Having a whale of a time at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica

It is nearly whale-watching season on the Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica! Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is readying to receive visitors to witness one of the most amazing spectacles in the animal kingdom – the thousands-of-miles-long migration of Pacific Humpback Whales.

Starting in August, the tranquil blue waters of the Golfo Dulce, between the Piedras Blancas National Park and the Osa Peninsula in southern Costa Rica, begin to receive the endangered whales that come annually to breed and give birth in Costa Rica’s warm waters.

The annual migration of Pacific Humpback Whales is a remarkable journey of nearly 10,000 miles from near the North and South Poles to warm tropical waters. As winter turns the seas to ice in Antarctica, southern Humpback Whales swim north to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and as far as Costa Rica, where they can be seen between August and October. Northern Humpbacks travel from Alaska and British Columbia south to warmer waters by Mexico, Hawaii and Central America from December to March.

You can see Humpback Whales in Costa Rica along the southern Pacific Coast, from the Ballena National Marine Park just south of Dominical down through Cano Island Biological Reserve off of Drake Bay and into the Golfo Dulce.

 

Known as a tropical fjord, the “inner sea” of Golfo Dulce is a critical habitat for Humpback Whales and is vital to the species’ survival, according to the Center for Cetacean Research of Costa Rica (CEIC).

“A large part of the Gulf is used by Humpbacks to rest, give birth to their young and nurse them,” notes the CEIC. “The importance of protecting this area becomes more urgent if we take into consideration that Costa Rica’s economy depends on tourism …. Today, many tourists come to marvel at the solitude of these sanctuary waters; for them to see a dolphin or whale swimming near their boat is the best living evidence of the well-being of this still wild place.”

Once hunted to near-extinction, Humpback Whales are an endangered species with international government-protected status. Humpback whales are named for the prominent hump on their backs. The baleen whales can grow to be 56 feet long and weigh up to 40 tons, with distinctive, long black and white pectoral fins (flippers) that reach about one-third of their body length. They live a long life to about 45-50 years old. Babies (or “calves”) are born after an 11-12 month gestation period, which explains why some years when the whales are visiting tropical waters they are breeding and other years they are giving birth.

Humpback whales are easy to spot since they live at the ocean’s surface, both in the open ocean and in shallow coastline waters. They swim slowly and are known as the “acrobats of the sea” for their great displays of jumps and splashes (breaching). Males are famous for singing long, complex mating “songs” – sequences of squeaks, grunts, and other sounds – during their migration and when in breeding areas.

In the Golfo Dulce, the migrating whales are almost strictly from the Southern Hemisphere. Males concentrate at the entrance to the Gulf waiting to breed with available females, while pregnant females swim into the shallow waters of the Gulf’s interior to birth their young and breastfeed them.

Whale-watching in Golfo Dulce

See these gentle giants in person on the Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica. Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is located in the pristine rainforest on a remote beach of the Golfo Dulce. During whale-watching season, the award-winning Costa Rica eco-lodge offers boat tours of the Gulf to see the whales, resident pods of dolphins, and other marine life like sea turtles and seabirds.

A TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner, the rainforest lodge in Costa Rica has its own 165-acre private preserve bordering the Piedras Blancas National Park. It is a unique adventure travel destination for its remote, pristine wilderness location.

Article by Shannon Farley

Costa Rica Green Season specials at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge

Adventure, nature, yoga, relaxation and comfort … you have it all at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica.

And now in Green Season, you can have it all for a better price!

The unique rainforest lodge in Costa Rica is offering a special vacation deal of a free extra night when you stay three nights. The offer is valid now through Sept. 30, 2014, and applies to any room category.

A true Costa Rica eco-lodge, Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge embraces conservation and harmony with nature, and at the same time offers comfortable luxury in the jungle. You can choose to stay in either a private cabin or in the two-story Mango Guest House, which has four rooms each with private bathrooms and a balcony or terrace. Three healthy, delicious meals per day are included with your stay, along with unlimited use of the lodge’s trails, kayaks, snorkeling and fishing equipment, and boat pick-up and drop-off from/to Puerto Jimenez or Golfito.

Accessible only by boat, Playa Nicuesa is beachfront 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, which is surrounded by its own private nature reserve that joins into the Piedras Blancas National Park.

Another excellent offer is the Yoga Bliss Vacation Package: stay five, six or seven nights at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in your choice of accommodations, and receive two yoga classes daily and three guided adventure activities, in addition to Playa Nicuesa’s usual vacation amenities.

At Playa Nicuesa, you can enjoy multiple adventure tours and activities: rainforest hikes, bird-watching, kayaking, snorkeling, botanical gardens, fishing, horseback riding, dolphin and whale watching, on-site yoga classes and massages, and hammock relaxing.

Article by Shannon Farley

Remarkable rainforest of dreams in southern Costa Rica

Here is the rainforest you dream to see. Down at the bottom of Costa Rica, in the very south of the country that is thankfully not on the tourism “superhighway” and explored only by adventurous intrepid travelers, lay rugged mountains, free-flowing rivers, plunging waterfalls, striking beaches and magnificent towering trees in dense rainforest.

This is the wilder side of Costa Rica. A place where jaguars roam freely, scarlet macaws soar overhead, and humpback whales and dolphins frolic in the calm blue waters of the Golfo Dulce. There aren’t many roads, and there are far more trees than people.

In the southwestern corner of this peaceful Central American nation, renowned for eco-tourism, the Piedras Blancas National Park is much less visited than its famous neighbor, the Corcovado National Park. One third smaller, the Piedras Blancas National Park spans 34,642 acres that tie into the more than 366,000 acres of land and sea protected in national parks, wildlife refuges and private reserves on the Osa Peninsula.

Sandwiched between the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve to the west and the Golfito National Wildlife Refuge to the east, Piedras Blancas was heavily logged and hunted until land was donated or slowly bought by charitable groups and turned over for public use. The national park was created in 1993.

Today, the park protects the remaining lowland tropical rainforest near the Golfo Dulce, and provides a habitat for all five species of Costa Rica wild cats – jaguars, ocelots, margays, jaguarundis and pumas – and all four kinds of monkeys – spider, howler, white-faced capuchin and endangered squirrel monkeys. The park is considered to be one of the better bird-watching locations in Costa Rica, with more than 330 species recorded.

The best way to visit Piedras Blancas National Park is to stay in the area. Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is the top Costa Rica eco-lodge on the Golfo Dulce. Its 165-acre private preserve backs into the Piedras Blancas National Park. While visiting, you can explore thriving rainforests and immaculate beaches, powerful waterfalls and the fascinating Esquinas River and mangrove estuary. Just off the coast are many intact coral reefs, providing excellent places to snorkel and swim.

Article by Shannon Farley

Magical kayaking tour in Costa Rica mangrove river

One of my most favorite tours at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica is to go kayaking in the mangrove estuary at the Esquinas River, and then snorkeling in Golfo Dulce.

There is a magic in peacefully gliding along in a kayak; the only sounds coming from small splashes of kayak paddles sliding through the water, the songs of birds, and the occasional explosion of noise from rainforest insects. Tangled mangrove roots stretch down into silty water like tentacles, while multicolored crabs skitter along the dank wood. Sunshine lights up lime green water reflecting dense green vegetation.

If you stay alert, you may spot the bumpy snout and eyes of a partly-submerged caiman or crocodile. Or you may see a rainbow boa curled around a tree branch, or catch sight of white-faced, spider or squirrel monkeys swinging through the trees. Birds are plentiful, so you will surely see snowy white egrets, ibis, toucans, Scarlet Macaws, any number of kingfishers and herons, multitudes of shore birds at low tide, and maybe a low tree splashed pink with Roseate Spoonbills.

From Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, you travel by boat along the coast further up into the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf) to get to the Esquinas River (meaning “corner” river in Spanish). Kayaks will be towed behind the boat until you reach the river. The Esquinas River is a tidal river, meaning the water level is fuller at high tide and lower as the tide pulls the river out into the Gulf. You will always kayak with the current to make paddling easier, so depending on the tides depends on whether you start kayaking upstream or downstream. Besides kayaking in the main river, you will explore small tributaries amid the mangroves.

After an hour or more of kayaking, you will board the boat once again to travel back out into the Gulf to a prime snorkeling spot. Right off the coast, there are many small coral reefs housing masses of brightly colored tropical fish and other marine life. The Gulf water is warm, calm and usually crystal clear.

On the way back to Playa Nicuesa, watch for playful dolphins, sting rays and sea turtles in the water. In September, you might see migrating Humpback Whales that come into the Golfo Dulce to breed and give birth.

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is an environmentally sustainable Costa Rica eco-lodge by the Osa Peninsula. 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

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

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

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

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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5 Strange and exotic animals you don’t want to miss in Costa Rica

Sandwiched between North and South America and two oceans, Costa Rica is an amazing bridge of biodiversity bursting with natural wonders. For such a small country, it is home to more than 500,000 species; 250 of which are mammals.

