Costa Rica: Your Teachers & Guides

After visiting Costa Rica for the first time in 2008, Vanessa Chakour felt called not only to return, but to share what she had found while studying medicinal plants and developing a relationship with the land and people of Puerto Viejo. 

You’ll get to know following local teachers & guides – 

Ancel Mitchell has been a practicing botanist and herbalist for 10 years in Costa Rica. Born and raised in Scotland, she has also lived in England and the US. Her deep connection to nature and sense of place feeds her creativity and curiosity which push her ever deeper into exploring the natural environment. A Waldorf educator for over 20 years, Ancel delights in bringing new and different perspectives into her teaching, making her classes rich, fresh, and fun. She leads our students in plant ally work, bringing local knowledge, intuitive questions, and a delight in the relationships between plants and people into our time together. Ancel also co-facilitates the Magic, Medicine & Myth retreat in Scotland.


Dexter Lewis has been working with the Jaguar Rescue center for the last 8 years and is our guide to their work with the animals. The center is a temporary or permanent home for ill, injured, and orphaned animals. With a focus on birds, reptiles, amphibians and small primates, it provides veterinary services, round-the-clock care and comfort to animals that would otherwise be unable to survive in the rainforest or the sea of the Caribbean. He’s also a great surf instructor! So, if you want lessons while you’re in CR, he’s the guy to go to.



Victor Umaña is an incredible cook, jungle guide and herbalist born and raised in Puerto Viejo. Having learned from his grandparents and other elders, Victor now openly shares his healing wisdom with friends and family. His new business, Wolaba Tours, encourages visitors to see the rainforest from the eyes of a “bush man”, teaching the magic of the plants through sensual experience out in the field.


Mary Mullen leads traditional Lakota style Purification and Healing Lodge ceremonies, and teaches ceremonial singing and Tai Chi. She has dedicated years of her life to training on how to lead these ceremonies. One of Mary’s primary teachers has been Miguel Rivera along with Glenn Shiffman, both of whom were original students of Lakota Elders Wallace and Grace Black Elk. Each year, she returns to the U.S. for the American Horse Afraid of Bear Sundance to sing. She “healing song” classes, which incorporate her years of experience in Native American ceremonial singing and drumming, as her studies with Pranic healer Master Choa and the African drummer Francis Awe. Mary also sings with several Women’s Moon Dance drum groups in Costa Rica. Mary leads sweat lodge ceremony, where she will teach us ceremonial songs

Tino Grenald is one of the most knowledgeable naturalists on the Caribbean. A former Park Ranger, he’s been leading groups through the lush rainforests of the Caribbean Coast since 1992. Tino will hike with us through the Gandoca-Manzanillo reserve, pointing out caimans, howler monkeys, frogs, snakes and whatever other wild creatures we may encounter along the way. 




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