Bananito means little banana and is the name of the river that is born in the Private Reserve Selva Bananito. Selva stands for jungle, thus the name of this ecolodge in Costa Rica signifies the Jungle Little Banana, allusive to the natural old growth forest the lodge protects in order to guarantee the water supply of the river. Selva Bananito is situated in a pristine and natural setting, located at the foothill of the Cerro Mochila, the eastern outcropping of the Talamanca Mountain Range, in the province of Limon, Costa Rica. It will take about 3 1/2 hours driving time from the capital city San Jose to reach the pick up point Salon Delia in the town of Bananito.
What does ecolodge actually mean? Very simply, ecolodge refers to the services the lodge provides as regular hotels do, such as room and board, but it also makes allusion to the orientation toward an environmentally friendly operation as a core value of their operation. Selva Bananito is highly distinguished for its conservation efforts because they do take an active stand in conservation by directing and supporting their watershed conservation efforts through Fundacion Cuencas de Limon or Limon Watershed Foundation. In order to achieve this goal, hotel staff provides logistic and financial support to this Non Profit Organization, through revenues generated by the nature and adventure activities they offer at the ecolodge Selva Bananito.
Selva Bananito Offers
* Spacious, elegantly tiled bathrooms with solar heated water.
* A spacious Rancho (main lodge) to enjoy meals and socialize with others.
* Ample decks with spectacular views and comfortable hammocks for your siesta.
* Each tastefully designed cabin features one queen size and one full size bed, or two queen sized beds.
* Eleven individual cabins constructed of beautiful salvaged wood. They stand on stilts, following Caribbean tradition.
* Romantic, candle-lit evenings. To preserve a more natural night-time ambiance, the lodge uses no electricity. Reading lamps are provided in each cabin.
* The privilege of exploring a pristine environment in the intimacy of a small group, while also learning about human land use in the lowland tropics.
General Lodge Information
The Lodge is located at the foot of Cerro Muchilla, or Muchilla Mountain, in the Province of Limon on the Atlantic side of Costa Rica. Cerro Muchilla is part of an eastern outcropping of Costa Ricas southernmost mountain range, the Cordillera de Talamanca, much of which belongs to the enormous Costa Rican/Panamanian La Amistad Biosphere Reserve. This protected zone consists of a core -La Amistad International Park- and several surrounding wildlife and Indian reserves (which also act as wildlife reserves), adding up to a total of about one million hectares (2.2 million acres) of uninterrupted, protected land. This green belt, which spans southern Costa Rica from east to west, remains the least explored territory in the country, its biological wealth scarcely studied.
Selva Bananito Lodge is built on a family farm, of which only one third is actually used for farming.
The cabins stand on a ridge flanked by two streams. On one side of the ridge you will see the Bananito River and its valley, where the farms pastures, plantations, and reforested areas are (great birdwatching here!). On the other side your eyes will fall upon the beautiful Cerro Muchilla and the Amistad Biosphere, which the lodge's borders touch.
Selva Bananito realizes that their very existence in this environment affects it, but they try to minimize their impact in a variety of ways. Rather than building the cabins closer to, or in the forest, they purposefully erected them in an area that had already been altered by human activity. Eighty percent of the hardwood used to build the cabins was obtained from second class wood discarded by loggers from trees already cut for other purposes. As much as twenty percent of a tree is classified as second class and is normally left to waste. Selva Bananito wishes to set an example for how to maximize the use of a tree once it is cut down, because using trees efficiently is one way to reduce deforestation.
Each cabin stands on stilts, in traditional Caribbean style. This type of architecture reduces moisture inside the buildings and improves the view and ventilation. Furthermore, far fewer insects and other critters find their way inside. Even so, you may want to inspect your shoes for unwanted guests before putting them on! Without the use of electricity Selva Bananito hopes to create a quiet and relaxing environment for guests, very much in tune with the surroundings. If you need to recharge any batteries, however, it may be able to be arranged through the farm management.
Many hotels and lodges in Costa Rica use the charming palm roofing inspired by traditional Indian architecture. The excessive use of suita palm for roofing, however, has contributed to its endangerment. Furthermore, this type of roofing requires regular spraying with pesticides to keep insects out (whether hotel operators admit to it or not). The lodge therefore opted for thick tar paper roofing or synthetic roofing instead.
The main office is located in the building opposite the entrance to the cabins. Here you may leave valuables for safekeeping. If you follow the main road downhill, you will find the rancho, which has a dining area, bar, and small library upstairs, and kitchen and personnel facilities downstairs. Meals are served at the rancho. Please advise the lodge of any dietary restrictions as soon as is convenient.
History of Selva Bananito
The farmed portions of the land have a history worth telling: they were originally leased from the government in the 1920's by employees of a U.S.A.-based banana company. They harvested the primary forest along portions of the Bananito River valley while the company established mid-scale banana plantations in the nearby coastal region. A combination of factors, including a big recession in 1929, massive floods, and banana diseases, drove the company out in the 1920's and the land was left to fallow.
When the Stein family purchased the land in 1974, the former banana fields had reverted to secondary forest. They cleared the brush from this secondary growth and established a sustainable, integrated crop system combining plantain, cocoa, and dwarf coconut, all interspersed with the native tree known locally as laurel (Cordia alliodora). At first this system worked well because the plantains produced good crops. After the third year, however, the plantain succumbed to a serious fungal disease (sigatoca) and was eliminated. By the time the cocoa plants reached maturity, it became clear that the hybrid which Rudi Steins bank had required him to plant as part of the loan contract was of far inferior quality than traditional, local varieties. In the meantime, the dwarf coconuts developed a serious root disease that felled the majority of the plants, and the remainders were not worth harvesting because of poor market prices. Later, the farm produced organic bananas, which are also no longer grown on the farm due to poor market prices.
After many years of trying out other farming alternatives, the farm is today home to a reforestation project and cattle breeding program intended to produce dual-purpose breeds, i.e., cattle as useful for milk production as for beef production. Soon a moderate-sized oil palm plantation will be established. You will have a chance to learn more about the farm on a guided tour.
The Rainforest Experience
Selva Bananito Lodge and Reserve offers tranquility, beauty, close contact with nature, and the opportunity to experience the rain forest first hand. They also offer insights into agriculture in the humid tropics. Many tourist resorts in Costa Rica bring visitors in touch with the exquisite natural beauty of the country, but they are among the very few who have also taken an active stand in environmental protection. They keep the number of visitors that enter the Reserve within strict limits at any given time, and the lodge established Fundacion Cuencas de Limon, a nonprofit foundation which has become a regional leader in watershed protection and educational programs. The Foundation obtains its funding from private contributions and from income generated by Selva Bananito Lodge. By choosing to come here you have become an integral part of the conservation process, and Selva Bananito thanks you for it.