We awoke to a steady rain and the wind whistling as it came over the ridge. In hopes of seeing “the best view of Lake Arenal” that our lodge had advertised I pulled back the curtains, resulting in a fantastic view of the mist and fog stretching 10 feet out, and the giant arachnid that had taken shelter between the glass and the screen (Luckily for it and for me, on the outside). Not our first wildlife encounter on the trip, as we had seen the large spiders in the headlights of the car on the way up the mountain the previous evening.
We traversed the field of mud to the lodge for breakfast, but immediately relaxed as steaming cups of coffee were placed in front of us along with a plate of fresh fruit. Pineapple, mango, watermelon, cantaloupe and banana, fresh and bursting with flavor! There was a range of breakfast choices cooked to order, but one option consistently offered during our time in Costa Rica was gallo pinto, fried rice and black beans. Served with eggs and ham or bacon, we would drink fruit juice freshly squeezed that morning while the boys experimented with different choices each day. As our party slowly filtered through, we planned out the day and arranged for a shuttle to take us to Selvatura, in our search for one last adventure of 2014.
Known for adrenaline-inducing ziplining tours, Selvatura is similar to many of the other adventure parks in the region, differing mainly with its location within the Cloud Forest Reserve and its seclusion from artificial sights (I don’t think I saw one man-made structure other than the butterfly house from any of the bridges). Our group split up upon arrival, Krišs and Mīla joining us for the tamer hanging bridges tour while the rest set off to get suited up for ziplining. We first ate lunch at the lodge before setting off on the series of eight hanging bridges which criss-crossed the canopy of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde). Named for the ephemeral mists that envelop them, Costa Rica's cloud forests (actually montane tropical rainforests) are found at elevations above 3,500 feet. The lush canopies rarely reach 100 ft, and it is within the upper reaches that the bridges stretched, ranging in length between 150 and 510 feet at altitudes from 36 to 180 feet. The trail was 1.9 miles, taking about two hours at our pace.
Our expectations of seeing animals were pretty low as we had four noise-making machines in our party and we were setting off in the middle of the day, so we were pleasantly surprised with the birds and animals we did see. The highlight was a coati nosing its way across the gardens in search of a meal, much like the one that resides at the Greenville Zoo. However the plant life was unbelievable, every available inch of space alive, draped with flowers and ferns. The weather was not very cooperative, and the rain meant views were not as magnificent as we could have hoped for, but the experience was extraordinary, a glimpse into a life usually high above our heads and inaccessible.
As far as what a visitor to an adventure park in the Monteverde area needs to know, it pays to come prepared. Literally, for rain ponchos cost $10 a piece (rain jackets more) and aren’t very well-made. Check out the website for the various packages offered, as several of the activities can be combined for a lower cost, and if you are planning on eating at the lodge be sure to include the meal in your package as ordering off the menu will be more expensive. In addition to the canopy tour (ziplining) and treetop walkways (hanging bridges), other attractions include a butterfly garden, insect house, hummingbird garden and reptile and amphibian exhibits.
The five of us returned the following day as Roberts had offered to occupy the boys while I took a turn at ziplining the canopy. I highly recommend doing both, as the hanging bridges gave a tour of the canopy that ziplining did not allow, but zipping through the cloud forest was an adventure I can liken only to operating the ping-pong machine from a helicopter during my stint as a wildland firefighter.
After being fitted with a harness and helmet, the group was ushered into a van for a short trip to the starting point. A short safety demonstration later (it is expected that you can manually brake if given the symbol) you climb up to the first of 18 platforms and fly off on one of 15 cables. After some flights you land only to be hooked into another zipline, while in other spots there are short hikes connecting the lines, but there is no question, this was a heck of a way to kick off 2015!
In addition to an optional “Tarzan swing” that lets you take the free fall of a pendulum, there is the option to pay extra to fly the Superman. This does mean you will be carrying your own gear (a 10 lb pack) the entire time, but in my opinion it was well worth the last zipline. Instead of making the 1 km long trip with a buddy, I was strapped into a sling and made the journey headfirst facing down with the freedom of a bird. With the wind in my ears it was the closest I will ever come to flying, and the exhilarating flight left me with a loss for words other than pura vida, the unofficial slogan of Costa Rica meaning “pure life.”
Thank you Robert, for the chance to take the canopy tour – it would not have been possible without your time solo with the boys! Simply a soaring start to the New Year!!!