We had a guided tour of the Santa Elena Cloud Forest for 3 hours. It is the highest cloud forest in the Monteverde area. The forest area here is covered with clouds most of the time. There are over-sized ferns, exotic orchids, and giant vines. We walked 12 kms of trails and climbed up the observation tower where we could see above the tree canopy and see the Pacific Ocean! We heard the haunting call of the 'bell bird' but we couldn't see it. The rare and elusive quetzal, a bird once revered by the pre-Columbia people's of America is found in this area. This robin-sized bird has iridescent green wings and a ruby-red breast and is extremely rare due to habitat destruction. The male quetzal also has two long tail feathers that can reach nearly 2ft in length, making it one of the most spectacular birds on earth. We were there during their mating season: Feb to April. Other animals that have been see here include jaguars, ocelots, and tapirs. The Golden Toad, a rare native species, use to be sighted here but it has disappeared and is feared extinct. Competing theories of the toad's demise include adverse effects of a natural drought cycle, the disappearing ozone layer, pesticides, and acid rain.
Cloud forests are a mountain top phenomena. Moist, warm air sweeps in off the ocean and is forced upward by the mountain slopes. As this moist air rises, it cools, forming clouds. Mountain tops in Monteverde are blanketed almost daily in dense clouds. As the clouds cling to the slopes, moisture condenses on forest trees. This constant level of moisture has given rise to an incredible diversity of innovative life forms and a forest in which nearly every square inch of space has some sort of plant growing. Within the cloud forest, the branches of huge trees are draped with epiphytic plants like orchids, ferns, and bromeliads. This intense botanical competition has created an almost equally diverse population of insects, birds and other wildlife. Monteverde area boasts more than 2,500 species of plants, 450 types of orchids, 400 species of birds and 100 species of mammals.
After our nauture walk, we headed for the longest Zipline in Latin America with the Adventura Company. We had instructions on how to position our body and hands to stop spinning and how to brake. We went across 4 zip lines, each progressively getting longer, faster and higher: 1-1275ft, 2-1410, 3-1800ft and 4-2250ft. When we got to the 4th line, we then repelled 90 ft down the platform which surrounded a tree to get to the steep trail that led to the platform for the Superman Cable. This cable crossed a valley twice: 5,217 ft long and 591 ft high. You faced the ground and you had no control over the speed or braking. When we zipped across the valley the first time you had to tuck your arms in due to some strong winds. This was so you didn't stop in the middle of the cable. Then we went across a second time and were able to put out our arms like we were Superman! It was amazing. The trees down in the valley looked like small broccoli. We were going fast but didn't get the sensation when we were flying over the valley. I had a Swallow-tailed Kite gliding below me in a thermal! You definitely realized how fast you were going when you entered the forest on the other side of the valley!