We were literally looking down on the tree tops! Yesterday morning we did a canopy walk in the Monteverde Forest. We started out at eight in the morning and our group was virtually alone in the forest. We were with a couple from Switzerland and a couple from Chicago. We spent two hours traversing a series of five long suspension bridges about fifty meters high. You can see one of the bridges in the distance here. Some of the trees towered above us but we looked down on many others.
Andre was our guide. He is a naturalist with a university degree and you could tell. He is the best guide we’ve had yet in Costa Rica. He taught us so much about the cloud forest. Cloud forests are found at high elevations throughout the world and much of the moisture the trees receive comes from cloud and fog.
Trees in a cloud forest can have up to a hundred other plants growing on them. Some of these plants, like most orchids are epiphytes which means they do not harm their host tree. They derive the water and nutrients they need from the air and fog or rain clouds not from their host tree. But some of these plants, like strangler figs are parasites and they do harm the tree they are growing on. We learned that trees have different defense mechanisms to protect themselves from predators and parasites. They might turn their leaves brown or make their fruit bitter.Andre also taught us about the uses of various plants and trees in the cloud forest. This plant for example has little sponges for leaves that absorb water. If you are lost in the forest you can suck on them and get a drink.The leaves of the ginger plant are extremely soft on the underside and can be used for toilet paper. This huge leaf can serve as an umbrella and its rough texture means it can be used as sandpaper or an emery board. Andre crushed the berries from this tree and let us smell them. They had an overwhelming lemon scent. He said their juice can be used as a natural mosquito repellent. The leaves of this trumpet tree are a favorite food of sloths, can be used to treat asthma and can end a pregnancy. By the way our guide Andre’s sharp eyes did spot a sloth in a nearby trumpet tree. Andre had encyclopedic knowledge about every creature we saw, even this millipede. He told us all about it. If Dave heard a bird sing Andre knew which one it was. When Dave photographed this bird Andre told him right away it was a yellowish flycatcher. We had a great morning in the cloud forest with Andre. The last few days in Monteverde there have been incredible high winds and the suspension bridges have had to be closed. So we were lucky that before we left here the wind died down and we were able to walk through the canopy and get a bird’s-eye view of the cloud forest.