My Xandari Villa

My third time to visit one of the most expensive hotels that I like in Costa Rica gives me a third different and bigger room/villa. I rarely show this many photos of a room, but because it is unique, I decided to this time along with the Art in My Villa, yesterday’s post.

This “room”  is called a “King Junior Suite” meaning just one king size bed in multiple rooms or spaces, a large suite or villa. They call all their rooms villas because most are in separate buildings and all are large.

From the lobby and restaurant main building, you walk through the gardens on a beautiful winding, paved path to the entrance of #5 in this case:

Private Entrance Compound

Kitchenette by front Terrace

 

Living Room

 

Valley-View Terrace

 

Bedroom

 

Bathroom

20200112_144317-WEB
Shower behind blue wall overlooking private garden. Toilet in separate room behind me.

This exceptional hotel is just 20 minutes from the San Jose Airport, thus a starting and ending location for many international tourists coming here, like the people I visited with this time from England, Germany, France, Canada and the U.S.

Yet they are immersed in a tropical rainforest with hiking trails, 5 waterfalls on the river, wildlife, both wild and cultivated flowers, a small farm for the kitchen, a wonderful Spa and restaurant. Some things are worth paying more for!   🙂   I do this occasionally here while other times I “rough it” in the wilderness to be closer to nature. I like both experiences! And the way Xandari combines both luxury AND nature! Plus now they house the Charlie Doggett Photography Library!   🙂   That alone makes the visit worthwhile!   🙂

Luxury is attention to detail, originality, exclusivity and above all quality.
~Angelo Bonati

¡Pura Vida!

Xandari Costa Rica

Xandari Birds

I’ve seen more birds at Xandari in the past, but 15+ is not bad for this close to the city on very windy days! No new birds for me though this second time to photograph a Rose-breasted Grosbeak shows up the “rose” color more than my earlier shots in Monteverde. And I love the way the Yellow-throated Euphonia appears to be hollering at me in the feature photo! 

Otherwise most of these are pretty bad photos which I will blame on the wind and the dense dark forest, making birds most difficult to photograph. The pair of Lesson’s Motmots are more interesting than my usual solo shots of them and that blue tail maybe the best motmot tail yet for me!   🙂

My main reason for going to Xandari this time was to install my “Charlie Doggett Photo Books Library” in the lobby of the hotel for guests from around the world to enjoy and I even got to observe some guests using the books already! Plus I just love this little nature retreat with 5 waterfalls, 4 miles of nature trails, some of the best flower gardens anywhere along with spacious villas for rooms and super-good food and private jacuzzis! A very relaxing retreat again!

Xandari Birds 2020

 

Xandari Nature Resort

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.”

― Robert Lynd

¡Pura Vida!

My Costa Rica Birds Gallery

My Photos in an Art Gallery

One reason I was happy that Xandari would house my library of Photo Books is that the entire hotel is an art gallery with art literally everywhere, inside and outside. It was built by an Artist/Architect and his wife an Art Teacher. In another post I will display the art in my villa this time – different every visit!

The above stained glass window is in the reading room of the lobby and my photo books are on a book shelf at the entrance to that reading room. In earlier Tennessee days I tried to sell photos at art fairs calling them “Nature as Art” which fits this arty nature retreat very well. I’m happy to be a part of Xandari!

 

Today was my very full day with an early morning birding hike with excellent guide Jose and a lovely couple from England, followed by breakfast and a tour of the only Starbucks-owned coffee farm in the world which I will tell you more about later, then an afternoon late lunch, relaxation massage, a desert at dinner time and I’m ready for bed! With lots of photos to process tomorrow, my last full day here.

¡Pura Vida!

Xandari 2018-Enchanted by Nature
Just one of 29 books in the library!
Brilliant Book cover
And the other one about Xandari!  Plus all of my other Costa Rica photo books!

To see all of my Costa Rica Photo books, go to My Bookstore at Blurb where you can preview any of the books for free electronically! Best if viewed in full screen mode of course!   🙂

2020 – Year of 7 Favorite Hotels!

I am slowing down a little in 2020 – at least slower for me – but will not totally “act my age” in the year I turn 80! I just finished detail travel plans for this year with about half as many week-long trips as in 2019, 7 instead of 13! More time at home writing, but when out I will follow this unidentified quote:

Get lost in nature and you will find yourself.

