Bathed in a curtain of life-giving mist, the Monteverde Cloud Forest in the mountains of Costa Rica is a profusion of saturated greenery that stands as an icon of modern day conservation. Originally founded by Quakers fleeing the draft in 1960s America, this privately owned reserve has now been expanded to cover over 10500 hectares (26000 acres).
With altitudes ranging between 600 m and 1800 m (1970 and 5900 ft), the Forest Preserve is one of the most flourishing biological sanctuaries in the world. Over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, 120 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 2500 species of plants, as well as tens of thousands of insect species reside within its borders. In addition, larger animal species including the jaguar, ocelot, resplendent quetzal and baird's tapir inhabit the Preserve's boundaries.
The reserve is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace and a boat trip on the adjacent Lake Arenal is a good way to get your bearings. From there it is possible to join a guided horseback trek around the lake's shores and on to Monteverde. From this vantage point you can marvel at the myriad of colours that surrounds you, whilst the sounds and scents of this most luscious of environments fills every sense. This area is a true haven for wildlife to flourish, protected from humans. It provides scientists with a great natural field station as well as delivering a wonderful, natural utopia for the more casual tourist to enjoy.
By boat and on horseback
WHEN TO GO
Year-round - though quieter from October to March.
TIME IT TAKES
A combined boat and horseback trip takes around 5 hours.
The Butterfly Garden
The Orchid Garden
The World of Insects
The Monteverde Serpentarium
YOU SHOULD KNOW
If travelling with a guide ask for testimonials or get a recommendation from the local tourist authority, as some operators can be less than scrupulous. Make sure that the horses you ride look healthy and that the guide keeps to well-trodden paths.