visit (as did my co-workers).
Sofia Cordero was always cheerful, extraordinarily helpful and very knowledgeable. We were lucky to have such a delightful and poised young woman as our naturalist guide, and your company is fortunate to have her services. Carlos was a reliable, accommodating and competent driver
I also want to thank your company for your departure gift, an appreciated reminder of the natural beauty that we experienced last week. Pura Vida!
Aug. 8, 2005 ''Your planning suggestions and advice was perfect for our family.''
Dear Ana Luz: Thank you so much for the incredible job you and all those at Costa Rica Expeditions did for our family trip to Costa Rica. It was superb from the moment we arrived through drop off, and I can appreciate all the "behind the scenes" coordination that had to take place while we were there.
All of your planning suggestions and advice was perfect for our family, and we couldn't have done more in our 7 days there! Next time, we'll have to come for longer.
I especially want to commend the guides, and please let your managers and directors know just how much we enjoyed and learned from each of the following: first, for our river rafting trip, a huge thank you to Alejandro "Super" Mario, and of course Diego, who won the heart of my son, Ford. It was the highlight of their trip, and they can't wait to come back for the overnight.
Second, to Federico on the way to Tortuguero he enlightened us and taught us so much about Costa Rica's land, many exports, and crops. Thirdly, and most importantly, because we spent so much time with her, Sofia. She was like a text book on History, Geography, Ecology, Conservation, Animal Science and everything under the sun. The kids couldn't have learned more in a year-long class about Costa Rica!
Please feel free to pass this letter of thanks and recommendation along to everyone there who helped on this trip. I know what an undertaking this is, and to have it executed perfectly is extremely rare. I would surely recommend Costa Rica Expeditions to anyone traveling to your beautiful country. A most sincere "gracias" from the whole Bruch family.
Susan, Forrest, Ford and Emily
Jan. 17, 2005 Guide's "ability to sight the awe-inspiring wildlife at a blink of an eye."
I wanted to write a quick note about Sofia Cordero. She was the guide of my recent trip to Costa Rica which was organized by Caldwell College, a small liberal arts college from New Jersey, USA. If it were not for Sofia and Ramón (our driver), the trip would not have been nearly as extraordinary. Their knowledge, ability to sight the awe-inspiring wildlife at a blink of an eye, kindness and generosity was astounding. I have a master's degree in Biology and Environmental Policy and I found that Sofia's knowledge often surpassed my own. Because of her, my knowledge of, and respect, for Costa Rica grew exponentially. She is a true asset to your company as well as to Costa Rica in general.
Dec. 18, 2004 ''Our experience with Costa Rica Expeditions has been nothing short of delightful.''
My boyfriend and I would like to thank you for the wonderful time we had while we were in Costa Rica. Our experience with Costa Rica Expeditions has been nothing short of delightful--from the travel arrangements which Rebeca Zuniga facilitated, the punctual pickup from our hotel, the great food, the friendly and hugely efficient staff at the tent lodge, and most of all, our tour in Corcovado.
Sofia Cordero, our guide, really made the trip for us. She was very knowledgeable, and very kind. I cannot imagine how we would've fared in the rainforest without her! She also provided us with some valuable insight about Costa Rica, which was just as important as all the wildlife that we saw.
The downside is now, my boyfriend refuses to travel to another country without a guide, but I think it will be very difficult to find someone as good as her!
To Sofia, Rebeca, Olman (who flew in to Corcovado with us), Elyer (the wait staff at the tent lodge), and everyone else in Costa Rica Expeditions, our warmest gratitude for a most memorable experience!
I would also like to commend Costa Rica Expeditions for your efforts in protecting Costa Rica's precious resources, and for sharing with us outsiders how important it is to do so. Staying at the Corcovado Lodge Tent Camp has been one of my most guilt-free indulgences.
Jul. 20, 2004 ''It was one of the best vacations we've ever had, which says a lot since we take 2-3 major vacations per year!''
Dear Michael: We can't thank Fiorella and Costa Rica Expeditions enough for the excellent work arranging our trip to Tortuguero, Corcovado, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio. It was one of the best vacations we've ever had, which says a lot since we take 2-3 major vacations per year!
