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Selva Negra, Niacaragua: A blend of coffee, sustainability, and tropical forest

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Nicaragua is becoming more common as a travel destination for the adventurous eco-traveler but it still lies more or less off the beaten path. This is probably related to the fact that large tracts of the country are roadless and undeveloped with little infrastructure. At least this keeps the tropical forests of a great many places in Nicaragua intact, but it also means that even the most eco-adventurous of folks won’t be able to experience such magical areas.

Nevertheless, Nicaragua is a big enough place to provide intrepid visitors to this friendly country with a number of options. One of the best is the Selva Negra ecolodge. Selva Negra means “Black Forest” and yes they are referring to the pine-clad Bavarian land that spawned the cake of the same name. Whether the original Bavarian immigrants who founded the place gave their new home this title because of homesickness, because the surrounding cloud forests reminded them of southern Germany, or a combination of the two, we will never know. However, what is certain is that excellent German-influenced cuisine is served at the Selva Negra restaurant, including their own version of Black Forest Cake.

In addition to being an ecolodge, this eco-sanctuary of the central Nicaraguan highlands is a working farm. Flowers, organic produce, and livestock are all grown or raised on site in as sustainable a manner as possible and are sold in markets as well as providing ingredients for the restaurant. The cows and pigs also provide fertilizer and manure that is used in the gardens and in growing their excellent, organic, shade-grown coffee.

Although coffee grows faster in full sunlight, not only does this require the removal of biodiverse cloud forests but also heavy application of chemical pesticides. Coffee grown beneath the shade of the forest, however, doesn’t need as many pesticides, grows better, and has a richer flavor because the shady conditions mimic the understory habitat in which coffee evolved. At Selva Negra, visitors will also see how this benefits wildlife when they catch glimpses of Howler Monkeys and dozens of birds on trails that pass through the shade coffee plantations and primary forests of this eco-friendly destination.

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