Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica


Monteverde Cloud Forest

Monteverde cloud forest

Monteverde cloud forest

Two national parks in northern Costa Rica feature different natural wonders, Arenal Volcano, and the Monteverde Cloud Forest.  The two national parks border each other, but there are no roads between them. It’s rough country, with impenetrable jungle forests, steep mountains, and narrow, rocky ravines.

To travel from one to the other, you take a shuttle bus to Arenal Lake, cross over to the southern shore, and drive an hour and a half over winding, rocky road to the town of Monteverde.

Arenal Lake 

Arenal Lake

Arenal Lake

Lucy loves boat rides

Lucy loves boat rides

Boating across Arenal

Boating across Arenal

Trapp Family Lodge

View from our third tier jungle 'cabin' at Trapp Family Lodge

View from our third tier jungle ‘cabin’ at Trapp Family Lodge

We stayed about 7 kilometer in the mountains above Monteverde.  the road was rocky and muddy, but when we arrived at the Trapp Family Lodge, we were thrilled how modern and comfortable it was; a great restaurant, small bar, lobby, and helpful staff.  We had to climb winding stairs and paths to get to the third tier looking down over the lodge.

Our room was a corner with full picture windows looking out at the cloud forest and the clouds constantly moving down from the alpine ridge above us.  It was mid-January, but temperatures were in the 40’s, windy, and rainy, especially at night when the fierce winds whipped trees around so forcefully I thought we’d had one crash down on our lodge.  But it didn’t happen, the tall, vine-covered trees are acclimated to the strong winds.

Our jungle 'cabin' was high on the far right corner.  Nice place with full windows looking over the cloud forest.

Our jungle ‘cabin’ was high on the far right corner. Nice place with full windows looking over the cloud forest.

Morning clouds rolling down from 5,000 ft. continental divide.  View from our Trapp Family 'cabin.'

Morning clouds rolling down from 5,000 ft. continental divide. View from our Trapp Family ‘cabin.’

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Our interest in traveling to the 1440 meter high spine of Costa Rica was to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, started by a group of American Quakers from Alabama who settled here in the 1950’s and began a successful dairy and cheese manufacturing enterprise.

When farmers began encroaching on the forest, the Quakers organized an effort to preserved the virgin cloud forest. The united with scientists to form a private environmental and science research center to protect 14,000 acres of virgin forest.

Tours are offered every day which lead through 4 kilometers of trails and sky bridges over deep ravines.  Guides point out the many species of trees, wild flowers, insects, birds, and occasional mammals.  Our guide was very knowledgeable and stopped several times along the trail to point out trees, vines, and wildflowers.  Most trees are layer with various species of plants, epiphytes, flowers, wild orchids, and vines, many that hang from branches, and form roots for water and nutrients.

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He shared an amazing fact that some mature trees have more than 4,000 plants or epiphytes living on them, so dense it’s difficult to see the bark of the host trees.  Costa Rica ha some 1400 species of wild orchids, small, growing on trees, with intense red, orange, purple blooms.

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Tree fern

Tree fern

Hummingbirds at nature preserve

Hummingbirds at nature preserve

Sky Bridge

Starting across the sky bridge.  Yes, it's windy and rainy, but that didn't dampen our spirits.

Starting across the sky bridge. Yes, it’s windy and rainy, but that didn’t dampen our spirits.

Deep in the cloud forest, we climbed stone steps to the top of a hill, leading to a metal sky bridge across a ravine.  Neither one of like heights, but we started across the bridge, holding the metal cable to keep our balance.  But the sky bridge was sturdy, and half way across, we were able to lean down and see the canopy about 20 meters below us.  Yikes!

After a few minutes on the bridge, I leaned over and pointed my camera down to capture the sweep of the ravine and trees far below. Nobody push!

Canopy of tropical trees below the sky bridge

Canopy of tropical trees below the sky bridge

View from sky bridge

View from sky bridge

That's a loooong bridge to cross over and back

That’s a loooong bridge to cross over and back

New Friends

Meet Dave and Camie, our new cloud forest friends

Meet Dave and Camie, cloud forest friends

We met an interesting couple from North Carolina, Dave and Camie.  We walked along with them, sharing stories of travel, families, and careers.  After our hike, we invited them to dinner at Trapp Family Lodge that evening.  More interesting conversation followed and we invited them to Monterey when they come to the West Coast later this year for a wedding.

* * * * *

Thanks for following us in Central America.  Please share your comments, we’d love to hear from you.

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