Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Selvatura hanging bridges

The cloud forest

We are now staying in Monteverde, which straddles the Continental divide: the Pacific slope on one side and the Caribbean slope on the other. It is accessible only by one of the worst roads we have ever seen. Apparently the locals don't want it improved because they fear to be over-run by tourists. The main attraction is the Cloud Forest - basically rain forest at high altitude (about 1600m). It is always damp because of warm moist air coming from the Caribbean discharging its water when it hits the high ridge of the Continental divide.

We have explored the cloud forest at ground level and now we are taking a high level path linked by eight hanging bridges to see what it looks like at canopy level. We know already that there is a lot going on in the canopy and this branch covered in bromeliads gives a good indication of the way in which plants pile on top of each other in the struggle for light.

The first bridge was fairly uneventful, but the next one presents a more dramatic sight.

 Soon you have a real feeling of being on top of the world, looking down on the thick forest.

It is of course raining a little so the view is not great, but it is marvelous to be able to see the tops of the trees we have previously only been able to gaze up at.

In one of the ground level sections we were thrilled when our guide pointed out an Owl butterfly sheltering on a tree trunk. This one is Caligo atreus dionysos, the Yellow-edged Giant Owl.

On the final bridge our guide spotted this green viper nesting in the top of a tree. It is a side-striped palm-pit viper, one of the dozen or more venomous snakes found in Costa Rica.

As we neared the end of the circuit, I couldn't resist this shot of somebody zooming across the sky, high above the canopy, on a zip line. The remarkable coexistence of eco-tourism and activities for teh thrill-seeker!

After the canopy walk we had a very interesting guided tour of the fine butterfly house. There weren't as many butterflies as one might have hoped, but this remarkable Colobura dirce stood out. It has a kind of dummy head at the back of its body. The idea being that if this part is attacked by a predator, the insect can escape with its vital organs unaffected.

We also saw some newly hatched Malachites. It is a beatiful butterfly when roosting with its wings open ..

... but quite staggering when you see the underwings.

Conditions: Cool and damp.

Distance: about 2 miles.

Rating: five stars.

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