My 7 trips are each great nature adventures, as I require, even with 6 being repeat locations! Each trek’s hotel heading is linked to that hotel’s website if interested:

Xandari Nature Resort, Alajuela 

Brilliant Book coverThis is in many ways my favorite hotel and nature retreat, though not my best birding place. And is one of the most expensive! But it has as much nature overall as any of my favorite places, plus 5 of their own waterfalls on property, plus excellent service, rooms, and food plus the best of all hot tubs or jacuzzis! (And more birds than at home!)

It is very relaxing in every way and they treated me royally on my birthday last year, plus this year (next week) they will be installing the only complete library of my Costa Rica Photo Books in their lobby as one of their many art exhibits for the enjoyment of other clients. More about the only Charlie Doggett Photography Library next week!   🙂

 

And for photo galleries of my two previous visits to Xandari:

 

Savegre Hotel & Nature Reserve, San Gerardo de Dota

Near Savegre Mountain Lodge, Costa Rica, 1-30-09I’ve wanted to return there since my first short visit on a birding tour in 2009 while still living in downtown Nashville. I’ve returned to San Gerardo de Dota twice since then as the best place in Costa Rica to see and photograph the Resplendent Quetzal! I’ll include links to those two other lodges visited below in case considering the area for a visit.

This little mountain village is adjacent to the grand Quetzal National Park and is a wonderful place for many different kinds of mountain birds or cloud forest birds. And one of the few places in Costa Rica where it gets cold at night! They even have fireplaces in some of the rooms!  We rushed through Sevegre on the birding tour with just two nights, so I expect to get more birds and an overall better and more relaxing experience on this five-night visit. My photos from previous visits to San Gerardo de Dota:

 

Talari Mountain Lodge, Chirripó  NEW for me

001-IMG_7207-WEBThe Chirripó Mountain is the tallest in Costa Rica and for a certain group of Tico young men, climbing to the top (overnight with one night on the mountain) is a sort of “rite of passage” for the real outdoors young man here, some before high school graduation.    🙂

I visited the area in 2015 on my way to the birding club visit to San Gerardo de Dota for just two nights in the Rio Chirripó Lodge, a sort of yoga retreat and B&B which was very nice. I hiked past the entrance trail to Chirripó top but went on into the private adjacent Cloudbridge Reserve for birds and two beautiful waterfalls and no tall mountain climb for me!

In this same area is Los Cusingos Biological Reserve where the first big birder in Costa Rica, Alexander Skutch, lived and wrote the first birding guides for Costa Rica. Thus I have always wanted to visit it and the nearby Los Quebradas Biological Reserve . So my goals are those two reserves and maybe the popular Fincas Suizos Birding Tour along with many birds on the lodge property along a river. This whole area on the Pacific slope is supposed to have a large variety of birds not found in other places. It is near San Isidro del General, the biggest town in southern Costa Rica, but no flights there, meaning I will have another half-day + bus adventure cross country!

Photos from my brief 2 days in the area at:

 

Maquenque Eco-Lodge & Reserve

Maquenque BookMy second visit to this favorite retreat and #1 birding spot that ranked first place on my birding lodges list the other day as having given me the most bird species (53) photographed at any lodge in Costa Rica over the last five years!

Plus I will get to sleep in a tree house room again for my 80th birthday! (Yeah! A lot of steps up to a tree house, but steps keep an old man young!) It is my kind of place in almost every way with excellent service, great room, and very good food, though maybe not the best. Their guides are excellent and I will expect a lot of bird and other wildlife photos again this time! Photos from my last visit:

 

 

Hotel Banana Azul, Puerto Viejo in Caribe Sur

South CaribeAnother favorite hotel that I never tire of even though not the best for birds like Maquenque. It is the location, people, service, attitudes, the great “Howler Suite” room that I must reserve a year in advance and the excellent food.

One of the most relaxing places I go and I’m becoming a regular there! Plus great for photos of many things beyond birds in nature and wonderful sunrises! See my photo galleries of past visits for some of my favorite photos:

 

 

Rancho Humo, Palo Verde NP

Rancho-HumoAnother favorite hotel that has almost everything! Luxury room, gourmet food, and lots of birds and other nature to photograph! It could become another regular that I just discovered last year. It is on the Rio Tempisque river across from the Palo Verde National Park and possibly the only place in Costa Rica you can photograph a Jabiru Stork along with lots of other birds.

