Our fourth habitat was rainforest all the way. We stayed at Selva Verde Lodge and spent an entire day at La Selva Biological Station of the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS). As we left Selva Verde for our final destination, we stopped for about 2 hours at Braulio Carrillo National Park. (Click on any of the maps below to see a—slightly—larger version.)
Located on 500 acres of primary rainforest adjacent to Braulio Carrillo National Park, Selva Verde Lodge and Rainforest Reserve dates back to 1982—a time when Giovanna Holbrook (yes, of Holbrook Travel—the agency that Road Scholar/Elderhostel used for all travel arrangements) purchased a large section of old-growth forest in the area of Río Sarapiquí that was about to be clear-cut. A dream and—eventually—a world-renown eco-lodge were born. With headwaters in the Central Mountain cordillera just north of San José, Río Sarapiquí empties into the San Marcos River, along the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border.
Founded in 1963, OTS is a consortium of more than 60 universities and research institutions from Latin America, the U.S., and Australia dedicated to research, education, and the responsible use of the natural resources of the tropics. It operates 3 biological stations in Costa Rica: Las Cruces, on the southern Pacific slope; Palo Verde, in Palo Verde National Park in the northern Pacific lowlands; and La Selva, stretching from the Caribbean lowlands to the base of the mountainous Braulio Carrillo National Park.
We would be spending the day at the station at La Selva. La Selva was one of the first private protected areas in Costa Rica. Made up of almost 4000 acres of both disturbed and old growth tropical rain forest at the confluence of the Sarapiquí and Sucio Rivers, with 35 miles of maintained trails, its grounds boast 448 species of birds—nearly half of the species found in Costa Rica—70 species of bats, 5 of the 6 species of felines in Costa Rica (puma, jaguar, ocelot, margay, jaguarundi—only cat missing is the rare oncilla), and, just for fun, 500 species of ants.
Our farewell experience with the rainforest was Braulio Carrillo National Park, which we visited after we left Selva Verde on our way to the mountains. Founded in 1978, the park was established to protect the land that was made accessible by the highway to Limon and Guápiles. The park was named for the 3rd president of Costa Rica, in office in the mid-1800s. Carrillo proposed the construction of a road connecting San Jose with the Caribbean coast so that coffee grown on the Pacific coast could be exported to Europe without need to sail around the southern tip of South America. Currently protecting 118,000 acres, the park’s altitude ranges from more than 9,500’ in the Volcán Barva to a mere 200’ above sea level.
Click here to read about our first rainforest foray at Selva Verde.