When we were planning our trip to Costa Rica, and after reading about the Monteverde area, one thing that caught our attention was the cloud bridges through the rainforest. Whilst in Monteverde we looked into it further and it appears that a company has bought a huge area of the rainforest and erected zip lines throughout, a bungee jumping platform a sky tram and a tree climbing experience. Which goes against all that we believe in. How on earth can a huge area of rainforest be allowed to be purchased, by some big conglomerate whose only intention is to make lots of money, allowing thousands of people a year shouting and screaming along zip wires upsetting nature. So our dilemma was do we go or not.
Unfortunately as this was our only option to see the rainforest from above so we booked a ticket which was just walking the bridges. Priced at $41 each. With reluctance I have to say we throughly enjoyed. It was so good to see the forest from above. We were able to see many hummingbird’s collecting the pollen from the flowers. We also saw a group of howler monkeys sitting in the middle of one of the bridges. We stood with a group of people who were all respectful towards them. We all proceeded very slowly as to not disturb them too much, and with some trepidation. They all then climbed into the adjacent trees and gave us a fantastic view. The camera shutters were furiously clicking away.
I have to say the experience was really good and thankfully we did not hear too many screaming people flying along the zip lines. As a bonus and whilst we were waiting for the bus back to town, sitting in the ticket hall when a Coati wandered in, tipped over the bin, prised the lid off and run off with some contents. They are so naughty they are our second favourites of naughtiness next to monkeys.
Today we visited the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve The Cloud Forest Reserve is located on the Tilarán mountain range in northern Costa Rica at an elevation of 1500 meters (5000 feet) above sea level and is situated on the continental divide “Which means that when the rains fall on the mountain, and into the rivers it either flows out into the Atlantic Ocean on one side or the Pacific Ocean on the other. There are various trails to take throughout the park, which are all fairly easy. Just as we had started our walk we came across a friendly Coati foraging about for food, taking no notice of us at all. On the return leg a couple of American guys told us that further along the path was a crab. Now considering we were in a rain forest and miles from the sea, it was the last thing we expected to see. I took some photos and he was getting rather feisty with both claws out wide, and snapping away with his claws. Quite funny really. The entrance cost for the park is $25 pp which is more expensive than some parks but worth it nonetheless
While sitting down to a cold drink waiting for the return bus we were serenaded by the amazing sound of the extremely loud howler monkeys. Another great day in Costa Rica.
After our taxi boat taxi trip we arrived at Santa Elena. We had booked a apartment for this leg of our stay so we could cook and eat in, as eating out can be expensive in Costa Rica. Our apartment Casa Monarca was a great base for us to explore Monteverde. Monteverde is 1330 metres above sea level, and is described by National Geographic, as the jewel in the crown of cloud forests. On doing our research before our trip it was definitely on our list of places to visit whilst in Costa Rica.
One of our first places to visit in town was the amazing Orchid Garden. Entrance fee is $15pp which includes a guided tour, and in my opinion worth every cent. I suppose I have never really read up on orchids or wanted to for that matter, but I was thoroughly enthralled by the tour. We learnt so much about them, like they don’t need to be rooted in earth to survive, they can appear on anything really from a piece of moss covered driftwood, even a cable along the street where a piece of moss has gathered. Also they don’t only grow in tropical areas, our guide told us they can also be found in Alaska. There was one particular orchid, which is so tiny, and grows on the underside of a small leaf. The whole experience was fascinating.
We left La Fortuna and traveled to Monteverde/Santa Elena high in the cloud forest. We booked an excellent service via Red Lava Tours billed as Taxi boat Taxi. It used to be called Jeep boat Jeep, possibly because it sounded more glamorous or the fact they used to use Jeeps as the roads around are pretty bad. We got picked up from our hotel by a shuttle bus and was taken to Arenal Lake, where we rather precariously boarded the boat down a muddy bank, not good for me carrying luggage, where we boarded quite a small boat, with maybe 20 or so seats. The journey across the lake was lovely with great views of the surrounding scenery and took about an hour. Once we got to the other side, and another trip up a muddy bank, we boarded another shuttle bus to our lodgings Casa Monarca our apartment for the next few days. Now you can drive “if you have a car,” journey time around four hours, or take the bus which involves many changes and many more hours. So we opted for above. The cost is $25 per person which in my opinion is very reasonable indeed.
Now the area we are in is called Monteverde, but the main town in the region is Santa Elena, which is where we are staying, well just a little way from the town about an 8 minute walk. There are plenty of restaurants/bars to choose from, also a few Soda’s serving traditional dishes. Also very many tour agencies to choose from. Whilst we are here we intend to visit a couple of national park’s and a canopy tour in the cloud/rain forest. More on that later.
Unfortunately I have no pictures of this part of the trip, just a short video. I was too busy trying to stay upright and hanging on to my luggage.
Today we visited the Arenal Volcano National Park . There are a few other places imitating the national park but this the official government run one. There are five routes to choose from varying in distance. We did route’s 3, 4, and 5. The paths are easy to walk as they are comprised of crushed volcanic lava. As we had arrived by taxi, we came to a halt at the back of the queue of cars to get in. So we got out of the taxi and took the short walk to the entrance. A wise move as we just walked up the kiosk and paid our money. Cost of entry is $15 plus tax, totalling $33.90 for the two of us. Rather than walking up the road and following the cars to the car park, we took route 3 to start with. Which according to the sign is 600m. This route takes you through some dense jungle on a muddy path, although thankfully it was not that muddy on this day. Although we didn’t see much in the way of wildlife life on this trail, it was great to walk along, through some very tall and dense bamboo “ it’s such a lovely plant”. We then reached route 4 which we followed until the end, to the viewpoint overlooking the Arenal Volcano. The path is quite easy to walk along as it’s mainly crushed lava rock. But there are some small to medium rocks to catch you out, which I came the victim of along the way. When you reach the viewpoint, you have to first climb a steel staircase, then a small walk along a steel walkway. You then reach the lava flow from the 1992 eruption. Climbing over the boulders I really struggled. What with my unsteady legs, my weak knees, the heat, and the fact then we had been walking about an hour already. But I made it. It was worth it as the volcano was in full view. Normally the top section is shrouded by cloud. Also a great view of Largo Arenal “ which we will be crossing. More on that in my next post”. I stumbled my way back down, with the help of Jackie and some other kind people, and I was back on the nice flat path. We walked back on ourselves until we got to path 5 to view the enormous Ceibo tree. It’s 400 years old and climbs to a height of 30m or 98 feet. It’s an amazing sight. Also the root structure at the bottom is a sight to see.
We finally got back to where we started, thoroughly exhausted but with a good sense of achievement, especially me. Unfortunately we did not see much in the way wildlife, just the odd bird and plenty of lizards and leaf cutter ants going about their day, but it was great all the same. We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Tomorrow we are off to Monteverde high up in the cloud forest.