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Selva Verde Lodge Blog

On Saturday October 28th, the SCLC will host a memorial to honor Bertha Carter and her lasting contributions to the Center that came to life from her vision.

Bertha’s Story

The SCLC was founded in 1993 with the help and support of Giovanna Holbrook, founder of Selva Verde Lodge & Private Reserve. Bertha, a co-pioneer and close friend of Giovanna’s, played a major role in the early days of Selva Verde. Having a background in nursing and social work proved useful and Bertha became the Lodge’s first manager. During that time Bertha became well known in the communities of Sarapiquí and Chilamate as a supporter of educational opportunities for local youth as well as a voice for empowerment of women in the region. After several years of working and growing the Selva Verde Lodge, Bertha approached Mrs. Holbrook about establishing a library with the purpose of providing local people access to knowledge, information and opportunities. Mrs. Holbrook shared Bertha’s vision and agreed to build the Center on the grounds of the Lodge, where it still stands today.

SCLC by Greg Basco blog

The SCLC’S Mission

The Sarapiquí Conservation Learning Center became operational in 1993, and today is registererd with both the United States and Costa Rica, as a fully independent non-profit organization.  The SCLC focuses its efforts in four areas—environmental education, community development, conservation and tourism. The overall mission being to help foster the growth of future environmental leaders, raise the organizational capacity of local communities, promote sustainable land use, and connect tourists with local communities. To accomplish these goals the SCLC has created several programs including: environmental education, rural tourism activities, English classes, community outreach, women’s groups, and more—programs that are mutually beneficial to community members and tourists and create opportunities for cultural exchange.  The programs, led by international volunteers and community members, serve hundreds of local people and thousands of eco-tourists each year.

Bertha’s Dream Realized

The SCLC as whole is a library, in that it provides access to information and opportunity; however it’s also a library in the traditional sense and currently houses over 3,000 volumes of books. The Biblioteca Publica Sarapiquí-Heredia, part of the SCLC, continues to grow and now includes a computer-based digital library. The Center is also officially “Intelligent Center,” with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MICITT) and provides access to internet, and technology services, as part of national effort to provide digital access to rural communities. With 15 new computers, the Center will be able offer courses in dirver’s education, online courses and a program for the blind. The Center also runs a Mobil Library, which brings reading workshops into local communities with limited access.

All in all the Center is thriving and Bertha’s legacy will continue to prosper in her memory. This Saturday the 28th we will join together to celebrate Bertha Carter, a woman whose life is a testament to the power of dreams dared to be realized.        

Selva Verde Lodge: Rebuilding our Bridge

Andrea Holbrook

SVL Bridge by Jessica Manieri blog

Over the many years and many visits that I’ve been privileged to be a part of Selva Verde’s story, I’ve come to find my favorite places at the Lodge.

One of them is the covered bridge that leads out to rooms 34-45. Here the walkway is an earth-toned, sheltered skyway that curves in harmony with Sarapiquí River. The hard wood flooring, with its rich hues of reds and browns is not only functional but also a work of art. Another special place is the balcony on one side of the upstairs dining room that overlooks the reserve. Here you can sit, enjoy a cup of coffee, see the monkeys and birds and watch their behavior for hours.   And finally, another spot of significance is our bridge-- which connects the Selva Verde Lodge’s grounds to the Lodge’s private reserve situated on the other side of the Sarapiquí River.  This suspension bridge spans roughly 170 meters in length and it joins the Lodge to the magical world of the tropical rainforest and all the biodiversity it protects.  In short, the bridge is the connection between the Lodge and its reason for being—the rainforest. 

For this reason, I am delighted to share the news that the bridge is being completely rebuilt to serve our needs for decades to come.  Our existing bridge, built about 8 years ago, requires an overhaul to ensure that it remains stable and sturdy, so we engaged a local engineering and construction firm to take on the project.   The new bridge will maintain the original site and utilize the existing towers on either side of the river (17 and 13 meters in height), though they will be reinforced.   The main cables, flooring, siding and rails will all be new.  The bridge will also be a few centimeters larger in width. It will maintain its length of 170 meters from entrance to the beginning of the forest. The rebuilding began in July of 2017 and is expected to be finished by November or December of this year. 