It is different from almost any of my other favorites here with more of a ranch or cowboy atmosphere which is part of a real working ranch with around 800 head of cattle along with all the nature. I look forward to returning and here’s my photos from last year’s visit:

 

Arenal Observatory, Arenal Volcano National Park

ArenalObservatoryAnother favorite hotel of mine in almost every category from birds to food and service! And it is very popular for both tourists and Ticos. This will be my third time here and the photos below will show why I like it so much.

It is the only hotel around Arenal that is inside the national park (long story) and in the most natural surroundings of any and the closest to the volcano that you look not out at, but up to! Plus it is on the lake for gorgeous sunset photos, also from my room (I have a favorite room here too! #29).

There’s a birding tower that I love, plus lots of trails, a huge waterfall, a farm, and horseback riding for those that wish – not my interest- and other things off the lodge property like the largest butterfly research place in Costa Rica and more birding trails!

 

And with this many repeats, am I in danger of “getting in a rut?”   Well, right now I already have one or two new places in mind for 2021 but I am appreciating knowing what I am getting into and a few of these place I really like, PLUS there are some others I want to repeat but haven’t, like Esquinas Lodge, Cristal Ballena, Danta Corcovado and Aguila de Osa – Wow! But money and energy are going to keep me down to a trip every other month for now and just deal with the fact that there are too many choices in Costa Rica!   🙂

 

All trails seem to lead to waterfalls, misty crater lakes or jungle-fringed, deserted beaches. Explored by horseback, foot or kayak, Costa Rica is a tropical choose-your-own-adventure land.     ~Lonely Planet

¡Pura Vida!

Important UPDATES to last post

My last post dated January 5, 2020 – Ranking Birding Lodges  (image above) was incomplete and I have just edited it to include two more high bird-count places and complete the list with all the lodges I’ve visited regardless how few birds. For the birder at least, it is now much better or more helpful! So please go check it out again by clicking above link!   🙂   And for others I’ve added more comments on the hotel or lodge facilities, food, other activities, etc.

Costa Rica is more than a vacation destination; it is an interactive sensory experience.     –AnywhereCostaRica.com

¡Pura Vida!

Ranking My Birding Lodges

After 5 years of birding in almost every corner of Costa Rica I have a nice collection of Costa Rica Birds I have photographed – 334 Species! (Plus additional birds in Nicaragua & Panama which made 2 of my higher counts below! But those photos are in separate country galleries  along with the trip gallery for each trip and below the link on each place name is to that trip gallery.)

I only count birds I get photos of, unlike most birders, and thus I can say I saw more than the numbers recorded below in each place, while some birders even count ones they hear and don’t see, which is okay if you know what you are doing, but I’m a visual person and thus my counts are only of photos made!

For the places I visited multiple times, I use the highest of the multiple counts for ranking and to show the possibilities for someone considering these places on your birding trips. AND of course this “ranking” is purely on the number of bird photos made, not evaluating quality of room or food or other nature advantages, like other wildlife, landscapes, etc.   🙂

Lodge name link is to my photos of that date’s experience including the photos of the birds. Most are 4 to 6 day experiences.

Birding Lodges Ranked by # Bird Species

85 speciesBirding Tour of Nicaragua  (2016) arranged by Tours Nicaragua https://toursnicaragua.com/  with stays in 2 lodges (Montibelli & El Jaguar) plus visiting 4 outside reserves and I added the colonial town of Granada for Easter Week celebrations on my own. I will return when politics cool down a little or they have a regime change!   🙂   I did a second, shorter trip to just Western Nicaragua (also in 2016) which was very good without quite as many birds; 26 in 2 locations: Juan Venado & Lost Canyon. Tours Nicaragua again.

53 speciesMaquenque Lodge, Boca Tapada, Costa Rica, almost to the Nicaragua border on a river where I spent my nights in a “Tree House Room,” possibly the “coolest” place I’ve ever slept plus the most birds yet in one place in Costa Rica! And the food is good, though not exceptional. But I will return!

51 speciesSelva Verde Lodge Sarapiqui, Costa Rica where that link is to my first visit (2016) with 51 birds including visits to 3 places outside the lodge (most birds at lodge) while on my second visit (2019) I got only 33 birds with just 2 outside visits. The rooms are nice but the food is not particularly good with all 3 meals served buffet style. The grounds are great with most of your best birding done there right along the river. I get more birds there than at the La Selva research station, though it is good and might give you different birds. Because the birding is good, I will return in spite of their lackluster food.

51 speciesTranquilo Bay, Bocas del Toro, Panama (2018) is the only hotel/lodge in Bocas that caters to birders and they really do it well! Their island alone is full of birds and behind my cabin was the best Manakin Lek I’ve ever seen! Then they have multiple tours off their island that guarantee a large variety of birds! Take every tour! The food was very good and individual cabins are big and roomy! I want to return someday!

49 speciesArenal Observatory, Arenal National Park, Costa Rica (2019) is one of my top favorites because of the excellent birding AND the very good food and rooms and I have favorite corner room (#29) with windows facing both the volcano and the lake for the sunsets. You never need to leave for birds, though there are several birding trails outside the lodge you can get a guide to take you too (I have no car) that will up your bird count! Same for other sights, plenty on the property, even a gorgeous waterfall, but more outside you can go to and a nearby Butterfly research center that is possibly the best in Costa Rica, plus several hot springs. They also have on property the tallest birding tower in Costa Rica that guarantees you some closer shots of many different kinds of birds plus at least two kinds of monkeys. I had an earlier visit in 2018 with only 28 birds but just as good or better experience with better frog and monkey shots! I’m scheduled there again for Christmas 2020 and will continue to return! One of my 2 or 3 favorite places in Costa Rica!

47 speciesEsquinas Rainforest Lodge, Piedras Blancas National Park  (2018) near Golfito, Costa Rica. I flew to Golfito and the lodge sent a taxi for me. It was in October with heavy rain most all day every day and yet in the short times the rain stopped I got a lot of birds coming out to feed. Most photos on the lodge property except for one boat trip in the rain in Golfito Bay. Another favorite place with great birding possibilities when not raining plus nice simple rooms and very good “Tico Gourmet Food.” Another favorite place to which I will return!

45 speciesRancho Humo Estancia, Palo Verde National Park, Costa Rica (2018) is a hotel you will enjoy staying in even if you did not see a single bird!   🙂   It has maybe the nicest rooms of any hotel I’ve stayed in, very plush with gorgeous vistas of both sunrise & sunset, plus their food is maybe the best I’ve had in any birding hotel! I love it and will definitely return! It is one of my 2 or 3 top favorites and with a large number of birds and the only place yet I’ve found the rare Jabiru Stork.  I highly recommend!

44 speciesMonteverde Lodge & Gardens Hotel, Monteverde, Costa Rica (2019) is another favorite hotel even without the birds! Very nice rooms and excellent food with the guide services of a real expert with the hotel-connected Costa Rica Expeditions. One of my best guides anywhere. The secret to getting a lot of birds is to go each morning to a different reserve with a good guide and this hotel provides the best! That means staying a week! Each reserve has its own special birds. I loved my week there! Will return!

38 SpeciesCristal Ballena Hotel & Rio Sierpe trip to a wonderful hotel with great food and 20 of those birds were on the hotel grounds! A truly good place to visit plus you can go whale-watching, the main attraction, plus I think the nearby Nauyaca Waterfall is the most beautiful falls in Costa Rica! Subjective opinion on waterfalls!   🙂   Plus you can fly down there and there is a rainforest trail on the hotel property and other beaches and places in the area to visit along with fishing those who like to AND beautiful sunsets when not raining! I happened to go in the rainy season, so was limited there.

36 speciesTambor Tropical Resort, Tambor Bay, Costa Rica (2017) was another fabulous boutique hotel on a beautiful beach with excellent big rooms and great food for my Christmas Week experience there. They also have an excellent husband-wife bird guiding team. Most of my birds were around the hotel including a trail along the river from the bay, plus we went to nearby Curu Wildlife Reserve and to Raptor Ridge. There’s a nearby Tambor Airport so I flew there to avoid the Christmas week traffic when most Ticos are on vacation. It was a great week! Surprised I haven’t been back yet. And oh yes, the Tambor Turtle Rescue Association cabin and nesting area is right on the corner of their beach and Christmas morning I got to release 12 baby turtles! A real treat!

35 SpeciesOrosi-Tapanti-El Copal, staying in a B&B I didn’t like and El Copal private reserve was not open, but got a lot of birds around the reserve and in the Tapanti National Park – a beautiful scenic area all around Orosi with the historical Las Ruinas de Ujarras, a big lake, and two great miradors!

