National Geographic Expeditions
Cloud forests are found in tropical regions where the clouds intersect the mountain ranges. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve is located on the Tilarán mountain range in northern Costa Rica at an elevation of 1500 meters (5000 feet) above sea level on the continental divide. Cloud immersion during extended periods of time shapes the architecture and species composition of the cloud forest, which is characterized by having lush evergreen vegetation and rich biodiversity.
Although Climate Change has been prominent in Monteverde, three major seasons can still be recognized. The rainy season extends from May through November and is characterized by having sunny mornings and rainy afternoons and evenings. Extreme weather events such as hurricanes are becoming increasingly abundant especially in September, October and November during the peak rainy season. By mid to late November the trade winds break and they begin transporting vast amounts of mist into the mountain range. Wind gusts can reach 90 km/hr or more. This transition is called the windy-misty season and it lasts sometimes until mid to late January. The dry season starts in January and ends in April. During this time the trade winds slow down and the cloud formation is reduced.
Biodiversity is an intrinsic characteristic of the Monteverde Cloud Forest. It is estimated that about 50% of Costa Rica’s biodiversity may be found within this area, an impressive 2.5% of the total world’s biodiversity.
To date, more than 3200 species of plants have been found in Monteverde. This is almost as many plants as in the entire country of Canada. High humidity levels and dark understories have been the main drivers for the evolution of epiphytes as one of the most abundant plant habits in Monteverde. More than 700 species of trees and 500 species of orchids have been classified in Monteverde, being one of the most orchid-rich places on Earth. About 10% of Monteverde’s plant species are endemic. Endemism is a phenomenon caused by thermal isolation from the lower elevations among other reasons. It also occurs in other organisms.
Monteverde is home to 425 species of birds, 120 species of mammals, 60 species of amphibians and 101 species of reptiles. A total of 658 species of butterflies and 100 species of dragonflies and damselflies have been recorded. The variety of other insects, fungi and microorganisms have not been studied.
Monteverde became famous in the scientific world for being the location where the first climate-related species extinction was recorded. The Golden Toad (Incilius periglenes) was one of the endemic species of amphibians that became extinct in the late 1980’s due to the global pandemic caused by the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). Major efforts have been made to study the health of the local populations of amphibians at the reserve. Some species have reappeared, but the vast majority have declined, and some are extinct. This shows the importance of preserving large tracts of natural areas as a measure to preserve the existing biodiversity that is left on Earth.
Life zones are areas with similar climatic characteristics such as average annual temperature, rainfall and evapotranspiration. According to the life zones classification system created by Leslie Holdridge, one of the founding members of the Tropical Science Center, four main life zones are found in Monteverde:
- The Premontane Rain Forest covers an area of 948 hectares (1230 acres) and is found on the middle elevations of the Peñas Blancas river on the Caribbean slope of Monteverde.
- The Lower Montane Rain Forest encompasses the greater part of the preserve (2,180 hectares/5400 acres) and is found on both slopes on the high peaks and crests of the continental divide.
- The Lower Montane Wet Forest covers 341.5 hectares (842 acres) known as “the triangle” and is the life zone where the infrastructure and trails are located. This area is where the vast majority of research projects have been implemented in Monteverde.
- The Premontane Wet Forest is the least represented in the preserve with only 174.9 hectares (432 acres) and is found on the Pacific slope.
Our conservation efforts
We protect more than 4125 hectares (10193 acres) of pristine forest in Monteverde from 1400 meters above sea level on the Pacific slope over to the continental divide and down to the Caribbean slope in the Peñas Blancas river valley. Our forest rangers not only strive for the conservation of the biodiversity against illegal activities such as deforestation and pouching, they also help safeguard the wellbeing of our visitors
More than 13 km of well-maintained trails with access to observation platforms are thoroughly maintained by our staff in order to minimize the impact to the forest and increase the enjoyment of our visitors.
Make an Impact
In order to secure the future of our planet, we must collaborate strategically to protect the biodiversity that remains, repair the environmental damage that we have caused and learn how to co-exist with nature wisely.
The Tropical Science Center and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve offer an array of opportunities for individuals and organizations to become part of the solution and make a difference in the restoration of our planet one step at the time.
Immersion in nature
I asked to my friends: if I only have time to visit one place, where should I go?
They’ll agree that the Reserve is a must!
I went all by myself planning to do the longest trial but it was around 1pm and they close at 4pm so I only had that time frame to explore.
I am glad I took the jacket with a hat because there was a mist on and off all the way.
I loved the giant trees, the sound of birds and clouded sky...
(Is better if you walk in silence, kinda meditation technique...) Have fun, K January, 2021
Not to be missed
Beautiful experience. The viewpoint after hike are definitely worth it. It was a clear day when we went so we did see clouds far away rolling over the mountain jungle and also saw nice view with water. I definitely recommend all nature and hiking lovers to go here. Their restaurant was also good with good vegetarian options. January, 2021
Birds, Birds, and More Birds
The cloud forest is a must see for all nature enthusiasts. The trails are well marked, very well maintained, and the facilities on sight (restaurant & gift shop) are very nice. There is no parking, so you either walk, take a taxi, or park at the bottom of the road in the special parking lot and catch the shuttle service. Be prepared to walk a lot. Guide services are available. While there, stop by the Monteverde Hummingbird Garden (it’s free) and come face to face with several different species. December, 2021
Cloud Forest in the Rain
TFun walking through the cloud forest...we started around 1:45pm which is late in the day and unfortunately had a lot of rain. We made the best of it and went on several trails. It was pretty muddy but beautiful with the mist and clouds coming and going. We didn’t see much wildlife but the trees and jungle vegetation were stunning. Would love to do this again sometime early in the day when the sun is out. December, 2021