Monteverde Cloud Forest Tour, Costa Rica

As many of you know I have been working with the fabulous people over at My Costa Rica. I’ve got a bunch of great articles in the works, and will be sure to link to them as they get published.

One of the best parts of working with them has been being introduced to the amazing team over at Desafio Adventures. They welcomed me with open arms and have created some amazing opportunities for me.

With offices in La Fortuna, Monteverde, and Samara, they are a one stop shop for all your tour needs. If you’re looking for tours in these areas, check them out, you will get all star service.

The tour in today’s post was made possible by the team at Desafio, Monteverde.

Bundled up and ready to hike!

Bundled up and ready to hike!

After leaving La Fortuna, we made our way higher into the moutains towards Monteverde. After checking in to our awesome hostel, we headed over to Desafio to see what was in store. Turned out we would be heading on a tour of the Cloud Forest first thing in the morning.

Monteverde has two forests, Santa Elena Rainforest and Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. We were heading to the latter. Our driver picked us up bright and early, and took us on the 20 minute drive up into the mountains. We arrived at the entrance, and were introduced to Rodrigo, our guide.

Our AMAZING guide.

Our AMAZING guide.

Before he even spoke, I instantly liked him. He had these light blue eyes that sparkled as he looked into the treetops, searching for birds and other wildlife to show us. He explained that he has been doing tours since 1986, and practically grew up in the forest. In fact, many of the trails had been built by members of his family. We knew we were in good hands.

The excitement began immediately as Rodrigo spotted Quetzels milling about the parking lot. For those of you who don’t know (as I didn’t) seeing a Quetzel is like striking gold. Many avid bird watchers come to Costa Rica just to see this illusive, and breathtaking creature.

Ummm...ya, impressive eh!

Ummm…ya, impressive eh!

I was immediately caught up in the papparazzi like energy, as crowds of people pointed their cameras towards the trees in an attempt to capture the birds on film. Once I spotted them, I could see why. Their iridescent blue green feathers, deep crimson chests, and incredibly long tail feathers make them seem like something out of a fairy tale. It’s no wonder that both the Mayan and Aztec worshipped them as a god.

Taken through the telescope!

Taken through the telescope!

I snapped a couple photo’s, and Rodrigo set up his telescope so we could get an up close and personal look. He even taught me how to take photos through the telescope, a trick that I absolutely loved!

After the excitement died down, we continued on our walk, entering the gates of the park, and starting out trek through the cloud forest. We watched as many guides showed their tours various books, and pamphlets explaining about the various creatures in the jungle. Rodrigo didn’t have to do that, he had a story about everything.

I couldn't even see until I looked in the telescope!

I couldn’t even see this lil guy until I looked in the telescope!

He told us about being tracked by a Jaguar, encountering boars, and about doing the multiple day hikes to Arenal. His knowledge and experience was incredible, and Shaun and I just kept asking him questions to gain as much information from his as possible.

We stopped along the way, learning about various plants and birds. He knew where everything was, from the largest ficus tree, to the smallest hummingbird nests.

Strangler Figs RULE

Strangler Figs RULE

Speaking of Ficus Trees, let me tell you how cool they are. No seriously! Later that day Shaun even said the coolest part of the tour was learning about these trees!

The Ficus Tree, or Stranger Figs, can be seen all over the Cloud Forest. Essentially, it’s like an Ivy. It starts growing on the top of an existing tree, and slowly grows downward, until it roots in the soil. Over time, it over takes the original tree, and kills it. Once the tree is dead, it slowly rots away, leaving the interior of the Ficus hollow. Soooo cool.

Rodrigo showed us several of these trees at various stages in the process, until finally we reached a gigantic Ficus that had a completely hollow. It was amazing. He told us that when he was younger, he would often climb up into the tree, and even showed us a couple of lines he had strung across when he was younger.

Cold Tourists

Cold Tourists

The path ended at a cute little waterfall, where Shaun and I managed to snap a very touristy looking picture. As I type this at the beach, all I can think about is how bundled up we looked. The Cloud Forest is certainly not a warm place!

We headed back down the trail, and out of the park. On the way out, we took a moment to see the hummingbird garden, which was complimentary as part of our tour. I took way to many photos, and have included a bunch at the end of this post.

If you are going to the Cloud Forest of Monteverde, here are our tips

Get a Guide-Better yet, Get Rodrigo!: If you don’t get a guide, and hike the trail on your own, you are likely going to just see a lot of plants. You really need a guide who knows the trail to show you all the intricacies ,details and magic that the forest has to offer. Contact Desafio to book Rodrigo, you won’t be disappointed.

Wear warm clothes- It’s chilly in the cloud forest. Shaun and I had several layers on, and were still a little cold. The hike is really easy, so you aren’t likely to work up a sweat.

Leave the Bug Spray at Home- One bonus of the Cloud Forest? To cold for bugs! Wahoo! So don’t bother “Deeting” yourself, you won’t need it.

Stop at the Hummingbird Garden– It is sort of tucked away in the parking lot, but its totally worth checking out. I think there is a small entrance fee if you are not on a tour, but its worth it if you are wanting to get up close and personal with these little guys. There is also a little cafe if you are craving a coffee or treat after your adventure.

So there you have it, another adventure under our belt, and we loved every moment!

Have you ever had a really good tour guide? Tell us about it!