34 speciesDanta Corcovado Lodge, Los Patos Ranger Station, Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica 2018 – Not my highest bird count but one of my most memorable experiences with lots of birds on property plus a guided hike into the national park where I got my only photo of a Blue-crowned Manakin and my best shot of a Red-crowned Manakin which is the only one I’ve seen doing “the Michael Jackson dance.”  I also got my best red-eyed tree frog photo on the lodge property night hike. They have a nice tower for photographing birds in the tree tops even if it is not as tall as Arenal Observatory’s. And their food is excellent with the rooms being large and comfortable even if a little eccentric or qwirky in design. I highly recommend it and will return someday! I met a young Tico guide here that I still relate to on Facebook and another guest there introduced me to the Tamron 600 mm lens I now use on my camera as my favorite ever!

32 speciesHotel Punta Leona, Jaco, Costa Rica (2019) is a very nice hotel, close to being a luxury one with two of the nicest near-private beaches (technically all beaches are public) anywhere on the west coast plus multiple pools and many other activities. It is big and has lots of guests, thus all meals are buffet which I’ve already said I do not like. So I rate them low on food, though you can get a nice sandwich or pizza at the poolside bar!  🙂

They have their own “in-house” birding guide who does morning and afternoon bird hikes which are excellent plus he got me a private guide for Carara National Park which was my best visit there yet with the most birds yet in Carara! Also, they have nesting boxes for the endangered Scarlet Macaw which guarantees you photos of that bird! Plus watch the babies in the nests on their internet “bird cam.”   🙂   I am not a beach person, but  a family with just one birder could find everyone happy at this place!   🙂   It is big with lots happening which is good for a lot of families. I personally prefer the smaller, quieter boutique beach hotel Tambor Tropical Resort noted above.

31 speciesRio Celeste Mountain Lodge, Tenorio National Park & Caño Negro Reserve, Costa Rica (2017) is a quiet little lodge near the national park run by a French couple with nice basic rooms and good food. Lots of birds in their gardens and they have their own “rainforest trail” which like most forests is too dense to photograph birds easily. Only photographed one bird in the national park but lots in the nearby Caño Negro Wildlife Preserve & hotel grounds. The park is famous for Rio Celeste, the river that turns to a turquoise color when it mixes with another river and a turquoise waterfall that I couldn’t see because of storm damage on the trail to it. It was a very interesting experience and I traveled to and from on a public bus which is its own adventure! Other times may be better for birds.

30 speciesTurtle Beach Lodge, Tortuguero,  Costa Rica (2019) plus earlier visits to Laguna Lodge in 2016 and in 2010 – Tortuguero is one of the favorite places in Costa Rica to experience the rainforest with arrival to your lodge only by boat. Even though I liked both visits to Laguna Lodge, I think Turtle Beach Lodge provided me with better guides and more birds. And like all lodges, just walking around their campus is a good birding experience. Plus Tortuguero is the only place I’ve seen an Agami Heron or a wild River Otter. Stay as many nights as you can. A lot of their guests are on country-wide tour buses and just stay one or two nights. 3 nights or more is better!   🙂  Rooms are basic and the food pretty good at both places even though buffet again – both are better than some of the other buffet restaurants, better than Selva Verde.

30 speciesMacaw Lodge near Carara National Park Costa Rica (2019) is one of the best “get-away” lodges I have found, 45 minute drive up the mountain from Tarcoles, partly on a gravel road into the tropical jungle hide-away with the biggest variety of tropical plants and gardens of any lodge yet. There are also a lot of birds, just not the very best for that. The rooms or cabins are large and the food is semi-gourmet with an emphasis on healthy since a lot of yoga retreats happen there. Its a large property with plenty of hiking trails and a big waterfall, streams, gardens for their natural food and chocolate farm plus two yoga platforms. They can call in a local birding guide but I decided to go without one this time and did okay. There is also the option of a local guide taking you into Carara Park nearly an hour away. I passed this time (been there 3 times). The forest experience is excellent and there are many birds and a few other animals. Got an interesting forest sunrise from near cabin 10.

30 speciesRancho Naturalista near Turrialba, Costa Rica, (2017) is one of the few lodges created for one purpose only – birding! And it is very good at that but I think over-rated and there are many other places I prefer to go with friendlier management and more birds. I do give them credit for some of the best birding guides in Costa Rica and my first place to photograph a Snowcap Hummingbird and a Sunbittern, though since found them other places. Every birder in Costa Rica needs to go here at least once! The rooms are nice basic rooms and the food is excellent!  I also was there in 2015 (birding club trip) which is when I had this count of 30 birds with only 26 in 2017 but I got the Sunbittern then and it is the title link.

