1. The forest is located along a mountain range in Costa Rica
The Monteverde Cloud Forest is a reserve in Costa Rica in Central America. Locally it’s known as the “Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde” and it’s situated along the Cordillera de Tilarán, a mountain range that runs all across the central area of Costa Rica.
The forest runs along the southern edge of the mountains in the northwestern tip of this mountain range which really forms the spine of the country.
2. It covers a vast area to the northwest of the capital of the country
The reserve covers an area of 10,500 hectares, or 26,000 acres, and is located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) to the northeast of the capital of the country, San José. The forest covers areas of two provinces in the country as well, those of Puntarenas and Alajuela.
It’s world-famous as well and has been called the “the jewel in the crown of cloud forest reserves” by National Geographic.
3. It’s named after a town nearby
The reserve was named after the nearest town in the area with the same name. The town of Monteverde, which is officially called “Monte Verde” or “Green Mountain,” is rather small as it has a population of not even 5,000 people.
It does provide the necessary amenities for tourists visiting the area and literally lives from the ecotourism that the nearby cloud forest brings. The forest is visited by about 70,000 people every year!
4. A family of pacifist Quakers moved here in the 1950s
It all started in the 1950s when about 11 families of Quakers from the U.S. state of Alabama purchased land in the Monteverde area to start a farming business. Quakers are a Christian Group also referred to as the “Religious Society of Friends,” the “Friends Church,” or simply “Friends.”
They didn’t just move to a completely new country without a reason. Their pacifist nature didn’t allow them to stay in the United States out of fear of being drafted in the Korean War, so they basically dodged the draft by moving to Costa Rica.
At the same time, Costa Rica had abolished their army 3 years earlier so this country was perfectly in line with their ideology. It’s these people who ended up referring to the forest near the town as Monteverde as well!
5. Scientists started moving to the area in the 1960s
The first contact between scientists and the Quaker community living in the area happened in the 1960s. They instantly recognized the remarkable biodiversity of the region after being shown around by the leader of the community, Mr. Hubert Mendenhall.
There weren’t any concrete plans to create a reserve just yet, nor as there any infrastructure to welcome more scientists to the region, but the knowledge of these initial explorations inspired others to take further steps.
6. A young student established the first biological preserve in the region
A student at the Tropical Science Center in San José named George Powell was living in Monteverde to do research back in 1972. Because he thought the area was perfect for scientific research, he made an offer for the TSC to acquire part of the land in the area for this purpose.
Remarkably, he managed to buy 328 hectares (810 acres) of land in the area for just 1 symbolic colón, way less than USD $1 at the time. This land was the forerunner of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve we have today and started attracting hundreds of scientists every year shortly after.
7. Tourism to the preserve gradually grew in the 1980s
One of the most remarkable facts about the Monteverde Cloud Forest is that back in the year 1975, there was no lodging available yet for the 431 scientists who visited the area that year.
This changed when a local Quaker named Mrs. Wood opened a small bed and breakfast later in the 1970s, something that made the area instantly a lot more attractive.
More and more scientists visited the cloud forest every single year all throughout the 1980s and more and more facilities opened its doors this decade. The yearly visitors skyrocketed from just 2,700 in 1980 to over 40,000 in 1991!
This number continued to rise and today, over 70,000 people visit the cloud forest every year!
8. Most of the cloud forest consists of virgin forest
The Reserve has since been expanded tremendously and now consists of 6 distinct ecological zones. One of the most fascinating facts about the Monteverde Cloud Forest is that over 90% of the forest consists of virgin forest.
This is a type of forest that is already mature but hasn’t been influenced by human activity. This is one of the main reasons why it’s so attractive for scientific research.
9. The Monteverde Cloud Forest has an extremely high biodiversity
Nature has been able to do its thing for countless years, and this has resulted in an extremely high biodiversity. The Monteverde Cloud Forest is home to:
- 2,500 plant species.
- 100 species of mammals.
- 400 bird species (including the amazing Scarlet Macaw).
- 120 reptilian and amphibian species.
- 1000’s of insects.
10. Nowhere in the world can we find as many orchids as here
A large chunk of the plants living in the cloud forest are epiphytes, organisms that grow on the surface of other plants or trees and that get their nutrients from the air or rain. These plants consist of 29% of the flora in the cloud forest.
One of the most amazing facts about the Monteverde Cloud Forest is that over 500 species of orchids grow here as well, which is more than in any other place in the world!
Of the more than 500 species of orchids, 34 were species unknown to scientists at the time they were discovered as well.
11. It used to be the native habitat of the golden toad
The area of the reserve was expanded tremendously during the 1980s, and more and more people wanted to take a closer look at one of the most remarkable animals native to the cloud forest, the so-called “golden toad” (Bufo periglenes).
Unfortunately, during this decade, a horrible and deadly fungal pandemic called “Chytridiomycosis” raged through the forest and wiped out about 40% of the amphibian population.
Unfortunately, the golden toad was one of the species that got extinct during this period.
12. The forest has a number of popular tourist attractions
Things have changed quite a bit ever since Mrs. Wood opened up her bed and breakfast to welcome the handful of guests that visited the reserve in the 1970s. Today, Bus shuttles take tourists back and forth from the towns of Monteverde and Santa Elena at least 5 times a day.
There’s even a lodging facility within the cloud forest itself, as well as an information center, serpentarium, frog pond, bat jungle, and butterfly gardens.
The forest has well-maintained walking paths that consist of multiple bridges to make it easy to roam around this miracle of nature as well!
This concludes the ultimate list of facts about the Monteverde Cloud Forest, one of the most fascinating forests in the world that attracts both scientists and tourists who want to admire its amazing biodiversity!