Tuesday, May 29, 2007

10. Selva Verde Lodge (5/29/07)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007
As we pulled up to the Selva Verde Lodge, a man ran out to open the gate, and Enrique backed the bus into an open-air carport attached to an open-air lobby. One guidebook called this accommodation the "Sheraton of the Jungle", but it was more like a Disney World attraction with the friendly uniformed staff and lush decoration. 
The lodge was started in 1985 by Giovanna and Juan Holbrook of Holbrook Travel (then of Miami, but now in Gainesville, FL), as a way to save 500 acres of primary forest with 70 acres of secondary forest. It was one of the first eco-tourist ventures in Costa Rica. It has rustic lodges of rooms elevated on wooden platforms, connected by covered wooden walkways to the main lodge, restaurant and bar, and a conference room.
Selva Verde rooms
Covered walkway
We were given room keys and had lime green bands put on our wrists with our room numbers written on them, as if we were at Adventure Landing for the day! Again, Linda had us assigned to the rooms farthest away. We were lucky to get a room right on the river, although it could barely be seen through the undergrowth. However, you could hear it.
Peek at river from our room
Each room had a hammock out on the deck.
Brynne in hammock (Photo by Kent)
No glass windows, just openings that were screened, but there were shutters to close off the openings. A huge ceiling fan kept us cool in the room.
As we headed to the dining room for 1:00 PM lunch, Linda & Jerry pointed out a Green Basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons), which took a lot of pointing and directional cues to find against the jungle greens.
See the basilisk? (Photo by Kent)
How about now?
Then Kent spotted another one, a female.
Also spotted an iguana.
(Photo by Brynne)
We were early, so sat on the Sarapiqui Terrace on the bank of the Rio Sarapiqui in a couple of the wood and leather rocking chairs.
Tamiko & Brynne - Aaah! (Photo by Kent)
Saw a Green Kingfisher (Chloroceryle americana) at the river's edge.
View from the terrace of river and suspension bridge
View down the river
The dining room overlooked the terrace and the river. Lunch was buffet-style and tables sat four. There was a salad bar, a choice of two entrees, a couple of sides, and choice of beverages. Today we had pork chops with pineapple sauce, rice, fried yuca, and red beans. When a dining room employee cleared your table, she gave you dessert - today a strawberry flan.
At 1:30 we were ready for our orientation on the terrace with Ivanni. Learned about the facilities and the activities available. Selva Verde Lodge is designed for minimal impact and participates in Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST), a program setting standards in key aspects of sustainability including environmental impact, community impact, and building environmental awareness. It is a voluntary program monitored by the Costa Rica Institute of Tourism.
We checked out the gift shop and purchased stamps to send postcards back home. Many people went to use the pool, but we toured the facilities and wrote postcards. 
When we went to meet for the 4:00 PM hike in the Selva Verde primary forest, we heard that the others had seen a Green and Black Poison-arrow Frog (Dendrobates auratus) along the path. Jerry Anne pointed out where it had hopped into the underbrush, and it was still there!
Green and Black Poison-arrow Frog (Photo by Brynne)
Suspension bridge entrance
We met at the suspension bridge and wandered across, getting stopped at the other end by a locked gate. They are serious about you having a guide in the primary forest! Jimmy had the key, and we started out after some of us picked up walking sticks from a stand full of them. Brynne spotted an anole. Now if the green and black frog was 2 inches long, the Strawberry Poison-dart Frog (Dendrobates pumilio) was an inch or so long. And even though the sky was darkening (and we could hear thunder in the distance), Jimmy found a 1/2-inch long dark brown toad in the dark brown leaf litter!We had a lesson in global warming, learned we were in a Caribbean tropical wet forest with some primitive plants, including giant-leafed palms and a rough-leafed plant, both on the forest floor.
We heard, then hunted until we found, a Semi-plumbeous Hawk (Leucopternis semiplumbeus) and a Chestnut-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos swainsonii). Heard Great Green Macaws (Ara ambigua) and saw them fly high overhead. Linda spotted the tail end of a black snake and a bullet ant. Just before we crossed back over the bridge, a large butterfly flew past us and landed on a post.
An Owl Butterfly (Caligo sp.)
Cocktails (COLD Cokes and Bavarian beer) on the terrace, then dinner of salad, vegetable soup, green rice, pork with mushrooms, carrots, beans, spinach tortilla, and dessert of caramel swirl cake.
After dinner was a "lecture" by Jerry & Linda in the conference room. The room was open and we had to shush the teenagers tramping by. We had two great power point presentations on the mutual symbiosis of neo-tropical ants and an introduction to rain forests.
The Stumpes went on a flashlight hike on walkways, looking for eyeshine. Near our room we saw a tiny green shine (a spider?). Then we noticed that it remained shining after the flashlight was turned off. A lightning bug? We found a lightning bug in our room.
We had a water pitcher and glasses in our room and there was an ice machine and filtered water station along the walkway.
Brynne had ants in her bed. We brushed them off and surrounded her bed with a perimeter of bug repellant. She didn't have any more problems the rest of our 4-night stay.
Our room
Next: 11. La Selva Excursion.