Selva Bananito Lodge is located at the base of the Talamanca Mountains in the buffer zone of the international La Amistad Biosphere Reserve on the south Caribbean slope of Costa Rica.
The ecolodge is run by Jurgen Stein, whose father originally bought the property for logging and agriculture in the 1970s. Unsettled by the devastating impact of deforestation, Jurgen and his sister convinced their father to leave some stands of primary forest untouched. In 1994 the family declared two-thirds of the farm (850 hectares or 2,000 acres) a private, biological reserve and built the ecolodge as an alternative source of income. Since then additional portions of the original farm have been reforested, providing vital habitat for wildlife, including jaguars as well as many resident and migrant bird species.
I observed 143 species of birds on the reserve during my three-day visit, including Royal Flycatchers building a nest. I enjoyed watching Snowy Cotinga in the treetops as a Black Hawk-Eagle soared overhead. The unrivalled highlight, however, was seeing and hearing not just one, but three Great Jacamars! While once more widespread, this species has undergone a severe decline due to habitat destruction, to the point where it is now a mega rarity in Costa Rica. I like to think that its presence here is a testament to the habitat quality at Selva Bananito.
Some of the other species I saw included Blue-chested Hummingbird, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Plumbeous Kite, Checker-throated Antwren, Black-striped Woodcreeper, Northern Schiffornis, and Black-throated Wren. One morning I was pleasantly surprised to find a Northern Parula flitting about, a rare passage migrant in Costa Rica. Nocturnal species included Great Potoo, Central American Pygmy-Owl and Middle American Screech-Owl.
For much of my birding at the reserve, I was accompanied by Harvey Harriet, one of the resident guides. I was impressed both by his knowledge and his openness to learning. But most of all I was impressed by the genuine respect he had for his employer, Jurgen – the kind of respect one has for someone who actually lives the values they profess. Selva Bananito is the real deal.