December cannot arrive soon enough. I can’t wait to stand on the new bridge, at some of my favorite old-time spots, and gaze out over the river and tree canopy that lines its banks.  I’ll peer the 12 meters down at the rushing water to catch glimpses of the big Guapote fish, swimming furiously against the Sarapiquí’s current, but still surfacing in short bouts above the water.  If I am lucky I’ll see the prized Sunbittern stealthily fishing along the river, and maybe even hear the beloved raucous calls of the Great Green Macaws, before quickly turning my gaze skyward to see them soaring overhead.  

The bridge at Selva Verde was and will soon again be our connection to the rainforest’s timeless beauty.

I wonder, are any of my favorite spots the same as the many guests that have visited Selva Verde? If I’ve missed any, I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.       

Costa Rica 2017 International Birding Conference
Sponsored in association with American Birding Association, Birdwatcher’s Digest, National Audubon Society, and Swarovski Optik
November 1-5, 2017

Herp1The 2017 Costa Rica International Birding Conference will be held at Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve in Sarapiquí, located amid primary and secondary forest in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica. Though small in geographic area, Costa Rica sits at the crossroads of two continents and is a major flyway for birds in the Western Hemisphere. More than 900 bird species have been recorded in the country, making it a hotspot for birding and a priority for conservation.

The conference is designed for birding organization leaders and representatives who focus on field programs. It features field trips, seminars and presentations on Costa Rica and international topics, such as National Audubon’s International Alliances Program, ABA’s Youth Birding Initiative, and local birding tours that promote sustainable development and community building. Come and learn about these hopeful efforts to protect and manage birds throughout the Americas, share with your peers, and gain insight for your community initiatives.

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Taller de Fotografía de Naturaleza en Selva Verde Lodge impartido por Jaime Culebras (Septiembre  8-12, 2017)

El renombrado fotógrafo Jaime Culebras estará ofreciendo un taller en Selva Verde Lodge sobre fotografía de la Naturaleza. Por 5 días, los participantes exploraran la increíble biodiversidad de Sarapiquí, y aprenderán como capturarla en su esplendor!. adicionalmente el herpetologista Cesar Barrio Amorós, estará presente en el taller. El taller será presentado en Español.

Únete  a Jaime Culebras en Selva Verde Lodge Reserva Privada para un taller de 5 días  explorando la increíble biodiversidad de Sarapiquí y aprendiendo a capturarla en su mejor momento! Además, nuestro buen amigo, el herpetólogo Cesar Barrio Amorós, estará presente en el taller.

No se trata de ceñirse a aprender sobre el manejo de una cámara, sino llegar más allá, entrenar la mente y ojo para hacer de la fotografía nuestro mejor aliado para plasmar en pequeños instantes imborrables los mejores momentos que vivimos en la naturaleza. Se trata de visualizar la foto antes de realizarla, aprender sobre las condiciones ambientales y del medio para así poder aprovechar cada instante en el campo, marcando la diferencia entre la típica foto y una foto que rompe lo cotidiano.

Selva Verde Lodge tiene la suerte de encontrarse en un enclave incomparable, las tierras bajas de la vertiente atlántica de Sarapiquí, una región con una explosión de formas y colores naturales que le confiere un valor añadido a este taller, para exprimir al máximo ese enigmático mundo que es la fotografía de naturaleza.

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Clay Taylor 1Clay Taylor, Leader and Naturalist Market Manager for Swarovski Optik Make your reservation to see spectacular avian diversity, and then leave your binoculars and spotting scope at home. Sound crazy? Not when Eagle Optics and Swarovski Optik team up to offer you an amazing bird trip and outfit you with top-notch Swarovski binoculars. Costa Rica is famous among birdwatchers; this small country encompasses only 0.03% of the earth’s surface, yet provides sanctuary for nearly 900 species of birds or 5% of the world’s biodiversity.

Join Swarovski, Eagle Optics, and an expert Costa Rican guide to see tropical birds like you have never seen them before. With a limited number of spaces available, you should make your reservation now. Once the trip is over and you are convinced you can never go birding again without Swarovski Optiks, you have the opportunity to purchase the Swarovski binoculars at a discounted price. Sign up now for a Swarovski birding experience you’ll never forget!

