High up in the mountainous cloud forests of Northern Costa Rica and with its unique micro climate Monteverde is the number one destination for seeing a rich variety of indigenous plants, birds, animals and insects.
We took the ferry from Ometepe Island, Nicaragua, crossed the border (overland and not by sea this time) and entered Costa Rica. The drive from Northern Costa Rica to Monteverde weaved its way along tight winding mountain roads with stunning views from both sides. We witnessed some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve seen during our 2016 world trip as shown in the above photo. We stopped at a view point where you can just about make out the Pacific Ocean.
Monteverde has also become one of the top destinations in the world for extreme adventure activities such as canyoning, zip lining and white water rafting.
We felt that while zip lining through the cloud forest at 50 mph would be fun and exhilerating it wouldn’t be the best option for getting up close and personal with Costa Rican wildlife! We therefore decided to focus our Monteverde activites on nature walks.
1. Cloud forest nature trail
This was probably our favourite activity. Our small group of 5 was taken round the 3 km trail by Juan Carlos who was able to identify and mimic bird noises with incredible accuracy. He had extensive knowledge about a wide range of birds, butterflies, plants and mammals.
Below is a video of a Helicopter Damselfly that we were fortunate to see. These are the largest species of damselfly.
(As well as the awesome home made banana cake and carrot cake from the coffee shop) the real wow factor came at the end of the forest walk when we visited the humming bird feeding station. Hundreds of hummingbirds were darting around zooming past our ears like mini supermen as they flew to and from the feeders.
2. Suspension bridge trail
We visited the Selvatura Park in the afternoon where we hiked along the 3 km treetop walkway with its rainforest trails and 8 suspension bridges.
‘Cloud forest’ is a great way to describe the environment up here. The air was moist which at times turned into a steady drizzle. Fortunately with so many dense trees much of the walk was sheltered so we didn’t get too wet. It was fascinating to see growing in the forest so many of what are household plants in England.
This was a fabulous and highly recommended experience which gave us a birds eye perspective of the forest with its many shades of green.
3. Butterfly gardens
We had a free morning before leaving for La Fortuna/Arenal, our next destination so the 3 of us (Chris, Laura and Annabelle) visited the Butterfly Gardens close to the Histeria Hotel where we were staying.
Having not previously researched it we were expecting a small butterfly reserve with perhaps a single enclosure, similar to the one Chris and Laura visited in Australia back in February this year.
Our guide gave an interesting and informative tour of the insect room (where he assured us that no Costa Rican scorpions are dangerous and that no tarantula has ever killed a man) and showed us some enormous rhinoceros beetles.
The guide advised it is best to visit the butterfly park in the morning during the rainy season where the weather tends to be sunny in the morning and where the butterflies are more active. They hide when its raining so you dont often see them during the afternoons.
There was a $15 or 8000 Costa Rican colones entrance fee which we considered to be a good price considering the amount of information we were given. As well as the insect room we were taken through 4 large butterfly gardens.
4. Night walk
Annabelle and Laura participated in a Santa Maria’s night walk. We were collected from the hotel and driven in the dark drizzle for a short distance to the walk centre whilst kitted out with our rain coats and cameras with waterproof cases. Shortly after starting the walk the drizzle turned to torrential rain which made photography impossible.
While we have only one photo (below) amazingly we still managed to see an abundance of wildlife during our two hour night trek:
A green snake, high up in a tree
A scorpion in its nest
A tarantula nest (its furry inhabitant was hiding inside clearly not stupid enough to be venturing out in such rain)
Two different species of frog
A gorgeous ‘Motmot‘ bird, a colourful bird of about 30 cm high which sat proudly on a branch oblivious to the rain and also to us as he wasn’t interested in flying off
A stick insect camouflaged amongst… umm… sticks
A cicada (unlike Thailand this is not a delicacy of Central America)
A cute little opossum and with its big staring eyes peering at us from the leaves and branches
We saw leaf cutter ants (well, first you see a little trail of green leaves bobbing along the path before you notice there is a small ant underneath) but there are also army ants and bullet ants present in this part of the Monteverde cloud forest. Bullet ants are so vicious they feature in a ‘Costa Rica’s most dangerous creatures‘ list!
A sloth, the star of any Costa Rican night walk! Throughout our walk our guide continued to look high up into the trees to seek out a sloth but unfortunately didn’t see one so had given up in the end. We were fortunate that our observant mini bus driver spotted one curled up high in the trees on the way back to the hotel and it had now stopped raining!
Monteverde is in a beautiful lush green mountainous area of Costa Rica. Even the bus ride to and from Monteverde contained some of the most stunning jaw dropping scenery we have seen all year. We felt honoured and privileged to have a great insight into the wildlife of Costa Rica while in Monteverde.