Costa Rica’s south Pacific region of Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf) is one of the most intense zones for plants and animals. Surrounded by the Corcovado National Park, Piedras Blancas National Park, and Golfito Wildlife National Refuge, Golfo Dulce is wild jungle at its best.

Here are five strange and exotic mammals you don’t want to miss seeing at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge on Golfo Dulce:

1. The Central American Agouti is a large rodent, kind of like a hamster on steroids, which feeds mainly on fruits and seeds. You can see them roaming the forest foraging during the day. Agoutis have a keen nose and sharp hearing, and make a high pitched noise when frightened.

2. The Tayra, known as a “tolomuco” in Costa Rica, is in the weasel family. Most tayras have either dark brown or black fur with a lighter patch on its chest. Tayras eat mainly rodents, but also fruits, honey, reptiles and birds. They live in hollow trees, underground burrows or nests in tall grass.

3. Also called a coatimundi, the White-nosed Coati is a long-nosed brother of the raccoon. They are omnivores, preferring small vertebrates, insects, eggs, and fruits like bananas and papayas. They can climb trees easily and use their tail for balance, but usually they are on the ground.

4. Sloths are known for being incredibly slow; sloths sleep 16 to 18 hours a day and live high in the tree canopy, coming down only once a week or so to relieve body waste. Although slow in the trees and walking, they are actually strong swimmers. They eat mostly buds, tender shoots and leaves, mainly of Cecropia trees. You can see both the Three-toed sloth and the Two-toed sloth at Playa Nicuesa.

5. The Northern Tamandua is a medium-sized anteater with a prehensile tail that can latch onto tree trunks and branches. Its fur is pale yellow over most of the body, with a distinctive “vest” of black fur. Living mostly in the trees, its tongue is long and covered in sticky saliva able to pick up ants and termites – these animals might eat up to 9,000 insects in one day. Northern Tamanduas are mainly nocturnal.

See these animals and much more at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge on their 165-acre private reserve bordering the Piedras Blancas National Park at Golfo Dulce. The eco-lodge is a great place for travelers interested in ecotourism, nature and adventure. For the best wildlife viewing, go on a guided hike on the lodge’s trails in the early morning or just before sunset.

Article by Shannon Farley

See Scarlet Macaws on a Nicuesa Lodge rainforest adventure.

As far as beautiful tropical birds go, Scarlet Macaws are the kings and queens. There is nothing quite like the flash of brilliant red, blue and yellow of wild Scarlet Macaws flying overhead or their loud raucous squawk to let you know you are in the jungle.

An endangered species, Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao) live in tropical forests from Mexico to South America. In Costa Rica, they live in dry, moist, and wet tropical lowland forests along the Pacific Coast where large mature trees provide nesting holes and food of nuts, fruits and flowers. Macaws especially like Costa Rica’s coastal almond trees.

Their distinctive noisy cry carries for miles, so you usually hear them before you see them. When you do sight a Scarlet Macaw in the wild, they are a breathtaking rainbow of colors – fire engine red bodies with sunshine yellow and royal blue wing feathers tinged with a bit of green, and a distinct stark white patch around both eyes. Unfortunately, the birds’ striking colors makes them a favorite on the world illegal pet market, tagging prices of up to several thousands of dollars. Poaching and loss of habitat from deforestation are the main factors for the Macaws’ declining numbers, according to the ARA Project.

The non-profit ARA Project operates a breeding and wilderness release program for the Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) and the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) in Costa Rica. Over the past 13 years, the ARA Project has freed 70 Scarlet Macaws in their Tiskita release site on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. “These macaws have survival rates of about 85% and have successfully reproduced in the wild,” said Project co-director Chris Castles. “There are over 100 macaws there now including the babies born in the wild.”

Macaws can live to be over 60 years old and mate for life. There are an estimated 1,500 Scarlet Macaws living in Costa Rica. You can see them along the Central Pacific Coast from the Carara National Park to Manuel Antonio, and throughout the Osa Peninsula and Golfo Dulce region in the South Pacific.

At Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge on the Golfo Dulce, Scarlet Macaws like to hang out in the almond trees by the beach, munching on the tasty almond fruit. Including the Macaws, at Nicuesa you can see more than 250 species of birds. Nicuesa Lodge is actively involved in wildlife conservation and protects 165 acres of rainforest in a private reserve bordering the Piedras Blancas National Park. The area is a biological corridor connecting to the Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park to the west and Panama to the south.

Nicuesa eco-lodge is a great place for travelers interested in ecotourism, nature and adventure. We offer guided birding walks and hiking in the rainforest, among other adventure tours.

Article by Shannon Farley