Tag Archives: Tarantulas

Night Hike in the Jungle at Santa Maria Refugio de vida Silvestre

We were pickced up from Pension Santa Elena in Monteverde by Bernald, our guide, for the Night Hike. We were 10 people all together and we were then taken to Santa Maria Refugio de vida Silvestre where we all recieved a flash light and instructions. If we feel anything climbing our legs – warn guide immediately because it could be a scorpion or snake. Yikes. Hehehe.

We set off and the first thing we saw was a giant Tarantula (and yes it was big).

and then we found a Two-Toed Sloth. They are a bit bigger than the Three-Toed Sloth and they move a bit faster. This one wasn’t moving at all though.

The Two-Toed Sloth is a bit brownish in the color compared to the Three-Toed Sloth that is more grayish in color.

We were also lucky enough to see our first snake today. This one lives high up in the branches so that it can keep warm from the sun. This one is a Green Vine Snake.

Thankfully, not all crawling on the ground are scorpions and this a grasshopper.

5 years ago I bought Jack Ewings book Monkeys are made of Chocolate. In that book the story: There is a Fungus Among us was. This is a very informative story about the Leaf-cutter ants (Atta cephalotes is the most common Leaf-Cutter Ant).

Did you know they walk up to 2kms away from their home to collect new leaves and up trees as high as a 10 story building?
Did you know that only the queen is fertile and that the colony dies with her? She lives for about 20 years though.
Did you know that the leaf-cutter ants don’t eat the leafs, but that they grow a fungus on it?

All the members of the colony contribute directly or indirectly to the cultivation of the fungus. The most obvious of the seven distinct castes of Atta cephalotes are the leaf carriers marching through the forest with their green parasol-like cargo. When they arrive at the colony and deposit their leaf crescents, another caste takes over — the cleaners. Each leaf fragment is meticulously scraped and licked until clean. Later it is cut into smaller pieces, chewed, mixed with saliva and formed into a soft wad. The ants then place some fungus starter material, called mycelia on the medium and place it beside other newly planted fungus in a suitable chamber.
From that point another caste, the fungus caretakers, step in and take over the process. These ants are responsible for keeping the fungus clean and free from impurities and infection. They do this partially by physically removing any foreign life form that tries to grow on either the medium or the bread-like fungus.

A bacterium that lives in a patch on the ant’s skin produces an antibiotic that controls the mold. Beyond that, they have learned how to handle technologies more skillfully than the bumbling civilization above their heads. They can grow a monoculture and they have also learned how to deploy an antibiotic without the target pest’s becoming resistant to it.”

Another thing about leaf-cutter ants. Their homes are HUGE:

And this one is just a small part of it !

Read Jack Ewings “There is a Fungus Among us

We saw lots of other animals as well during this hike like the Woolly opossum, the Northern Raccoon, the White-nosed Coati, A few Red Tailed Squirrels, Bats, 2 Frogs (of a species I don’t remember), several species of fireflies and firebeetles.

It was a lovely trip and I had a great time!

After the Hike we went for dinner at Amigos Restaurant. The bar was full with Gringos as the Superbowl was on. However they had good food and once Superbowl was over all the Gringos left. We had an early night.


Amazing Monteverde Cloudforest

cloudy.gifI have been up in the clouds so it has been cloudy and misty rain all day. Temperatures has been down to +16C and we have had wind.

I have spent my first night at a hostel at Pension Santa Elena in Santa Elena close to Monteverde. It was actually a pretty great experience and I might continue doing this a while.

Entering the Cloud forest
I got up at 5:30 and got ready to go to Monteverde Cloud forest reserve with the bus at 6am. I am SOOOO happy I made the sandwitches yesterday and that all I had to do today was taking them out of the fridge. Tired? yes ! But.. the whole idea about going at this hour is to possibly see the animals that most probably will be seen in the morning due to high visits that kinda scare them away.
Barbara could not go today so I went up and got the bus by myself. Well, not entirely by myself. There was always the busdriver and a lady with a kid and Simon and Kate from England that I got to know.

The park did not open until 7am though and we had to wait on a bench up there. It was really misty and everything was wet. Wonderful sounds of the wildlife already at this point at the ranger station. Lots of strange birds to be spotted and as we got closer to 7am a lot of tourists as well. We went to hire a guide and pay the entrances to the park and the tour did not start until 7:30. We were a small group of 8 and we were shown a small video of the forest before we started our tour. Our first visit was at the Hummingbird garden close by. The hummingbirds are amazing creatures and they sound like small jet planes sirkeling around your head. Or small motorbikes. Also, the smallest hummingbird is the one that makes most sound.

mv308.jpgEntering the forest trails we noticed the sensation of the sounds of the forest. GOD that is amazing. Birds singing and Howler monkeys doing their howling and the dripping of the constant rain. The guide told us that it is normal to have 10 METERS of rain a year in Monteverde area.

Monteverde also has 4000 plant/tree species within its tiny areas while in comparison ALL of Europe has 12 000 species. The first 10 minutes of the path we walked in secondary forest before entering the primary forest also known as virgin forest.
We managed to spot the famous Quetzal (Guatemalas national bird) and the Orange-bellied Trogon that is a very close relative. We also spotted a lot of other birds and even a sloth.

The misty sensation of the constant dripping was amazing, but the guided tour ended around 10 am. Kate, Simon, an english lady living in spain and I had lunch and then we headed into another trail in the forest, El Camino.
It is, apparently, the oldest trail they have and also the most open one.
During our walk we headed into another trail, the Wilford Guindon Trail, to enter a hanging bridge in the forest. Amazing.

At this point the english lady went back to the ranger station and Simon, Kate and I continued by ourself. We did not exactly walk fast because there was too much to see and explore. The Wilford Guindon Trail meets up with El Camino Path after about 1 km and we continued on our orignial path leading us to the Penas Blancas Valley that is also the continental divide point.
IF it would have been a clear day we could have seen both the caribbean and the pacific coast from there. The vegetation at this point was called “bosque enano” – dwarf forest – because of all the wind the trees dont grow tall like in more protected areas. There was a sign explaining that the velocity of the winds often reaches between 80-150 kms/hour. THAT is fast.

Heading back we chose the “bosque nuboso” (the cloudforest) trail. It was about 2,5 km long and amazing. We were all just SOOO impressed by the dripping sensation from the forest and beeing in the clouds that we walked around taking pictures of everything and trying to capture our every little memory.
See the trail map here

When we got back to the ranger station we had something more to eat and then suddenly a Coati shows up and starts begging food. He even seemed to like to being taken pictures of. He went up on to legs and even jumped up on the lunch table at a point. The guards told us he had stolen a purse last week and taken it high up in a tree and one of the rangers had to climb up in the tree to get it back for the lady. hehe. I would have liked to see that !!

The bus back to the hostel left at 3:50pm and we had time to visit the hummingbird garden before we left. At the hostel I met up with Barbara and we ordered a guided nightwalk tour for the night.

The Twilight walk at The Childrens eternal rainforest
At 5p, we were picked up by a minibus to go to The Childrens Eternal Rainforest to do a Twilight Night walk.
Man that was amazing. The bus left us at the entrance and the group had to hike about 5 minutes before getting to the ranger station where we were divided in smaller groups and given a tour guide and the proper equipment for a night walk. