On Sunday December 2, 2012 , my wife and I went on the Unique Cano Negro tour of the Canoa Aventura Company leaving on a bus from our hotel in La Fortuna. We got to a river about an hour or so from La Fortuna about mid morning on a bus of 27 people, and when leaving the dock for the 2 hour + river voyage I asked the Tour guide if they had enough life preservers, as the life preservers were visible under the boat's roof above the our heads.
There were only 10 preservers for 27 adults and one baby (about one year old).
When I complained to the tour guide , he came back to my wife and I, and leaned over, and said "Dont be afraid my friend, the boat will not sink".
I said "it is serious that you do not have enough life preservers" . A woman (not my wife) across the aisle said " I have a charter boat Captain's license, and I agree".
He then made a joke of it by asking everyone for a "show of hands" of who was over age 55. He then said " Well, we have enough life preservers for these people"
And he added " The water is only 8 meters deep" (!!!!)
My complaint is that boats of course do sink frequently , for a variety of reasons - engine fires, hit by other boats, metal hull (pontoon) sections fails, steering fails etc. I am in the over 55 crowd, but swim well and have owned some small boats since I was 16 years old. I was not "afraid", but think that a commercial business operating a boat should provide one life preserver (including proper sizes for teenagers and children) for each passenger.
This boat had only adult sizes.
That river has a good fast current and I don't think the mother of the small child , even if she could swim, could manage a child well if the child and mother were not in a life preserver. Many tourists these days are not in good physical condition for various physical or health reasons.
We had been on two other activities the two days before, with different CR La Fortuna companies - a big zip line, and then River rafting - where the companies really were very very safety conscious, so I was surprised at this situation.
Even if it is not a Costa Rica law or regulation, it seems it would be "good industry practice" to provide them.
If 28 people pay US$50 each 6 days a week that is a gross income of $8400 a week. Some should go to purchasing life preservers.
Most people expect life preservers- if you told them ahead of time that there would be no life preservers do you think they would book that tour?