Our family of four (13 yr. old daughter, 16 yr. old son) had an unbelievable time here at Rafiki Safari Lodge. We had been told, as atravelingone complained, that the road is bumpy. Welcome to Costa Rica! We had a very careful and wonderful driver, (Rafiki Lodge employee Edwin) who not only navigated the bumps perfectly, but was able in good English to show us and tell us about interesting things along the way, such as details about the African palm and teak plantations, the little villages of Santo Domingo and Silencio, and even the wildlife we were passing. Once we arrived, Mauren welcomed us and Ann had delightful fresh fruit drinks for us. Because the Lodge was not fully booked during our visit, Mauren very kindly offered our teens to stay in a separate "tent" next to ours, doubling our space. I put tent in quotations because this is like no tent I have ever experienced. The hardwood floors, the deck with handmade beautiful wooden rockers and tables, and the adjoining spacious, bright and light bathroom with large counter spaces and shelves for weary travelers, a generous and lovely shower (which YES provides as much hot water as one might want), and even fresh flowers all speak against the stereotypical tent experience. The "roof" is indeed a sturdy, wonderful tent, and my husband who is 6'3" and I at 6' had no shortage of space.
Carlo Boshoff, whose spectacular vision created a place of beauty and delight and elegance in the middle of the jungle, was a very down-to-earth and friendly host. His wife-who I understood more often interfaces with guests-was away on a family emergency during our stay, but Carlo, Ann, Raphael, Sadie, and the entire staff made sure we lacked for nothing.
The waterslide and pool were a welcome diversity for all of us, though the slide is verrrrrry fast (I am surprised atravelingone did not comment on...maybe did not try it out?). Dinner was delicious, as one of the other reviewers noted, Johannes is a "real chef" who is a Tico who cooked professionally in the states and returned to his homeland.
Indeed, the cacophony of cicadas was omnipresent. That is one of the things though that I enjoyed. We intentionally did not want to "go to Costa Rica and stay in a luxury hotel on a beach that might as well have been in Miami or Malibu but with monkeys." We wanted to truly experience Costa Rica and Rafiki Safari Lodge delivered that beautifully.
In the morning, we enjoyed our coffee (at 6:30 am) while sitting and watching the many cherry tanagers and hummingbirds feed from flowers just under the deck railing and fresh bananas that had been put out on tiny feeding perches by one of the groundskeepers in order to entertain us!
Breakfast was hearty, and we spent the morning horseback riding with Carlo up to the part of the Savegre River where we were to begin our whitewater rafting experience. The horses appeared healthy; Turbo, Tigre, Mosca and Canela were gentle rides and very responsive to simple commands. The saddles were completely serviceable (actually somewhat softer and more comfortable than others I have ridden) and Carlo was a wonderful guide. An educated naturalist, he pointed out many interesting things among the fauna on our way uphill.
When we arrived at the "put in" spot, we were met by two amazing guides: Kenneth nicknamed "Chucky" and Randall, and Ann joined our little rafting party. The rafts were two person/one guide. We cannot say enough good things about "Chucky" and Randall. These fully bilingual, personable, charming and funny gentlemen navigated our foursome through the river like a good musician knows his instrument. Every chance they had to make my 16 yr. old son laugh and me get splashed (we wanted to) they orchestrated. On top of the traveling fun, they both introduced us to amazing things (breaking off bits of dozens of little edible plants or leaves whose scent gave away its origin: vanilla beans, "ben gay plants," wild ginger root, tiny citrusy begonias, and so many others I cannot name them all).
We had a picnic lunch during the trip (ok I'll mention the chicken was overcooked just so no one thinks I am just a positive Pollyanna about everything) so what? This is the jungle. The fruit was perfect. After lunch, we realized our daughter's ear began to bother her more than she was comfortable with. She had developed swimmers ear during the week, but was hoping to ignore it until returning home. Sadly we had to shorten a little the afternoon part of the rafting trip, but Chucky and Randall were very flexible and not at all bothered by last minute adjustments. They brought us to a beautiful waterfall, where they caught fresh water shrimp with our children, showed us these amazing ferns that respond to touch by closing up to protect themselves (Avatar-anyone?), and then we finished up the rafting and were met by a safari vehicle with outdoor seating to enjoy the breezy ride back up to the lodge.
Dinner again was very good, and this time we were fortunate to meet Carlo's warm and welcoming parents Constant and Ralene, and enjoy dinner with them and another couple who were visiting for the day. Carlo's son's nanny was able to give our daughter some eardrops, and between that and the Boshoff home remedy of white vinegar, she was stable for flying home in the morning.
Despite having only spent a couple nights and days at Rafiki, we were truly welcomed like extended family and felt so glad to have experienced this magical place at the end of what was a fantastic vacation.
I think when some people travel they are not really looking for something different from what they have at home. Unless you are lucky, Rafiki Safari Lodge is probably nothing like your own home. We were grateful to really travel - on a bumpy road, maybe even a little beyond what was in all of our "comfort zones" to experience adventure while the Boshoff and staff's hospitality made us feel at home.