Monteverde’s Mystical Cloud Forest

Straddling the continental divide up in the hills of Costa Rica there is a place that rarely sees the sun.  Thanks to the unique geography of the area, the Monteverde Cloud Forest is shrouded in a ghostly cover of cloud nearly every day of the year.

Santa Elena Cloud Forest Trail Map

A map of all the trails available in the reserve.

You will need to very very lucky indeed to see this forest without any kind of cloud cover but in January 2016 I found myself standing, rather ironically, in a cloudless Cloud Forest.

The suns rays were streaking through the usually impenetrable cover of the tall trees that surrounded us while the smell of the early morning dew still clung heavy in the air.

reserva bosque nuboso sunlight, early morning

The sun streaks in through the thick undergrowth highlighting a delicate spiders web.

Dressed in what I would usually have for a cold rainy day in London, I instead found myself in a surprisingly humid forest literally humming with life.

The 10,500 hectares (26,000 acres) of the Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde is 90% virgin forest with some extremely high biodiversity.  You won’t find more orchids in a single place than here and they are just some of the more than 2000 plant species that call this place home.

Monteverde cloud forest spider

Everything in the cloud forest is bigger than we’re used to at home, including the spiders.

There are an incredible 400 species of birds, 120 amphibian and reptiles and 100 different mammal species.  No wonder the forest was singing to us.

Monteverde stick insect

This this is just a leaf? Think again..

After a short film about the history of the reserve visitors are led outside.  Following the clearly laid path around the reserve our very knowledgeable guide explained a lot about species endemic to the area and the challenges of opening up the area to tourism to bring in much needed funds while still protecting the delicate biological reserve.

reserva bosque nuboso observation tower view

Looking out over the usually cloudy cloud forest from the top of the observation tower on a cloudless day.

Roughly 70,000 people visit the reserve each year.  Just a fraction of the 2.5 million tourists (in 2015 according to the official tourist board) that decided on Costa Rica as their travel destination annually.

The challenge now that infrastructure is there is to bring in more visitors.  A daily bus service from Santa Elena has opened up access and a small 47 room lodge means you can stay overnight and explore other less travelled trails than just the most popular Sendero Bosque Nuboso Trail.

Adrenalin Additions

Additions such as suspension bridges and zip lines create an adrenaline infused way of seeing the forest from the view of the canopy dwellers while still making this one of the most sustainable destinations around.

Selvatura hanging bridges park, Costa Rica

The views from the bridges are quite stunning as long as you don’t have a fear of heights. The tallest bridge is 60 meters high (180ft) and 170 meters long (510ft).

After your walk on the Sendero Bosque Nuboso Trail don’t forget to make the small detour to the charming Humming Bird Gardens.

Humming birds are naturally skittish around humans but here the lure of the feeders and the smell of the sweet nectar prove too irresistible, giving us a rare opportunity to get up close to these marvellous creatures.

Monteverde humming bird garden

The birds are thankful for a short rest while feeding.

With patience and slow movements it’s also possible to have some of them land on your had while they feed.

With more than enough to do for a day or even 2 if you stay overnight, hopefully the photos here will provide you with all the evidence you need to make this biological reserve a must do when you decide to visit this wonderfully diverse country.

Thanks to the almost constant moisture in the air, moss and lichen grows everywhere.

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