Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Selva Bananito Lodge

Our first destination outside of San Jose was specifically picked due to its location on the Caribbean slope, as this was one area we needed to cover to maximise our coverage of the habitat of the country and its species.

We therefore picked Selva Bananito Lodge.  The drive there is long and involves some of the infamous roads of Costa Rica (which we should note apart from these main choke-points were generally being radically improved nationwide and are much better quality than just two years ago).

As we approached the lodge, south of Limon, we noted the clouds hugging the mountains and drove under them.  We didn't see the sun again for a week, including across two further locations.

The lodges itself are well built and comfortable, though the entire property is without electricity and/or internet.   Being the second most expensive place we stayed on our trip we were frankly expecting a lot more than we got.  The lodge is run on the basis of sustainability however that felt more like a cover for cost-cutting.  The food was very basic (and cheap) and the drinks were inaccessible outside of pre-set meal times.  When it rains you are basically trapped.  The birding paths are also used for horse trails.  I assume this works when it's very dry, however mix in rain and you have foot-deep sucking mud holes.  We set out on a hike with two other guests, both of whom went over in the mud shortly after we set-off.  This meant the primary reason for being at the lodge, for us at least, was rendered redundant, other than the birds directly around the buildings so this was an expensive disappointment.

Couple this with the owner's use of forest volunteers as cheap labour (they were planting water hyacinth in a pond not trees in the forest when we were there), running a small pack of dogs to chase off the monkeys and other wildlife (we saw them hunting twice in three days as they are kept hungry) and the staff not wanting to show people snakes as the owner has them killed 'for safety reasons' and you can see why the whole eco-lodge message didn't sit so well.

Costa Rica however does have abundant wildlife and is a fascinating place so we made the best of it while counting down the hours until we moved on.

This tree outside our room was one of a number with stunning bark:


A Scarlet-rumped Cacique was close to our lodge:


A Cocoa Woodcreeper ascends one of the trees:


A brief hiatus in the cloud and rain saw a Squirrel Cuckoo appear:


It soon clouded over again though and rained although not before we'd seen this White-fronted Parrot:


We went out on a guided walk with the knowledgeable, affable and friendly guides, with welly boots provided but still only got as far as the sucky-mud tree (a distance of some 400 metres), we did however see this lifer for us and indeed the guide (and he'd been working there for 17 years), a Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle:


Back in our lodge in the gloom, a Boat-billed Flycatcher perched outside:


This was the first trip I used a flash to augment the images, and as you can see from this Collared Aracari, it really does help:



Sometimes natural light is all you need though:


As well as the birds Costa Rica has an amazing array of other species including around 1,000 butterflies:


All sorts of spiders:


We took ourselves out for a short walk limited by the weather and the facilities but did get to spot a few more species including this Violaceous Trogon:


 American Pygmy Kingfisher:



Black-cheeked Woodpecker, which is a very vocal bird:


The rain did stop from time-to-time but we were under cloud pretty much the whole time we were at Selva Bananito.


This tree caught the eye during one of the dry patches, a Rainbow Eucalyptus:


So not the most auspicious of starts to our trip - we'd seen many fewer birds and species than expected and spent three mostly frustrated days at the lodge.  We'd also had to evacuate our car, being a 4 by 2 and with rapidly rising river levels we couldn't risk getting stuck on the way out. We were towed across as part of a convoy of vehicles all being moved off the site.  One thing Selva Bananito is good for though, probably uniquely so, is the Great Potoo.   They perch on various trees around the buildings at dusk and are clearly audible and visible in the early part of the night, a great bird to see and one we didn't expect on this trip.  We were still very glad to be on our way though come the third morning.

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