24 speciesHacienda Guachipelín, Rincón de la Vieja NP  –  If going to this National Park, it is the best hotel with lots of services, excellent birding guides, their own natural hot springs and more waterfalls than the park! It is a terrific experience regardless of bird count and the younger set will like the zip line.

24 speciesTarcoles River, Crocodile Safari Birding Boat Tour  (link is to my 2016 visit with highest count, one of 8 times there)

22 speciesXandari Nature Resort, Alajuela  Link is to my 2019 visit, but the 2018  visit was also good and I’m going again later this month! A top favorite hotel regardless of the bird count!   🙂   My photo books library is being installed there this month! The only place where you can see all my photos in print.

21 species — Roads around El Copal Reserve (reserve not open) Also included in the total Orosi count with Tapanti.

20 speciesCristal Ballena Hotel, Uvita  People go here for the whales but there’s a lot of birds & the most beautiful waterfall in my opinion. The 20 count is just the hotel grounds. It was 38 with nearby Rio Sierpe boat trip!

19 speciesSi como No Hotel Manuel Antonio & Damas Islands  The overpriced hotel with lousy service and food in the overly commercial Manuel Antonio makes it a place I will not return to – but the rooms are okay with great sunset views and the nearby Damas Islands Estuary even better for birds than the hotel or the national park.

19 speciesVilla Lapas, Tarcoles  The count is mostly Tarcoles River & a couple at Carara.

17 species — Banana Azul Hotel, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, another favorite hotel and “get-away” place even if not best for the bird count! A very relaxing, laid back area and hotel with food good enough that I rarely ever eat outside the hotel, though there are many options. Nearby national parks/reserves Cahuita & Gandoca-Manzanillo, plus two Bribri indigenous reserves and three rescue centers provide lots of wildlife photography including birds and you get your best endangered Green Macaw shots at the ARA Center in Manzanillo. I like the whole south Caribbean area and now visit it annually in September, the lowest rain month.  🙂   Trip galleries by years:    2019,     –2018,     –2017   and many more to come! The nearby Almonds & Corals Tent Hotel in Manzanillo was good (below) but this is better!

15 speciesLos Campesinos Lodge near Quepos  (birding club trip)

15 speciesAlmonds & Corals Tent Hotel, Manzanillo in Caribe

14 speciesTapanti National Park  Also included in total Orosi count with El Copal. Pairing places for the same visit is helpful.

14 speciesRio Chirripó Retreat Lodge, Chirripó & Cloudbridge

14 speciesAguila de Osa Hotel, Drake Bay & Corcovado

13 speciesCerro Lodge & Carara Park

13 speciesBribri Yorkin Indigenous Reserve (birding club trip)

13 SpeciesLuna Lodge & Lookout Inn, Corcovado South  Carate, Costa Rica (2009 Birding Tour)

12 speciesTapirus Lodge & Braulio Carrillo National Park   Longest tree tops tram ride in Costa Rica and one of the longest zip lines. Tram is good for birds and this is the only place I have seen a wild Tapir plus a lifer bird, the white-tipped Sicklebill. Constant rain!

12 speciesVilla Caletas Hotel, Jaco  Best sunsets in Costa Rica! Great rooms and food though expensive!

12 speciesMariam’s Cabinas San Gerardo de Dota & Quetzal National Park  (birding club trip)

11 speciesHotel Savegre, San Gerardo de Dota  (2009 birding tour)

11 speciesCarara National Park solo (also counted above in Punta Leona total, but here separately as my best of 3 trips to Carara)

10 speciesSoda & Mirador Cinchona  Best in early morning for breakfast.

9 speciesVilla Blanca Cloud Forest Resort (low bird count but super hotel!)

7 speciesTrogon Lodge, San Gerardo de Dota & Quetzal National Park

And that is all the places I have visited in my first 5 years in order of the number of species of birds photographed. A good start!   🙂  I could rave more about some of the hotels and their services which is becoming more important to me. But this post list is about the birds!

¡Pura Vida!

Firsts of 2020

IMG_8305-A-WEB
Tropical Kingbird

This bird (above & at right) is a Tropical Kingbird (click name for more about him).   He is the first one photographed on my terrace this year,  at breakfast, January 1, 2020.

-o-

Just three weeks before I visited Tapirus Lodge in Braulio Carrillo National Park Christmas Week, David Attenborough and a BBC film crew visited the same lodge and park! I have trouble keeping up with all his documentaries, but hope I see whatever he filmed there!   🙂   Maybe it is part of his new “Green Planet” Series which is being filmed all over Costa Rica?

