Cloud Forests of Monteverde

Tags: Costa Rica, Monteverde, Monteverde Cloud Forest, Santa Elena Cloud Forest

Date: April 6, 2023

On our first whole day in the Monteverde area we visited the Santa Elena Cloud Forest. The nature reserve was founded by Santa Elena community high school on land leased from the Monteverde Conservation Area. It was originally thought to use the land for agricultural research and education in Monteverde. However, in 1992 it opened as a ecotourism reserve and is run by the Santa Elena community in collaboration with Youth Challenge International, a Canadian based non-profit organization. The entrance fees go to management of the reserve, as well as to help improve the quality of education in the schools of Monteverde.

The reserve consists of several well tended paths meandering up and down the mountain side:

The forest is extremely lush. The tree trunks are covered in mosses and an abundance of epiphytes grow on the trunks as well as in the crowns of the trees:

There is even stuff growing on the leaves of the plants growing on other plants:

The high humidity of the cloud forests is what makes it so easy for mosses, epiphytes and algae to establish themselves and grow on other plants.

While we were hiking in the reserve our path became enveloped in a cloud and it started raining:

When the sun came out again the high humidity in the air was very obvious:

Some days later we visited the other large cloud forest reserve in the area, the Monteverde Cloud Forest. This reserve is run by a Costa Rican non-government environmental organization, the Tropical Science Center. The reserve was founded in 1972 when a visiting graduate student, George Powell, persuaded the Tropical Science Center to sponsor the establishment of a small nature reserve on 328 hectares of land that he had been donated by the farming company that owned the land. Today the reserve, which now covers 10,500 hectares, receives more than 70,000 visitors every year.

It is very green:

Again, the high humidity in the air was obvious:

Felicie under a tree almost completely covered in moss:

Here we can see the cloud traveling over the mountain side:

Another path between the trees with plants hanging everywhere:

The Monteverde Cloud Forest has almost 900 different species of epiphytes, constituting 29% of the flora.

Stuff is growing everywhere, on everything:

Felicie standing on a bridge hanging over a ravine in the reserve:

Towards the end of our stay, a snake crawled over the path and in between the trees. We managed to get a few photos, the best of them showing the tail end of the snake right in the middle of the picture below. We tentatively identified it as a (rather faded-looking) species of kingsnake: