Monteverde Cloud Forest…an early morning but so worth it!

Fighting our jet-lagged bodies, our sleepy crew got up bright and early in excitement for our visit to a Costa Rican biological wonder: The Monteverde Cloud Forest. Arriving at the entrance, shaking from excitement, and partly from the brisk temperature, we were split into two groups and we began our journey into the tropical forest.

Much to our luck, we were almost immediately met by a two-toed sloth perched on a tree high off the ground. Our guide explained that the chances of seeing a two-toed sloth were slim, as these creatures are mostly nocturnal and are covered in algae, allowing it to camouflage itself. As we continued our walk in the forest, we saw everything from metallic beetles to colourful rare birds. One group was particularly lucky to see a male resplendent quetzal, a species of bird known for its colourful plumage and long tail-feathers. This awe-inspiring bird is endangered, as our guide explained, so seeing one perched casually on a tree-branch is a rare occurrence.

Later in the morning, we travelled to the Continental Divide, a divide in North and South America where rivers on one side of this divide lead to the Pacific Ocean, while rivers on the other side lead to the Atlantic Ocean. Our hike brought us up to an elevation of 1,550 meters, where we saw the beautiful dense forest and the line of the Continental Divide. During our hike, our guide pointed out the steadily decreasing size of the tree on our path until, at the peak, the trees were barely taller than Liam! Our guide explained that, because they have no competition for resources like sunlight and water, the trees do not need to grow tall.

During our hike back to the entrance of the park, we encountered a tree looking quite sinister, covered in roots and with a hollow trunk. Our guide explained that this is the strangler tree, a tree commonly grown in South America. This tree grows on the branch of an already existing tree, then begins to develop roots that grow and cover the tree, effectively stealing the tree’s access to sunlight. The guide explained that, in a tropical rainforest like the Cloud Forest, competition for resources was common, and the strangler tree is almost always successful in this competition for resources.

Arriving back at the entrance of the park, we all ran to the café and indulged in sweet treats and savoury lunches. With that, our visit to the Monteverde Cloud Forest came to a close. Everyone agreed that this excursion was well worth the early morning, and made us appreciate the beautiful and diverse ecosystems of the world. We’ll keep you updated on the next steps of our journey!

Luke