Cerro Lodge, from Agriculture to the Hotel Business

Cerro Lodge Tarcoles Costa Rica

Half-way through my Costa Rican saga, I am following the advice of Franck from Tenorio Lodge; so here I am at Cerro Lodge, a few bungalows away from the beaten path, with the Nicoya Gulf on the horizon and the famous Tarcoles River below. I am getting closer to the Pacific, and finally settle on a catchphrase to describe Costa Rica following to my trek so far across this country: a landmark for photographers and bird-watchers. Actually, I am beginning to improve a bit: oropendola, urraca, zopilote, oriole, keel-billed toucan, chestnut and so on … and for the first time, I even become that person who can point out a specimen and name it for a couple of French tourists!

From Farming to Building his own Hotel

Costa Rica avec Federico et Alba du Cerro LodgeFederico is Costa-Rican; his family owns a 12-hectare farm and he took two of them over in 2007. However, the soil was difficult to cultivate, especially due to irrigation issues.  At the request of travelers, the family farm had started opening itself up a bit to tourism by organizing farm visits and then becoming a sort of rooming house. Inspired by this turn of events, Federico then decided to build four bungalows on that bit of land which by now he owned outright. This way, bit by bit, he borrowed from the bank and invested in a small hotel, a restaurant and even a pool in 2010. At that point, Cerro Lodge was comprised of 10 bungalows, a small 8-room building, and even 2 extra rooms for guests and volunteers (where they put me up).

With five employees working full-time throughout the year, Cerro Lodge doubles its staff during the high season. Most of its clients are Europeans who come all the way to Costa Rica in order to enjoy the very wild and untouched surroundings, and to observe and take photos of tropical animals and birds.

Connecting with wild fauna of all sorts on the Tarcoles River

http://www.crocodilemantour.com/Every day I discovered new species … and my excursion on the Tarcoles River with the local travel agency Crocodile Man Tour was crazy!!!

I come face to face with birds, monkeys, lizards and—after meeting caimans for the very first time three weeks ago in the north of Costa Rica—now it is crocodiles. Supposedly caimans are not so aggressive and not so big; but crocodile? That is another story. Did you know that they never stop growing? And they are certainly not the most quiet of animals: «Keep your hands inside the boat» warns the guide. No problem there; I certainly did not plan on doing anything else! A few days ago, there was this Costa-Rican who had had a bit too much Cacique Guaro, and ended up in the river … He didn’t last very long; it would seem that the next day, some tourists who took the same boat tour as I had could observe crocodiles gnawing on what was left of different pieces of the poor man …

You must not provoke wild animals! My greatest phobia are serpents; I have already come across six of them since the start of my trip. I am getting to know their names, and to distinguish between those that are venomous and those that are not. Slowly, through learning all about them, I am becoming a little less scared of them. True: I always remember to look where I put my hands and feet. However, by getting to know more about animals, even those that seem dangerous, one finally realizes that they are not so bad after all … well all except mosquitoes: I might well be in their midst every day, I still don’t find them friendly … not at all!

The Sweet Romantic Jungle Fantasy

There are those tourists who seem to arrive in tropical countries with some kind of beautiful and romantic image in mind about what a stay in the middle of the jungle should look like.  There comes a day when they finally arrive at a lodge that is slap-bang in the middle of the jungle … and then comes the shock … sometimes they adapt to the situation, and at other times they turn back and look for a room in the nearest town or village.

I might sound very brave when I play the role of the great adventurer, and talk about crocodiles and snakes. However, I must admit that the first time I found a baby boa on the ceiling of my room, I can tell you that I did not sleep very well the following night … and even if they kept on telling me that this was nothing, that boas are not aggressive and do not bite, it was not easy to rationalize; imagination is more powerful than anything. Okay, little by little, one gets used to all of that, and now I am in the habit of looking sometimes to spot a snake, a tarantula, a caiman. It is just like sharks: the first time one takes a dive with them, it is a bit weird, then one gets scared, and then after that, one wants to go back for more.

It would appear that, to reassure clients and establish a compromise between fantasy and reality, some hotels are proposing high-end lodges with all the frills. The term ‘lodge’ is basically used to describe a bungalow made out of wood/bamboo that offers rather minimal comfort.  So when a lodge sometimes comes with a pool/Jacuzzi/air conditioning/Wi-Fi, etc. … can you really still call it a ‘lodge’?

Nevertheless, do not kid yourselves: the ants, mosquitoes, serpents and other friendly animals are still never very far away!  So be sure to carry your flashlight everywhere at night, do not stray from the path, and watch carefully where you place your hands and feet, and all will be fine (!)

Florie et les reptiles

Translated by my friend Hélène Masson