When we awoke yesterday we were not quite sure what to expect from our upcoming tour of the cloud forest. Our hotel, and the city of Santa Elena is located 6km from the entrance to the Monteverde Reserve, so we hadn’t really seen any sort of jungle or rainforest yet.
To our surprise our tour bus arrived 20 minutes early, and after a short but bumpy 20 minute drive we had arrived at the entrance to Selvatura park. We checked in at the front desk and were instructed to get fitted for harnesses for our zipline tour. During the fitting they put a helmet on you and tell you not to take it off until the end of the tour, so now we are walking around like special ed students with harnesses strapped to our legs…nobody said anything about the great free entertainment. Another short bus ride later and we arrive in the heart of the jungle. The landscape seemed to transform into a deep lush tropical jungle, it looked like something out of a Hemmingway novel, or Planet Earth…absolutely breathtaking.
We then met our tour coordinators/instructors for the day, a group of 7-10 Ticos with ages ranging from 18-25. They gave us the instructions that we would need for the day including the intricate braking system of the zipline tour but of course none of the Ticos follow them while they are gliding along the ziplines. If you want to brake, just reach up and grab the wire until you slow down (they provided us with gloves retrofitted for the tour). After a brief demonstration we were off to the treetops.
The zipline tour that we had signed up for was the largest one in the area and consisted of 18 different cables that ranged in length from 250 yards to over 1 km. This tour was also famous because it had the infamous Tarzan Swing. What makes these tours so special is that you are given a perspective of the forest that has never been viewed before. Here you are gliding through the treetops, whizzing past vines at 25 mph and then all of a sudden the canopy opens up and you are 200 feet above the treetops looking down at the valley below. The feeling is simply incredible, it must be what flying feels like.
One of the major highlights of the tour is the Tarzan swing. The Tarzan swing is basically a large rope-swing, where you jump off of a balcony, free fall for 20-30 feet and then swing out into the tree tops. Just picture a large rope-swing that you don’t let go of. Anyway, there are no real means to stop a person once they have jumped, so there are two guys on the ground who try and grab you feet as you are flying over their heads going at least 20 mph. Quite the scientific process.
All of the zip-lines on the tour where unique, however the very last cable was absolutely incredible. It was the longest ride of the day measuring in at over 1 km in length (.65 miles). The ride takes around 50 seconds and reaches speeds of 40 mph. It begins amongst the lush tree tops and opens up into a huge valley where you can see a large portion of the reserve as well as Lake Arenal to the left. The feeling was like nothing we had ever felt before. We got a video of the last ride and hopefully we can post it because the ride is simply indescribable. The zipline tour was well worth the entire trip, a once in a lifetime thrill in one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen.
After the zipline tours, we had tickets to go scour the treetop canopies by foot, crossing over 8 different bridges along the way. The whole walk was a total of 3km. This was cool because we got to tour the jungle by ourselves, going at the pace we desired. When we got to the first bridge, the adventure began. The bridges give you such a cool perspective on the jungle treetops. Even peering over the edges of the bridges, down to the jungle floor, is an experience within itself. The overgrowth of plants and trees is simply amazing. The moist climate and warm weather creates the perfect environment for lush, tropical flora and fauna. Multiple varieties of orchids grow abundantly within the jungle and the branches of 100-250ft tall trees are covered with new growth, creating multiple ecosystems on single branches. Vines hang abundantly from every tree, making the world of Tarzan a reality. To say the least, it was incredible, unlike anything we have ever seen. The coolest part of the walk was when we spotted a Resplendent Quetzal. It’s a goregous bird that is native only to Central America. It has beautiful, green/blue irridescent feathers and a bright red chest, but of course our little digital camera did not do the bird any justice. Apparently spotting these birds is a rare sighting, as their population is in danger of extinction due to deforestation and development in and around the Rain Forest. The Quetzal was sacred to the Mayans and figures prominently in their artwork and legends. Today, the Quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala, and name to the Guatemalan currency. It is a very respected bird in Mesoamerican culture.
All in all, the day’s activities were well worth $50 per person. We highly recommend Monteverde for anyone who wants an unforgettable, unique experience.
Today we are traveling to the town of La Fortuna. Apparently the 3 hour ride to get there is well worth the trip. We will take a jeep/taxi to Lake Arenal, cross the lake by boat, and then jump on another jeep/taxi to the town. We are not sure what we want to do there yet, but the Baldi Hot Springs and cascading waterfalls are supposed to be a gorgeous sight.