-o-

Zarcero Community Band was the first & biggest band in the Atenas Christmas Parade I featured in a December 21 Post and was one of the featured bands in the Rose Parade January 1, 2020!  In different costumes of course! See also my Christmas Parade gallery.

Zarcero-Band-A-WEB
Zarcero Costa Rica Community Band & Dancers performing here in Atenas Christmas Parade, also performed in The Rose Parade, Pasadena, California.

 

And a video of the band in Pasadena’s Rose Parade:

 

Costa Rica – The Happiest People on Earth!

¡Pura Vida!

 

 

Braulio Carrillo Gallery

I finally got all the photos sorted, filtered and labeled for a gallery called:

2019 December 22-28 — Tapirus Lodge, Braulio Carrillo   Click to see

As usual, this park and lodge are different from all the others I have visited in the past – a very good experience indeed! Difficult to compare with not as many birds as many other places I’ve visited, but I got decent photos of the rare and hard to find White-tipped Sicklebill Hummingbird, a “Lifer” for me. Also first time shots of a wild Tapir! So those two alone were worth the trip!   🙂   The lodging and food was below what I’m becoming used to in the many nicer lodges around Costa Rica, but the real rainforest experience makes that minus worth the trip! I recommend it with the alert that it is not a luxury hotel!   🙂

For more information check out the lodge website: Tapirus Lodge

Or the National Park Website:  Braulio Carrillo National Park

Happy CR Quote

¡Pura Vida!

 

2019 in Photos

Someone may remember that for “2018 in Review” I did a “Photo a Month” and decided then that it was not the best way to choose favorite photos – like it or not, the best or “favorite” photos are not evenly divided among 12 months.   🙂

So . . . this year I decided to try my personal favorite photo in each of several categories for 2019 – but yikes! This was not easy either and I really wanted more from the category of Birds, which is what I photograph the most – but this is what you get this year and since I used a different bird on my electronic “Christmas Card” earlier, you got that bird too!   And now I’ve decided to include two photos from my December trip to the rainforest AND there’s another bird!      🙂

I kept adding categories to include more photo! Cheating?    🙂    Here’s my personal favorites (not necessarily best photographically) – photos that mean something special to me in each of 18 categories listed alphabetically:

Airplane Shot

Flying in a small plane out of SJO to another adventure is joy! I flew on 5 of  my 12 trips in 2019. For longer distances it is usually quicker and cheaper than my hired driver and with fun photo-ops! See gallery of all my airplane shots since 2009! Costa Rica from above!   🙂

Amphibian

Red-webbed Tree Frog, Maquenque Eco Lodge & Reserve, Boca Tapada, January 2019. See my gallery on this frog (including one at another lodge) or my total Amphibians Gallery.

Art & Architecture

A worker arriving in the morning at Zephyr Palace,Villa Calletas Hotel, Jaco, July 2019 or maybe find other architecture in my Places & Things Gallery or more art in my People, Fiestas and Art Gallery

Bird

A Pale-billed Woodpecker building a home at Arenal Volcano National Park, Arenal Observatory Lodge, November 2019. See my Costa Rica Birds Gallery.

Butterfly

A Dina Yellow Butterfly at Villa Calletas, Jaco, July 2019. See my CR Butterflies Gallery.

Flower

Orchid at Maquenque Eco Lodge, Boca Tapada, January 2019. And my Flowers Gallery.

Forest Sunrise

Sunrise at Macaw Lodge near Carara National Park, June 2019. See also my Sunrise/Sunset Galleries.

Insect (not a butterfly)

Dragonfly at Macaw Lodge near Carara National Park, June 2019. And my More Insects Gallery.

Jungle Sunset

Cristal Ballena Hotel, Uvita, September 2019. Or see other Sunset galleries.

Monkey

Mantled Howler Monkey, Maquenque Eco Lodge & Reserve, Boca Tapada, January 2019 and shot from my Tree House Room!   🙂   See my CR Howler Monkey Gallery.

Mountainscape

The tip of Arenal Volcano seen From the Continental Divide, Santa Elena Reserve, Monteverde, April 2019 or check out my Vistas Gallery.

Oceanscape

Pacific Coast Mountains near Uvita & Dominical, September 2019 or check out my Vistas Gallery.

Ocean Sunrise

At Banana Azul Hotel, Puerto Viejo, Caribe Sur, August 2019. Or see other Sunrise/Sunset galleries.