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Herp1SARAPIQUÍ, COSTA RICA - The III Amphibian and Reptiles Conservation International Symposium and Field Exploration was recently held at Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve amidst primary forest in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica. The symposium featured presentations and workshops, conservation and herpetological organizations and individuals.


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5 Logo oficial simposio1 225x300Official Logo

Experience four days and three nights in Costa Rica—home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity—trip to one of the herpetology hot spots of Central America. The III Amphibian and Reptiles Conservation International Symposium and Field Exploration (first called The Costa Rican International Herpetological Symposium) will be held September 22-25, 2016, at Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve in Sarapiquí, located amidst primary forest in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica. Though small in geographic area, Costa Rica has one of the highest densities of herpetofauna in the world with more than 440 species of reptiles and amphibians.

The  symposium  will  feature  presentations  and  workshops  about  conservation  and  herpetology  by organizations  and  individuals. Come  and  learn  about  new  findings  and  research  from  all over  the Americas  and  beyond, or  see  how  you  can  share  your  own  work  with  conference  participants.

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10 white crowned parrotWhite-crowned Parrot

The white-crowned parrot is a small, perky and robust bird with a disproportionately large head.  It is common and widely-distributed in Costa Rica, most often encountered in semi-open agricultural areas with scattered patchy trees. The species is abundant in the Selva Verde vicinity where it is characteristically most active in the early morning and late afternoon.

These parrots are almost entirely arboreal. They virtually never forage on the ground. Their main diet comprises the seeds, nuts and fruit of palms, Inga and Erythrina, sometimes damaging orchard fruit or corn.

White-crowned parrots are extremely social birds, spending most of their time in flocks with 30-50 members. Each flock is a highly-organized social unit, lacking any specific flock leader, but having a complicated structure shaped by the necessity to detect and avoid predators.

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selvaverde small 08Robert Alison photo

The collared aracari is a small awkward-looking toucan with a prominent enormously-oversized bill. It is fairly common throughout its 500,000 square mile Latin American range, and frequently seen at Selva Verde Lodge, where groups of aracaris often visit bird feeders and forage in local fruiting trees.

All 35 members of the toucan family occur exclusively in the New World tropics. There are 14 species of aracaris, all with slender bodies, richly-colored plumage and banana-shaped hollow bills. None of them are usually found far from forested areas, and most are generally encountered in groups of 6-16 individuals.

Collared aracaris seem to do everything in groups; foraging, loafing and even sleeping together. These birds are among the 16 species of Neotropical birds that have elaborate kinship behavior that includes cooperative care of offspring by non-parents. Research in Costa Rica

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2 red lored parrot r alison 278x299Red-Lored Parrot

Sonographic analysis shows that many local vocal dialects occur within the total range of the species. These dialects are distinct and reflect the general reluctance of these parrots to venture far away from their home areas; consequently geographic vocal variance occurs within subgroups. The vocalizations are innate, but parrots that do venture into new areas rapidly learn the dialects they encounter and thereby avoid being shunned as outsiders.

Red-lored amazons (Amazona autumnalis) are about 14 inches long; the striking plumage is mainly green with red speculum, forehead and lores.

These are vigilant birds, and often quite nervous, spooking noisily at the approach of human or other intruders. But, in the Selva Verde area, most are quite approachable–except in the vicinity of nests. Recent studies confirm that one of the most critical factors contributing to the breeding success of this species is its overall shyness and wary aloofness, and in particular, its inconspicuousness around the nest site. Such behavior minimizes the chances that a nest will be discovered, and potentially destroyed by predators.

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14 keel billed toucan 2 r alison 300x201Keel-Billed Toucan

The keel-billed toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) is a spectacular species with a preposterously over-sized bill, and one of the most recognized of all neotropical birds. Measuring 20-25 inches in body length, it is one of the larger toucans.

Its rainbow-colored banana-shaped bill is its main distinguishing feature. The structure is actually hollow and comparatively weightless, its keratin skin shaped by slivers of bone. Despite its large size, the bill is used with great dexterity, to toss food items into the air; the head is then flipped upward so the food falls into the mouth. The main diet comprises fruit, the seeds of which are excreted whole; consequently, this toucan is an important disperser of forest seeds.