Pura Vida

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

As Promised…Here are several hummingbirds!

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Rio Celeste, Tenorio National Park, Costa Rica Part 2

Now where were we…

The view from the mid way point of the stairs, lots more to go.

The view from the mid way point of the stairs, lots more to go.

There are five different things to see during the Rio Celeste hike: the waterfall, the lookout, the hot springs, the blue lagoon, and the river mouth.

When we left off, we had just arrived at the staircase down to the waterfall. The stairs are well maintained, but there are A LOT of them. Many guidebooks I’ve read suggest skipping the waterfall at first, and visiting it on your way back. The idea is that the will tire you out for the rest of your hike. I disagree. I was so tired by the end of the hike that I don’t think I would have fully appreciated the sight of these majestic falls at the end.

Killer boots man

Killer boots man

As I made my way down the steep slope, and caught my first glimpse of the water, I knew going on this tour had been the right choice. Never in my life had I seen water that blue. It didn’t even seem real. Jessica was kind enough to take a picture of me, and my wicked boots.

The famous tapir photo

The Blue Lagoon

After spending some time enjoying the falls, we made our way up the zillions of stairs, and back onto the trail. We had about 750m to go until the lookout. Jessica was right in encouraging me to rent the gumboots. I watched so many people trying to dodge the puddles and thick mud. It was so nice to be able to just trudge right through the muck, and not have to worry about getting dirty.

The next stop was the lookout. On some days you can see the volcano mountain range in the distance, but today it was too cloudy. It was however, a good vantage point to catch my first look at the wispy rain of the cloud forest dancing through the trees, a sight I would become all too familiar with in the days to come!

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The famous Tapir photo…to be clear, this is not my photo!

Another 250m down the trail, and we arrived at the Blue Lagoon. Jessica asked me if I’d ever seen the Blue Lagoon movie, because it was filmed here. I totally believed her until she started laughing. Silly tourist. I could hardly imagine Brooke Shields trudging through the mud every day to get to set.

While we were there Jessica told us a story about the infamous Blue Lagoon Tapir photo. A Tapir is an animal that sort of looks like a cross between a gray pig, and an ant eater. They live around Rio Celeste, but are fairly elusive. Seeing one on this tour would be like striking gold. I had noticed in the advertising for the tour that the photos of the blue lagoon have a Tapir front and centre. I assumed it was photoshopped, and was used to lure tourists into thinking they would see one.

Well apparently the photo IS real (see above) and was actually taken by one of the women who works at the soda we had lunch at. She was hiking the trail one day, got to the blue lagoon, and there was a Tapir, taking a dip.

Egg Salad anyone?

Egg Salad anyone?

Luckily she had her camera with her, because now this photograph is famous, and used all over Costa Rica!

Not far from the Blue Lagoon was the hot springs, a bubbling corner of the river that wafted the smell of sulpher into the air. I knew I was getting hungry as it made me want an egg salad sandwich really bad!

Although everything we’d seen was really neat, I thought the final stop was the coolest.

Wonder if Shaun thinks this is up to code?

Wonder if Shaun thinks this is up to code?

We crossed over a couple rickety bridges, and came to the river mouth. This is where two rivers converge, and the chemical reaction that creates the colour occurs.

Okay, so here is my attempt at a chemistry lesson, bare with me:

People used to believe that the colour is caused by a chemical reaction between Sulphur, which is emitted by the volcanic activity, and Calcium Carbonate. This is the information you will find all over the internet, but it is wrong. A study completed in September of last year found that the colour is actually an optical illusion.

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If you look at the photo, you’ll see two river intersecting, one straight, and the other off to the right. Take a look at the whitish hue that covers the rocks on the bottom of the river. This is a combination of Aluminun, Oxygen, and Silicon, and its suspended in the water. When the sun hits it, it creates the illusion of the celestial blue waters we see with our eyes. That’s why if you take the water out of the river, it looks clear.

Clear as the mud on my boot eh? You can read more about it here.

I much prefer the legend which believes that when God painted the sky, he used Rio Celeste to dip his paint brush into. A much lovelier sentiment if I do say so myself.

After taking it all in, we started the big hike back to the van. Although the trail is only 2.5km both ways, the terrain is challenging, and with the rain it made for a long haul. By the time we got back, washed the mud off us, and got in the van I was exhausted, and SO ready for lunch.

I did bring my camera to the restaurant, but was so hungry by the time it arrived I snorfed it up before remember to take a photo. It was salad with fish, and vegetables.  After lunch we got back into the van for the 2 hour drive back to La Fortuna. I’m pretty sure all the guests, including myself, napped the whole way.

If this is a hike you are interested in doing, here are a couple tips:

  • Wear long pants, and bring rain gear, regardless of the season there will be mud
  • Rent the boots, not having to deal with muddy shoes when you get back to your hotel makes it well worth it
  • Bring a snack, an apple of something small will help keep you stamina up during the long hike
  • Although bugs weren’t a huge problem, it’s probably good to have some bugspray handy just in case.
  • Get a good guide. Jessica was amazing, and I would highly suggest requesting her from Canoa Aventura.
  • Ask your tour company about the conditions of the river before booking your tour. You want to make sure it’s in its brilliant blue form.

wowza!!!

wowza!!!

So there you have it, my first big epic tour adventure. I’m so glad I went, as it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress