Why is the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica such a favorite place to visit?

April 4th, 2014

For me, the Osa Peninsula is one of the most worthwhile places to visit in Costa Rica. The small stretch of remote rugged jungle in the southwestern corner of the country, bounded by the deep blue Pacific Ocean to the west and the placid Golfo Dulce to the east, is renowned by scientists, explorers and nature lovers as an astounding paradise.

Covering an area of 700 square miles, this last remaining stretch of tropical humid rainforest in Costa Rica is estimated to hold 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity. The natural report card is impressive:

  • More than 700 species of trees, with close to 80 being endemic
  • 463 types of birds, including the largest population of Scarlet Macaws in the country
  • 140 species of mammals, including the exotic tapirs and jaguars
  • 117 kinds of reptiles and amphibians
  • More than 25 kinds of dolphins and whales
  • 4 types of sea turtles

The southern Pacific Ocean, and especially Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf), are vital breeding and reproducing areas for endangered hammerhead sharks and the world’s migrating Pacific Humpback Whales. Activists have begun a campaign to create a “Multiple Use Marine Protected Area” for the waters along the entire coast of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, to safeguard the abundant yet threatened marine life.

The Osa Peninsula protects more than 366,000 acres of land and sea in at least 13 national parks, wildlife refuges and private reserves – the largest being the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve (149,593 acres), Corcovado National Park (104,900 acres), Terraba Sierpe National Wetlands (66,850 acres), and Piedras Blancas National Park (34,642 acres).

This is the spot that spawned Costa Rica’s eco-lodges and gave rise to the burgeoning industry of sustainable travel in Costa Rica.

What to do on the Osa Peninsula:

Where to stay by the Osa Peninsula

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is an environmentally sustainable eco-lodge by the Osa Peninsula. Its 165-acre private preserve joins with the Osa Conservation Area. The unique adventure travel destination is located on the remote inner coast of the Golfo Dulce, backed by thick jungle and the Piedras Blancas National Park. The award-winning eco-lodge offers family vacations, honeymoon trips, nature and adventure vacations, and yoga classes and retreats.

Article by Shannon Farley

Have a ball at the Stone Spheres Festival in Costa Rica

March 17th, 2014

Coming at the end of the month to the Osa southern region of Costa Rica, the ninth Festival of the Stone Spheres celebrates one of the most enigmatic historical and cultural mysteries of Costa Rica.

The 2014 Festival of the Spheres will be held March 26 to 30 in Palmar Sur, Palmar Norte and Sierpe. Put on by the National Museum of Costa Rica, the majority of the activities will be at its new satellite Museum of the Stone Spheres at Finca 6 in Palmar Sur, where research on the country’s spheres is centered.

The giant, perfectly-formed spheres of granite-like igneous rock were discovered in southern Costa Rica. Their origin, exact age and history are still a mystery, though archaeologists tentatively date the spheres to 400 to 1500 A.D. Man-made by an indigenous people who disappeared long ago and left no written records, the spheres have sparked international attention as to their origin and purpose. It is suspected that they were used to represent astronomical constellations, for delineation of tribal areas, or served as a place of worship and gathering. They were declared a UNESCO World Heritage in early 2014.

Around 300 spheres have been found in the Diquís Delta region in the south Pacific of Costa Rica, near the Térraba River and the cities of Puerto Cortés, Palmar Norte and Sierpe. The almost perfectly spherical stones range in diameter from a few centimeters up to 2.5 meters, with the largest weighing 16 tons. They were discovered in the early 1930s during the clearing of jungle for banana plantations. One of the many unanswered questions is how the native peoples transported a 16-ton ball made of a rock that exists 50 miles away from where the spheres were found in the jungle.

The Festival of the Stone Spheres will combine cultural and artistic performances, environmental themes, concerts, craft fairs, and educational and sports activities. Shows will be put on by indigenous local Borucas, whose ancestors are credited with having made the spheres. A 47 km mountain bike recreational race will follow historic routes through some pre-Columbian communities and former banana plantations. There also will be an 8 km foot race.

