Whole Life Magazine

June/July 2015

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Page 27 of 43

I worried about the "st-sized purple, red and yellow crab scuttling across the dirt at Morgan's Rock, an ecolodge in the dry forest of southwest Nicaragua. We were a few hundred feet uphill from the Paci"c Ocean. Was it lost? #en the crab worried me more by suddenly sliding into the swimming pool. What would chlorine and oth- er pool chemicals do to the brilliantly colored critter? I needn't have worried on either front. Turns out this was a land crab, one of the many fascinating creatures that in- habit the 4,000-acre expanse of Mor- gan's Rock. And the ecolodge treats its pool with environmentally friendly salt, not chlorine. It seemed a little odd to be vacation- ing in Nicaragua at all, let alone worry- ing about crabs. Our country has a long and unlovely connection with this small Central American democracy. #e Unit- ed States dominated Nicaraguan politics for much of the 20th century, propping up puppet governments and "nancing what many would say was the more evil side of a civil war. But now things have stabilized enough that Americans feel welcome to surf, sightsee, ogle wildlife and enjoy Nicaragua's charms. With prices and development on the rise in Costa Rica, more travelers are looking for a less-expensive, less-Americanized alternative. Sustainable Luxury #e Ponçons, a French family working in Nicaragua, bought the jungle site in 1998. #eir original thought was to keep it as a private nature reserve and sus- tainable source for tropical wood (Clément Ponçon is an agronomist by trade), and that vi- sion was partially realized. However, af- ter a grant subsidiary of the World Bank suggested a golf course, the horri"ed family redoubled their conservation e$orts, planted 30,000 trees and built the antithesis of a golf resort from certi- "ed-sustainable wood. Morgan's Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge (www.morgansrock.com/) opened for business in 2004. Nearly half of the Ponçon property is a govern- ment-protected nature reserve. #e rest is used for sustainable tree farming, an organic farm and lodging. #e dry forest—as opposed to rain- forest—has two seasons: wet and dry. During the dry season of December through May, leaves fall o$ the prop- erty's 1.5 million trees, and sloths and monkeys are easy to spot in the trees. When I visited Morgan's Rock at the beginning of September, the forest was leafy and green. Rain fell at night and the darkened sky pulsed with lightning, but days were gorgeous and sunny and I still saw plenty of animals. #e eco resort is known for its com- bination of comfort, casual luxury and integration into the forest. Guests can walk the property's many trails, alone or guided, or swim, "sh, boogie board or explore the estuary. Eco Retreat in the Nicaraguan Dry Forest By Teresa Bergen 28 wholelifetimes.com

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