I have always wanted to visit the Central American country of Costa Rica for its large variety of landscapes and incredible biodiversity. The name Costa Rica, meaning “rich coast” in Spanish, was believed to be first used by Christopher Columbus who reported seeing the natives wearing many gold jewelry. Costa Rica was sparsely populated before becoming a Spanish colony in the 16th century. It became part of the First Mexican Empire and formally declared independence in 1847. There are majestic volcanoes, cloud forests, tropical rainforests, rivers, lakes, and beaches here in Costa Rica. It is said that 5% of the world’s biodiversity can be found here with 25% of the country devoted to national parks and other protected areas. Because the terrain is so varied with all kinds of weather within this small area, the variety of flora and fauna and animals is impressive. Here you can find the 2-toed and 3-toed sloths which I tried to see in the Peruvian Amazon without much success. I’m not much of a birdwatcher but there are many many kinds of birds here and specifically 50 kinds of hummingbirds. We flew into San Jose, the capital, and immediately got picked up for our 4-hour drive northwest towards Monteverde. Monteverde is home to three cloud forests: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, and Children’s Eternal Rain Forest Reserve. We chose to stay at Hotel Belmar which is considered one of the better hotels in the area and within 10 mins drive of Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. It is an alpine chalet style hotel set on the mountainside. But to be honest, nothing to write home about. The rooms are simple and clean and the front desk helps organize your activities. There is one restaurant in the hotel and the food is just okay.
Woke up early the next morning to go zip-lining at Selvatura Park. There are 13 zip line cables with the longest being 1 km long, claimed to be one of the longest in the world. The zip lines are set at different levels and there is also the tarzan swing which I did not do. I absolutely loved the feeling of soaring through the cloud forest! It was loads of fun 😀!
After an exhilarating morning on the zip lines, we continued the afternoon in Selvatura Park with a guided treetop exploration walk across a series of suspension bridges for views of the forest canopy and other wildlife in the park. We were lucky to catch sight of colorful and elusive resplendant queztal bird. It is definitely one of the most beautiful birds in the world.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is located along the Tilaran range and the Continental Divide where the Atlantic and Pacific slopes collide. It was established in 1972 and now covers an area of over 26,000 acres of cloud forest. Cloud forests are exactly as they are called, forests consistently covered with clouds. The fog condenses onto the leaves of trees and drips down onto the plants below promoting a large amount of biodiversity. Epiphytes which are plants that grow on other plants such as lichens and orchids love to grow in this climate. Monteverde is known for having the largest number of orchids in the world as well as having the most orchid species in a single place. Other than the orchids, there are over 2,500 plant species some endemic to the area because of the unique climate and ecosystems not found anywhere else in the world. There are also 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, and 1,200 species of amphibians and reptiles living here. Many of the birds that are found here are long distance migratory birds passing through during their migration or spending their winters in the area. It was such an ethereal otherworldly feel to walk through the fog and thin clouds and light rain in Monteverde Cloud Forest and listening to the sounds of the forest. There are about 13 km of trails to explore here and can be done with or without a guide. But do go with a guide because they will point out many interesting plants and animals in the forest such as all the hundred different plants living on the huge trees. They also bring these large scopes for us to see the many small birds and insects living in the forest.
We were again super lucky to spot the elusive resplendant queztal bird!
The male quetzal is more beautiful with more colors and a yellow beak. This is the female quetzal with a black beak.
Hummingbirds are native to the Americas and Costa Rica is one of their main homes. They are known as hummingbirds because of the humming sound generated by their wings flapping at incredible speeds. Just outside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is the Hummingbird Gallery where there are feeders filled with nectar and numerous little hummingbirds hovering around with their wings beating so fast you can barely see them. There are at least 14 different species of hummingbirds flocking around the feeders. Here you can see one of the largest species called the Violet Sabrewing. These cute iridescent creatures are such a delight to watch!
The survival of Monteverde’s cloud forests hangs in the balance with the changing of our climate. With climate change, low hanging clouds will become reduced and temperatures will go up. These cloud forests depend on the humidity from these low level clouds and without them will eventually dry up causing the demise of entire ecosystems of plants and wildlife.
From Monteverde, we continue our Costa Rican adventures to La Fortuna in Arenal. Stay tuned!
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