I love my rain jacket. This is the best thing I packed for the world tour.
I spent three days up in the St. Elena just outside of the Monteverde Cloud Forest where when they say ‘rainy season,’ they really mean it.
The actual town of Monteverde (Green Mountain) was founded in the 1950s by some Quakers who’d left the United States to avoid a constant fear of war and an obligation to the military and the taxes that supported it. Ironically for me, my hometown of Randolph, New Jersey was also founded by Quakers. I even grew up right off of “Quaker Church Road.” But, oddly, I don’t think I’ve ever even met a Quaker…or at least if I ever did, I didn’t know it. Side note: they are actually named Quakers because in their religion they meditate in a way that actually makes them tremble or “quake.”
Cloud forests are the same as rainforests, except they exist only high atop mountain slopes. The warm, moist ocean air is swept up the mountain forming clouds which give moisture to the abundant plant life.
I took an excellent (and very wet) guided tour of the Cloud Forest given by Vernal, a very knowledgeable and excited young guide.
Here are some amazing stats on Monteverde Cloud Forest:
- 2500 different types of plants, including 350 types of ferns alone
- 1000 Epiphytes (plants that grow on the branches of forest trees—ferns, orchids, bromeliads)
- 400 species of birds
- 100 different species of animals
This was truly a great example of nature at its finest. It was so lush and so full and most of the life was up above in the canopy of all the trees where the sun could get through.
On our tour we saw a multitude of plant life—ferns, orchids, huge fig trees. Animals were a little harder to spot but we saw a ‘walking stick’ insect, a praying mantis, a poisonous viper snake (thankfully far away and only viewed through Vernal’s scope), hummingbirds, a fox, howler monkeys, and even the very elusive and endangered Quetzal bird.
Another guide mentioned to Vernal that he’d spotted the bird. Suddenly, Vernal scampered up the wet trail with the rest of us huffing and puffing in tow. He plopped down his high powered scope and with hundreds of trees and branches in his view, he spotted the bird within thirty seconds. These guides were amazing. They knew the forest well and knew exactly what to look for—certain torn branches, rustling (although with rain pelting everything this seemed impossible), and the areas where certain animals had been spotted before. The Quetzal was once revered by Pre-Columbian peoples of this region. It is a stunning green and in mating season, the males sport two very long ‘tail feathers.’ Sadly, today their habitat has diminished and in turn so has their numbers, but thanks to newer conservation efforts—things are turning around.