I was quite surprised to be living in such luxury on this trip. I fully expected to be braving the wet weather in my hammock tent, hoarding dry clothes, and processing data under a tarp. Instead we hiked along a road with mules carrying the burdens of our packs and arrived at an open air lodge two stories tall with a composting toilet and rainwater shower. Tables and chairs are made from logs, where we eat our meals and play cards in downtimes. My hammock tent stays dry in the upstairs loft and rocks me to sleep each night. It’s still like camping, but better.
We drink rainwater that has been boiled over a fire, so the smoky taste is a sign that it is safe to drink. Nancy walks an hour to get here every day from her home down the road and works the fire under the water cauldron. In case it is too wet, sap from the copal tree makes a great smelling fire starter. Nancy makes most of our meals every day, and gets hot water ready for tea or coffee all day long. She makes the best mochines- a fried yuca cake with cheese inside. I am eager to try my hand at them once I get home. I have enjoyed getting to know Nancy and comparing our cultural experiences despite my limited Spanish.
Thierry and Marion own this reserve and work with locals to preserve surrounding primary forest through the Sumac Muyu Foundation. Their projects have been funded by the United Nations and their support of scientific tourism and other groups like ours broaden the scope of what they are able to do here. Thierry has made many trails to enable exploration of the area and goes out with us on our night transects, finding frogs faster than we can collect data. They have built this lodge with the help of the local community and the natural resources available, while maintaining the surrounding area as a preserve.
As a result of Thierry and Marion’s work here, I wake each morning to the calls of this forest from the comfort of my hammock. Poison dart frogs and parrots are the louder members of the daytime chorus, and Osteocephalus fuscifascies (a frog that lives in bromeliads) sings through the night.
Would I do this again? In a heartbeat.