One of the most spectacular experiences of my recent trip to Costa Rica was visiting a cloud forest.
Before we started the drive up to the region of Monteverde the conditions were arid, dusty and hot (it was the end of the dry season). As we rose, our ears started to pop with the change in altitude and the views became more and more spectacular. The air became crystal clear and we could see for hundreds of miles.
We were making slow progress, as I was doing my usual routine of shouting to “stop the car” every fifty metres to pick a seed head or photograph a plant (my poor kids!).
We stopped for lunch at a little ‘soda’ (a Costa Rican cafe) and watched blue butterflies the size of dinner plates sail past us before continuing the drive to the coffee farm that was to be our home for the next three days. The rolling hills and cool air almost felt like England, although the coffee plants and banana trees were a reminder of our exotic location.
One of the main differences between cloud forests and rainforests is elevation. Cloud forests are generally higher, and therefore cooler. This results in a persistent misty cloud cover as the lower temperatures means the water doesn’t evaporate off as quickly.
The next day we headed to our first stop, a cloud forest at quite a low elevation in a park called Sevetura. It was extraordinary watching the flora become more and more luscious, like you would expect in a rainforest. The combination of bright sunshine and fine mist around us created rainbows.
A family of wimps, we passed on the zip wires and stuck to a basic trail of hanging bridges. At the highest point we were 60m high, way above the top of the tree canopy. My heart was in my mouth! Moss and ferns and climbing plants dripped like christmas decorations from every tree.
Next up we went to the hummingbird garden, which was like Disney meets zen. Pots of nectar were scattered around the garden, attracting iridescent hummingbirds that made an extraordinary buzzing noise. We were all transfixed, watching them hover just a metre away from us!
The next day we visited the Santa Elena cloud forest reserve. I was completely blown away. This one was at a higher elevation, so in perpetual cloud. The biodiversity in Costa Rica is unbelievable, I saw literally hundreds of ferns that I had never seen before. They seemed much more delicate than the ones I am familiar with, and quite ornate.
I snapped thousands of photos, but my camera was soon misted up. At every twist in the path another mind-blowing view opened up before us, and with so few other people there the effect was eerie at times. I came away feeling so inspired by the experience. As soon as I came home I started working on jungle designs…