Attend the Festival of the Stone Spheres on your way to or from Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge on Golfo Dulce. The remote oceanfront jungle property is a unique and exotic Costa Rica eco-lodge on a 165-acre private reserve across from the Osa Peninsula.

Article by Shannon Farley

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Rainforest retreats at a unique Costa Rica eco lodge

March 4th, 2014

Imagine attending a workshop or a retreat, but instead of a conference center or event hall, you were surrounded by lush coastal rainforest, listening to the sounds of lapping waves of 80-degree calm Pacific gulf waters and roars of howler monkeys in the jungle.

This is what it is like to have a retreat or seminar at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica. The remote oceanfront jungle lodge on a 165-acre private reserve in southern Costa Rica is a unique and exotic location to organize relaxing and private retreats.

From conferences with scientific guest lecturers to yoga retreats, family reunions to company meetings, Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is ideal for small group getaways. Groups of 18-28 persons can take the entire lodge for a completely private event; or smaller groups can share the lodge with other guests and still have private meeting and gathering space.

Accessible only by boat, Playa Nicuesa is situated on the breathtaking Golfo Dulce (“Sweet Gulf”), one of only a handful of unique tropical fjords in the world. The renowned Osa Peninsula is just across these placid Pacific Ocean waters from the lodge. Their protected reserve joins into the Piedras Blancas National Park.

The undeveloped and pristine haven embraces conservation and harmony with nature. Electric is powered by solar panel generators and fresh water bubbles in from a natural spring. Playa Nicuesa’s beautiful and specially-designed 3,000-square-foot main lodge building – described by some to be like Robinson Crusoe’s tree house – was built all with sustainable materials and houses an open-air bar, dining room and lounge areas. One-of-a-kind “jungle-chic” accommodations in five private bungalows and a separate four-room two-story guest house all have private open-air bathrooms with hot water showers, canopy queen beds, hardwood floors, ceiling fans and private terraces. Fresh meals are included in all stays.

There is a spacious yoga deck by the beach and a canopy-level yoga platform in the main lodge building. Yoga classes are given daily in the early morning and late afternoon. To complement any retreat or seminar program, there are plenty of adventure tours: rainforest hikes on private trails to a waterfall, bird-watching, kayaking and snorkeling on the Golfo Dulce, a botanic garden tour, fishing, a jungle river tour by boat or kayak, and more. Abundant wildlife in the area includes three types of monkeys, coatis, agoutis, crocodiles, Scarlet Macaws, toucans and other tropical birds.

For more information on holding a retreat, seminar or group event at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, check here.

Article by Shannon Farley

Webs of Gold in the Costa Rica Rainforest

February 24th, 2014

The morning sun filtering through the rainforest foliage at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica shimmers gold as the light catches the strands of the complex web woven by a golden orb spider.

I’m generally not a big fan of spiders, like most people, but the golden orb is fascinating. These large spiders weave enormous pigmented webs, adjusted in color for camouflage, with protecting chemicals, and such incredible strength and elasticity that bioengineers and other scientists are studying ways to mass-produce their silk.

The golden silk orb-weavers (genus Nephila) are noted for the impressive webs they weave, and are also called giant wood spiders or banana spiders, according to Wikipedia. Their name refers to the color of their web silk, although the female spiders do have gold spots on their large bodies and black and yellow striped legs, which are specialized for weaving.

The spiders are widespread in warmer regions around the world – the Americas, Australia, Africa, India and Southeast Asia. They are the oldest surviving genus of spiders, with a fossilized specimen dating to 165 million years ago. You can find golden orb spiders hanging out in their shimmering webs everywhere around Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge and along the trails.

Threads of their webs shine like gold in sunlight. Studies suggest that the silk’s color may serve a dual purpose: sunlit webs ensnare bees and other insects that are attracted to the bright yellow strands, and in the shade, the yellow color blends in with background foliage to act as camouflage. Golden orb spiders can adjust the web’s pigment intensity relative to background light and color. They also secrete a chemical – pyrrolidine alkaloid – on the strands that protects the web from ants.

The fine-meshed spiral webs are gigantic: they can span 20 feet tall (6m) and 6.5 feet wide (2m). When you look at a web, you can’t help noticing the female spider since she is huge; golden orb females reach sizes of 4.8–5.1 cm (1.5–2 in) not including leg span. Those little spiders on the web are the males, being usually 2/3 smaller (less than 2.5 cm, 1 in).

If you should doubt the strength and elasticity of a golden orb weaver web, walk into one. You’ll find it is not easy to remove. When walking the trails at Nicuesa Lodge, I always watch out for golden orb webs – they are beautiful to admire, and you want to avoid being covered in the sticky silk. While the spiders rarely bite humans, their venom is potent with a neurotoxin effect, though not lethal to humans.

During your visit to the unique Costa Rica eco lodge at Playa Nicuesa, be sure to look out for these amazing eight-legged wonders. Capturing the morning or afternoon sunlight on their webs produces beautiful photos.

Article by Shannon Farley

Top U.S. scientists to be guest lecturers at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge

February 6th, 2014

Dr. Howard Topoff and Dr. Carol SimonDrs. Howard Topoff and Carol Simon – both professors emeriti of The City University of New York and Research Associates at the American Museum of Natural History – will be guest lecturers for the week of March 1-7, 2014, at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, a member of Enchanting Hotels & Resorts Costa Rica.

Immersed in the dense tropical rainforest bordering the Piedras Blancas National Park in southern Costa Rica, Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is a unique Costa Rica eco lodge. The remote wilderness retreat is located on a 165-acre private preserve; the only way to get there is by boat across the pristine waters of the Golfo Dulce from either the towns of Golfito or Puerto Jimenez.

Golfo Dulce and Playa Nicuesa, Costa RicaThe area is part of an immense biological corridor extending from the world-famous Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula to the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve and the Piedras Blancas National Park, down into Panama. The inner sea of Golfo Dulce, known as a tropical fjord, is a critical habitat for migrating Pacific Humpback Whales, and resident and migratory communities of dolphins – Bottlenose, Spotted and Spinner – and sea turtles.

For the past 30 years, Drs. Topoff and Simon have been study trip leaders for The Smithsonian Institute, The American Museum of Natural History, Naturalist Journeys, Elderhostel, and several cruise lines. The husband-and-wife team’s specialty is animal behavior, tropical ecology and evolutionary biology. Their educational programs and entertaining multimedia presentations are highly popular.

Army ants in Costa RicaDr. Topoff has spent nearly 50 years researching the social behavior of animals, notably on army ants and slave-making ants, conducting his field research in Central and South America, Africa, and in the deserts and mountains of Arizona, USA. In addition to his publications in scientific journals, his more popular articles have appeared in magazines such as Scientific American, Natural History and National Geographic. Dr. Simon specializes in ecology, behavior and evolution, principally researching the social behavior of reptiles in North and Central America.

Nicuesa Lodge rainforestAt Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in March, the scientific researchers will give daily multimedia presentations focusing on the natural history of Costa Rica:

  • Introduction to Rainforest Animals & Plants
  • Social Behavior of Monkeys of Central and South America
  • Social Insects of the World
  • The Evolution of Animal Coloration
  • Poisonous Reptiles and Amphibians of the Rainforest
  • The Evolution of Animal Communication
  • Courtship and Mating Strategies of Animals

For more information and reservations, contact Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge. The award-winning eco-lodge offers ecotourism, nature and adventure vacations, family holidays, honeymoon trips, and yoga classes and retreats.

Article by Shannon Farley

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