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Shining Honeycreeper 00Shining Honeycreeper

The shining honeycreeper (Cyanerpes lucidus) is one of two similar and strikingly-colored honeycreepers common in upper level forests and semi-open areas of Costa Rica. The bright yellow legs and feet of the shining honeycreeper are a primary distinguishing feature. At Selva Verde, it is most often encountered in pairs or small family groups.  Although its prominent curved beak is specialized for nectar feeding, its main diet comprises succulent fruit.


The call is an unimpressive series of sharp staccato chitters, often intermixed with high thin peets.  Researchers confirm this species illustrates the general rule that birds with elaborate colorful plumage often have inferior vocal endowments.

After pair formation, males of this species use song to stimulate females and to maintain the pair-bond. Often, song is used by both adults simultaneously, in duet fashion. Tests show that in this species, there is much individual variation in vocal components and local song dialects occur. The high degree of individuality in song is important for pair members attempting to maintain contact in thick cover.

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11 costaricafeb08 131 300x201Blue-Gray Tanager

The blue-gray tanager (Thraupis episcopus) is one of about 230 species of tropical and subtropical tanagers, and one of the most common and unmistakable birds in Costa Rica. It is a generalist frugavore (fruit-eater), found in a great variety of different habitats, most often in pairs.

It is plentiful and highly visible at Selva Verde, where it regularly frequents bird-feeding trays. Its primary diet comprises succulent fruit from trees, shrubs and vines. Recent studies confirm it has remarkable discriminatory capabilities and can detect 0.09 percent protein variations in food.

These tanagers are restless, always on the move. Their call is a raspy squeaky twittering. In flight, they are easy to distinguish because they seem to bounce through the air, alternatively flapping their wings, then gliding with the wings tucked close to the body.

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ara ambiguaGreat Green Macaw

The great green macaw is arguably the most spectacular bird at Selva Verde. At almost 32 inches in total length and weighing close to three pounds, it is the 2nd-largest New World parrot. It is easily recognized by its robust body and long tail. It has an extraordinarily powerful bill and dexterous toes that grasp food items that are being eaten.

 Unfortunately, despite its iconic status, the future of the great green macaw in Costa Rica is precarious. In 2006, it was listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and since then its numbers have continued to decline. At present, it is believed there are no more than 200 in Costa Rica; the breeding population is roughly 35 pairs. Selva Verde is on the edge of the range of the last remaining population in Costa Rica; none of the approximately 20 known active nests are in the Sarapiquí zone, where Selva Verde is located.

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4 Rufous Motmot r alison 300x200Rufous Motmot

The rufous motmot (Baryphthengus martii) is the largest of six motmot species in Costa Rica; three others occur elsewhere. Motmots typically have short broad beaks, often decurved, and striking plumage coloration. There is no significant sexual dimorphism.  All motmots in Costa Rica  have two elongated central tail feathers; racket-tipped because loosely-attached barbs upshaft fall off, leaving much of the shaft itself bare.

These are mainly solitary birds, sometimes occurring in pairs, which usually perch inconspicuously in shade, with the tail swinging frequently like a pendulum. Foraging involves aerial sallying from a perch, capturing insects and plucking fruit from foliage.

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3 Slaty Tailed Trogon r alison 300x200Slaty Tailed Trogon

The slaty-tailed trogon (Trogon massena) is one of 40 species of trogons with similarly compact bodies, arboreal habits and colorful plumages. Most are sedate and characteristically perch upright, with the tail almost vertically downward. The flight is typically undulating, with brief spurts of rapid wing beats, and is silent. The birds perch in one location, rarely hopping or stepping from branch to branch; the feet are small and appropriate only for stationary perching.

They are among several trogon species that regularly occur at Selva Verde, often observed in clearings close to the guest lodgings and dining room, especially early in the morning. They are obligate frugivores, although they sometimes eat insects, and might even consume small lizards on occasion. They focus their foraging activities in the upper and middle levels of lowland forest, where they are especially fond of ficus and palm fruits. They often frequent the fig trees at Selva Verde.

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