The entire trip was flawless and exceeded our expectations. The transfer guides and drivers (specifically Luis, Sofia, Henry, and Daniel) were friendly, enthusiastic, and always prompt. The national park guides (Fernando in Tortuguero, Fillo (Rufilio) and Mishi in Corcovado, and Carlos in Monteverde) were knowledgeable, had keen eyes for spotting cleverly camouflaged wildlife, and genuinely seemed to enjoy their work. And the hotel staff at each of your three properties went out of their way to ensure their "legendary service led to unforgettable memories." The staff in Tortuguero went out of their way to keep our group of 10 (new friends we met while traveling) together on various tours, and even prepared special vegetarian meals on request. Aaron and Ricardo in Corcovado were always around to make sure everyone was taken care of. And the staff in Monteverde had all our damp clothing from Corcovado laundered and returned to us within hours of our arrival. We also have to commend the kitchen staff in Corcovado - who knew that such excellent cuisine could be found in such a remote location.
All our vacation pictures are on our web site - please have a look at http://www.whywework.com/travel/cr/ Please feel free to link to our site, or if you would like the original of a particular picture just let us know which ones and we'll send them.
We had to rack our brains to come up with suggestions - a lot of people were asking if they could buy "Corcovado Lodge" t-shirts. We would have bought one had they been for sale. Same with those laminated wildlife cards. Actually...now that I think of it, you should set up an online shop.
Andy & Jennifer Martin
Apr. 9, 2004 “We were very pleased with every aspect of our experience.”
Dear Mr. Kaye: We were very pleased with every aspect of our experience with your company. Fiorella Miranda helped us to plan and execute a perfect day tailored specifically to our requests. We were especially pleased with our guide, Sofia Cordero. She was intelligent, articulate, energetic and charming! It was a pleasure to do business with such a professional, customer service oriented company.
Jan. 20, 2004 ''The rafting trip (was) one of the highlights of our trip.''
My family and I just returned from an awesome Costa Rican adventure that was made infinitely more pleasurable due to the professionalism and personal care demonstrated by the folks at CRE. From the first minute of our arrival when the CRE representative knew us by our first names to the last minute before our departure when we had to say goodbye to a new friend, the CRE the folks made us feel welcome and at ease.
Our encounters with the CRE folks were always on time, attentive to our every need, provided responses to our every question and proved to be our friends as well as business associates. The handling of our white water rafting adventure was an excellent extension of our Costa Rican adventure. The guides were very knowledgeable about teaching newcomers to the sport how to behave as a team, instructing us in safety (and practicing safety), and showing us how to enjoy the adventure to its fullest. At one point my wife turned to our guide and thanked him for taking such good care of us.
Besides relating our sincere pleasure with CRE, I would like to acknowledge the folks responsible for giving making our adventure so memorable. Ricardo (Driver) and Sofia Cordero (Guide) met us at the airport and accompanied us to our first destination in the Arenal region. They were gracious, friendly, knowledgeable, and concerned about our every need. They again accompanied us to the seaside resort area of Tamarindo. They selected a beautiful place to stop for lunch and provided much detail about the countryside and Costa Rica in general. My entire family looked upon them as friends by the time we were to part for the last time. I cannot say enough good things about them. We miss them.
Other persons I would like to mention are Manuel and Jorge Segura, our white water rafting guide and safety kayak operator. They succeeded in making the rafting trip one of the highlights of our trip. Manuel was very professional in his handling of the team on the river, yet in a very friendly way that eased the tension felt by the first-timers, including myself. It was a pleasure to be guided down the river by two very competent and talented individuals.
Thank you for taking the time to review my comments made on behalf of my entire family. Your team was so instrumental in the success of our adventure. If possible, please take the time to acknowledge the team members mentioned above. I apologize for not having their last names at my disposal. They are at home but I would be able to provide them if needed. We wish you continued success in your quest to provide many memorable moments to many people. I do hope we will enjoy the opportunity to be guests in Costa Rica on other occasions. CRE will be the first call we make.
Richard, Barbara & Evann