Once the wedding week was finished and most of the guests returned to Canada, the eight of us who were staying for the road trip packed our backpacks, rented a van and set course for the continental divide.
We had half a day to get to Monteverde, so we took our time stopping first at Las Pumas Wildlife Rescue Center and then at a waterfall along the way for an afternoon swim.
Las Pumas was on our itinerary because it houses five out of six Costa Rica’s wild cats: Jaguar, Puma, Jaguarundi, Ocelot and Margay. It was a good opportunity to have a close look at the cats, since the chances of spotting most of them in the wild were pretty slim. Inevitably, I fell in love with a margay that lounged in its enclosure in such a relaxed manner that it appeared to have melted down the branch it was lying on.
Back on the road we soon reached the foothills of Costa Rica’s continental divide and as the road started to climb the scenery began to change quite dramatically. Rural country side was replaced with lush green forest, cloaked in low hanging clouds and fog. The road clung to the sides of mountains and the edges of deep canyons where clouds hung below the level of the road. The air became much cooler, which was a welcome relief.
By the time we arrived in Monteverde it was already dark. Thankfully the owner of the cottage we rented – Casa Inspiracion, provided us with very detailed driving instructions, so we found the house reasonably quickly. It was too late to go on a night walk and we opted for a quick dinner in town and a shopping trip to the local grocer for breakfast ingredients.
In the morning, following a delicious home-made breakfast we headed to Santa Elena Reserve for a hike in the cloud forest.
The scenery in the cloud forest was quite magic, though it wasn’t particularly cloudy. In fact, it happened to be such a clear day that were lucky enough to get clear views of Arenal Volcano from the viewing platform, which doesn’t happen very often.
Wildlife, generally, is difficult to spot in the rainforest and not-surprisingly we didn’t see much. We heard a few birds, but the only one we actually saw was the Black Guan. Probably simply because it’s a very large bird and it makes a lot of noise.
Back at the visitor centre there is a video monitor that plays footage from the camera traps in the area and I was happy to see a puma selfie.
After a very late lunch we headed to Monteverde Reserve, to the Hummingbird Gallery. We hoped to spot an Olingo, but it didn’t show. The hummingbirds, however, were out in force. Being there in that tiny garden surrounded by dozens upon dozens of tiny brilliantly colored birds, that beat their wings too fast for a human eye to see, was absolutely awe inspiring. We were surrounded by: Violet saberwing, Green-crowned brilliant, Stripe-tailed hummingbird, Coppery-headed emerald, Purple-throated mountain gem, Steely-vented hummingbird, Green violet-ear and a few Bananaquits.
I would’ve liked to stay at the gallery longer to see what animals visit the feeders at night, but it was closing and we also had to rush to join the spotlighting walk that we booked with Kinkajou night walk outfit in town. The walk was quite disappointing. The reserve was very crowded and the guides were uninterested. As a result we only saw two mammals: Two-toed sloth and Dwarf Mexican hairy porcupine. We missed a Kinkajou because our guide chose to spend 20 minutes next to the resident tarantula. Apart from mammals we spotted a pair of Stripe sided palm pit vipers, an exquisite Eyelash viper, Speckled racer, Red eyed stream frog, and Emerald tucanet, or rather a barely identifiable part of one.
The following morning we woke up to the views of a thick blanket of fog hanging low over the mountains. That was the weather much more typical of a cloud forest. Our drive down the mountain, on the way back to the Pacific coast, was interrupted by frequent stops to photograph or simply enjoy the spectacular scenery.
More images in Costa Rica Gallery