Fila Tortuga, an FBV classic and one of my favorite houses for many reasons. I have had the pleasure of meeting both prior and present owners of this incredible home and they are equally amazing!
When first arriving at Finca Bellavista back in 2012, I was in absolute awe of this enchanted world but I also didn't know anyone (besides my girlfriend at the time - that's a whole other story), speak any Spanish or knew just how much I actually liked rum. Well that soon changed when I met @Laurie and Leo and Abby.
I felt so welcomed by this lovely Canadian couple that even in a far away country in the middle of nowhere, I felt at home.
As volunteers, we would often head out to Fila Tortuga once finishing our evening duties for chats and...you guessed it, RUM.
It was simply magical, especially when the fog would roll in. It was here that I learned Leo and Laurie's story and how they came to be owners at Fila Tortuga.
It almost seems like fate when you listen to them tell their story. Both Leo and Laurie where getting on a puddle jumper / hopper (otherwise known as an airplane) flight from Palmar Norte (about a 40 min drive from Finca Bellavista).
While waiting to board the plane, they saw an FBV banner in the airport and it intrigued them. Once boarded, they discovered only 2 other people on the flight....yup, Mateo and Erica, the co-founders of Finca Bellavista.
The idea of a sustainable community in a country they loved captivated them.
Leo and Laurie went back to Canada but soon called Mateo to discuss options and were back onsite less than a month later. They had mapped out the property in their back garden, both envisioning 2 pods separated by a walkway - Laurie wanting the keyhole doorway (great decision and constantly used in photos) and Leo wanting an outdoor shower - always a great decision!
After spending a day walking the property they had been recommended, it was decided and well, the rest is history (conveniently sorted and pasted below for your viewing pleasure).
(Tip: yell before coming around the corner, the shower is the first thing you see 😅)
In January 2011, Fila Tortuga started to make its mark within the community
The entire house was built using locally sourced wood - a mixture of Cyprus and Teak. All the furniture was hand made by the local staff working at Finca Bellavista at the time a.k.a the man, the legend 'Jesus Amado' (sadly not working for Finca Bellavista anymore but has moved on to bigger and better things so very happy for him 😀).
Leo and Laurie imported the glass sinks from the US and taps from Canada. The French doors were made by a local carpenter and the glass blocks as well as other supplies were purchased at hardware stores in Uvita.
One element of the design they changed during construction was the roof. With help from Mateos friend (a builder in Colorado), Leo designed the roof structure to include a copula, which is nothing short of spectacular!
The way the sunlight hits the wood as the shines through the roof and screens is just stunning!
Leo is a retired steelworker from Stelco Ontario, loves the outdoors, hiking and building - he was made for Finca Bellavista. I will always remember the 'FILA TORTUGA' cry he would belt out when arriving at basecamp, it always put a smile on everyone's face (and enough warning to hide the rum).
Laurie enjoys hiking, swimming, the outdoors and spending time with her dog 'Abby'. She is a Nurse Practitioner and Assistant Teaching Professor at the University of Victoria (currently still employed as Leo spends all her money 😂)
Sadly and what we consider a great loss to the community, Leo and Laurie had to leave their jungle paradise due to many factors but mainly because Leo needed a hip replacement and their need to move to the West Coast of Canada from Eastern Canada.
I often smile to myself when hearing a return volunteer or someone who knows both Leo and Laurie scream out 'Fila Tortuga' and hope to one day hear those words again from their own mouths. While they are not here anymore, I can tell you that they loved bringing friends and family down on vacation with them, getting to know all the volunteers from around the world, conversing with the employees and LOVED jungle zip lining.
When asking them what some of their favorite memories of staying in the home were both Leo and Laurie responded saying ' spending as much time out of their clothes' 🤣 - they did ask me to mention that they are not nudists (but then there's the outdoor shower at the entrance to the home......). Can't say I blame them or that @Amy and I don't do the same, we've even come outside and found @Martin Ká enjoying our plunge pool in his birthday suit (word of warning, if you let it happen one time, it becomes routine)
All joking aside, what they really enjoyed was being present for 6 weeks during the build (Leo), having the wildlife surround them in the home - Toucans, agouti, monkeys, snakes, butterflies, parrots, aracari, spiders, cockroaches (they embraced them all) just to name a few. The misty nights when the clouds rolled in, the fire flies that came out and the sounds of the jungle to fall asleep to.
Needless To Say, it was very sad to see them leave and I didn't think Fila Tortuga would ever be the same. They shared some wisdom before they left which I will share with you:
"Safety first! Wear rubber boots on the trail, use dense woven screens to keep no-see-ums out. Take care of your property, best if occupied, and not left alone as animals will invade. Keep up with weather proofing (marine varnish). Things get moist avoid cotton clothes and leaving electronics unattended. Seal the tree house up as much as possible from the insects."
Leo and Laurie were an amazing addition the community, they really and truly embraced the essence of Finca Bellavista and certainly helped shape its path. It's hard to imagine Fila Tortuga having better owners and I was sad to see them go. Who would take over this little paradise, will they scream 'Fila Tortuga', would they fit into the community, but maybe most importantly, will they drink rum?
YES! The essence of Fila Tortuga lives on.
Leo and Laurie sold the property to the perfect owner. A former volunteer and good friend to both myself and @Amy -
I give you, @Lance Kittel everyone!
Lance came to Finca Bellavista back in March of 2015 as a volunteer. At that time I was the Property Manager and with Amy's help, we managed the volunteer program. Luckily Lance was a straight up down to earth dude so there were no problems (Just as well as unbeknownst to me, our roles would soon revolve and I would be working for him 😂).
Lance had a different story to Leo and Laurie, a sad but beautiful one. The year before arriving at Finca Bellavista, Lance tragically lost his mom. He was 21 years old at the time, of course losing a family member at any age is difficult but I can't even to begin to imagine what emotions Lance was and is still going through.
I know Leo and Laurie took this into consideration when negotiating with Lance, they felt what we all felt - he had to be the new owner of Fila Tortuga.
Lance purchased the home in honor of her memory - check out this awesome video 'Matt Rath' did for Finca Bellavista where Lance talks more about why he bought Fila Tortuga an how his mom watches over the home.
So Lance becomes the new owner of Fila Tortuga, the spirit and essence of both his mom and home live on. He found solitude in his new home and celebrated the life of his mom by enjoying coffee on the main balcony while listening to the serene soundscapes of the rainforest. He has since decorated the house with artifacts and souvenirs from countries around the world and brought countless friends to Finca Bellavista to share in his experiences.
He has been a great owner for 5 years now and while we don't work with Lance anymore in a professional capacity, we have all become great friends and were even blessed enough to meet his girlfriend Skylar when he brought her onsite the first time.
We were fortunate enough to watch their ❤love grow and honoured to attend their wedding in Colorado - August 2019.
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