Ocean Sunset

Villa Caletas, Jaco, July 2019. Or see other Sunset galleries.

Rainbow

Arenal Observatory Lodge, Arenal Volcano National Park, November 2019 or check out my Vistas Gallery.

Rainforest Animal

Tapir at Tapirus Lodge Costa Rica. See also my Other Wildlife galleries.

 

 

 

 

Rainforest Bird

Sunbittern at Tapirus Lodge, Braulio Carrillo National Park, Costa Rica.  See my other photos from earlier in my Sunbittern gallery.

Sloth

Sloth Rescue Center, Cahuita, Caribe Sur, August 2019. Or see my Three-toed Sloth Gallery.

 

Waterfall

Nauyaca Waterfall near Dominical, September 2019 with my Portuguese friends in the photo. See all my Costa Rica Waterfalls Gallery.

 

And yes, I realize that I kind of stretched the landscape category with other “scapes” which I won’t do next year but maybe try for my top 12 favorite photos (17 here) which had I done this year would have been mostly birds. But hopefully these “favorites” will give you an idea of what it is like being Retired in Costa Rica!   🙂   And 2020 will have a lot of great new photos!   🙂  I’m sure!

“As long as I am breathing, in my eyes, I am just beginning.”

~Criss Jami

 

Happy New Year’s Eve!

¡Pura Vida!

 

 

 

Evaluating Rainforest Adventures Lodge

Yes, it is called “Tapirus Lodge” but is owned & operated by “Rainforest Adventures” and even the lodge employees wear Rainforest Adventures shirts and do other jobs within the bigger operation. It is 10 rooms available inside a huge outdoor, nature-oriented rainforest amusement park on the border of Braulio Carrillo National Park, with a second, smaller facility near Jaco Beach on the Pacific side. Most of their business is day visits from nearby hotels including in San Jose plus from cruise ships in Limon on the Atlantic.

Someone responded to one of my blog posts this week with a comment that she was coming to Tapirus Lodge in the next three months and my posts helped her to choose her “tours” or activities but asked for more info. I am copying what I told her earlier today (Sunday) and will then present several slideshows to illustrate what I am saying:

If you love nature you will probably like it very much! Be aware of a few things that are different from what is implied in their lodge website:

(1) It is a tiny room, very basic with non-reliable hot water in the shower. And I had to ask for fresh towels each day the first 2 days until they learned I wanted them daily. So humid that a used towel never dries! There are 10 rooms in 5 buildings (like duplexes).
(2) It rained constantly for the 6 days I was there, day and night, with maybe 3 hours of sunshine one morning. You can still see and do a lot in the rain, but expect it any time of year there. It’s a rainforest!
(3) The food in the restaurant is basic with limited choices, the “tipico” (Costa Rican) breakfast being my favorite. Lunch is a buffet with lots of day visitors not in the lodge including from cruise ships some days. I avoided that and it did not look that appetizing. For dinner there is a choice of chicken, fish or beef with a couple of preparation options. The staff is wonderful! Super nice young waiter (just the one)! No bar, but beers & wines available.
(4) They have one of the longest zip-lines in the country and the longest canopy tram ride which this old man preferred and rode twice! I don’t zip in the rain! 🙂 All of this gives the place the feel of an amusement park, though deeply immersed in nature! Their “Birding Tour” was super good and worth the cost! The room comes with free morning & night nature walks of about an hour each. Great! Don’t miss those!
(5) Their butterfly garden had only one species my week (blue morpho), but the frog and snake exhibits were extensive and the orchid garden limited but nice. Some hiking trails are open for residents and a few require a guide.
(6) The National Park is just 5 km away if you have a car. I did not and the lodge took me in their shuttle bus. Two very nice trails that are easy to hike, even in the rain! 🙂 But I did not see many birds or other wildlife except for one wet sloth. A lady ranger was very helpful there, but you are own your own hiking.

Later I will have a photo gallery posted of my trip and will announce it on the blog.

¡Buen viaje!

 

In short, I prefer more “creature comforts” and gourmet food than I got here, and less rain, but overall it is a great place to experience nature in a rainforest – including the rain!   🙂

 

10 Rooms in 5 Cabins

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Grounds Around the Rooms

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Tourist Attractions

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Birds I Got

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Other Wildlife

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Tapirus Lodge

¡Pura Vida!

And tomorrow will be my annual Photo Review of the Year – 2019 this time!