Selva Negra Ecolodge
The Black Forest
Hidden just out of downtown Matagalpa, Nicaragua is beautiful eco-resort called Selva Negra. About two hours from hot and hectic Managua lies a naturally beautiful hideaway. It is more than a resort. It is more than a place to stay for the night. It is well disguised in the cloud forest where adventure, relaxation, and a pleasant detox from the bigger cities awaits. The air is clean, fresh, and crisp. You are rocked to sleep by the sounds of nature, a cool breeze, and howler monkeys.
Selva Negra has been on my to-do list for several years. I’m glad I finally made the time and took the effort to visit this gem. The 5000 acre property has been privately owned since the late 1800s, founded by Ludwig Elster and Katharina Braun, German immigrants. It is currently owned by Eddy Kühl and Mausi Hayn who have redefined, upgraded, and took the property to whole new level.
Matagalpa’s Liquid Gold
Before visiting, I had no idea why there were so many German descendants in the middle of Nicaragua. I like to say, “If you can’t explain something, it’s about money”. German explorers traveling to California to get in on the Gold Rush, stopped here on their journey and never left. Instead of digging for gold, they planted their own — COFFEE. Selva Negra produces some of Nicaragua’s best coffee and the rest of the America’s have taken notice. I took the coffee tour and whole scoop from my guide José Gonzalez.
The coffee tour takes about two hours, and at $20, it is well worth it. Any moneys spent on tours or at the gift shop help support the non-profit. There is also a short film and a tasting at the end.
My guide José, native to Nicaragua, grew up on the property. José is super knowledgeable about all the aspects of the facility. He has worked in several different capacities over the years and there little that he doesn’t know about the area. He offered the tour in Spanish or English, we did a little bit of both, his English fluency is better than my Spanish.
The first thing I realized is that Selva Negra is it a self-sustained community. The 200,000 coffee trees are maintained by a full-time staff that resides on the property all year round. The owners provide housing, schooling for families with children, healthcare, and wages nearly double the average pay for farm workers. I recently read in one of the Nicaraguan newspapers that Starbucks gets $17/lb. for the Selva Negra beans.
The Selva Negra Philosophy
As I mentioned earlier, Salva Negra is much more than getaway. It is a self-sustained, organic community. Nearly everything that is prepared and consumed in the restaurant has been produced on site. It prides itself on recycling and treating the earth, water, and all its resources with reverence. José took much pleasure explaining, in great detail, the tremendous effort it takes to become Certified Organic.
In addition to food production, all of which is grown pesticide, hormone, and fertilizer free, the cabins have thatch roofs, wooden furnishings, curtains made from recycled burlap, lots of natural light, and individual labeled trash receptacles made from recycled materials. The environment is a top priority here; the lakes, rivers, forests, and wildlife depend on it.
Hiking the Cloud Forest
When you decide to visit, keep in mind that there is a big temperature difference between here and most of the major cities, I was wearing sweatpants and a jacket in the evening. I got up early on my first morning, to quite a chill in the air, and took a hike through the cloud forest. I intended on just taking a walk and ended up doing the entire trail, end to end, (almost 5 miles/7 kilometers).
Make sure to bring plenty of water, a map, good hiking shoes (I would not recommend tennis shoes), and a sense of adventure. The difficult trails can be steep, narrow, damp, and often muddy. A walking stick or hiking cane would have helped. I came back thirsty, starving, and covered in mud. The hike took me almost three hours. Once you reach the top, you can see through the trees, across the lake at a grand view of Matagalpa. The one thing I didn’t get to see were the Howler Monkeys. They serenaded me for most of my trek, but wasn’t lucky enough to catch sight of them. Don’t worry, there is plenty of other wildlife to peak your interest.
If you like the outdoors, this is must see. Take a break from the beach (and I so do love the ocean), you won’t regret it.
Viva León, Jodido!