Hostal Casa Sarapiquí is an AirBnb guesthouse with a property bordering La Selva Biological Station. In fact, you can walk right to the La Selva entrance following trails on the property! I especially enjoyed sitting on the terrace, which provides a beautiful view of the property including the adjacent pond. This is a great alternative to staying at La Selva (which was fully booked) and it’s a much better value — I stayed here three nights for less than it would have cost for just one night at La Selva.
While much of the property is a bamboo forest and plantain plantation, don’t be fooled by first appearances. I found such birds as Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Royal Flycatcher, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Long-billed Hermit, and Scaly-breasted Hummingbird in the forest along the river. The grassy fields only 5 minutes from the house were full of seadeaters, including Nicaraguan Seed-Finch. At night I heard both Great Potoo and Spectacled Owl. Other species observed on the property included Gray Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Green Ibis, and Great Green Macaw.
Mariano was a terrific host who exceeded my expectations throughout my stay, from preparing delicious meals (including breakfast with coffee at 5:30am!) to giving me rides to other nearby birding locations.
At its core, “Birding for Conservation” is about supporting locals who are trying to do the right thing with regard to conservation, and Mariano is a great example. Not only is he taking advantage of a reforestation program offered by La Selva to reforest part of the property using native species that will benefit local wildlife and bird species, he’s also helping to change attitudes.
Jose is the worker in charge of the plaintain fields (which belong to Mariano’s uncle). It’s difficult work for little pay, and sometimes Jose had to kill wildlife for necessity. After Mariano started receving AirBnb guests, he approached Jose with a proposal to offer night safari tours. Since these tours were informal, the guests only paid what they wanted, usually between $15-20 — still more than Jose would normally make in a full day working in the fields. Now Jose understands the economic benefit that ecotourism offers. He has enough money for proper chicken coops to protect his chickens and no longer shoots the falcons or kills the crocodiles — now he makes videos to show the tourists! All of this hasn’t gone unnoticed by Jose’s son, who sees the opportunities available and is now studying to learn English.
La Selva Biological Station (OTS) is renowned as one of the top birding destinations in Central America. Lesser known is the fact that the access roads around La Selva offer terrific birding opportunities that rival birding inside the reserve itself. Some of the highlights included Great Tinamou, Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Scaled Pigeon, Blue Ground-Dove, Semiplumbeous Hawk, White-whiskered Puffbird, White-fronted Nunbird, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Rufous-winged Woodpecker, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Great Green Macaw, Fasciated Antshrike, Dusky Antbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Black-faced Antthrush, Rufous Mourner, Snowy Cotinga, Black-throated Wren, Plain-colored Tanager, and Thick-billed Seed-Finch.
Sometimes you see more than just birds!
Hotspot: La Selva (OTS Reserve)–Entrance Road
Hotspot: La Selva (OTS Reserve)–Road to Puerto Viejo River
Hotspot: Comandancia de Sarapiquí Road
Agricola Sophia forest is a private reserve owned by Chiquita Banana. I had seen a recent report from here on eBird of a Yellow-tailed Oriole, so with the help of my friend and local guide Tony Lopez we were able to get permission to access the reserve one morning. We didn’t see the Oriole, but did see a decent variety of species including Collared Plover, Least Sandpiper, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Spadebill, White-throated Flycatcher, Rufous Mourner, Black-throated Wren, and Scarlet-rumped Cacique.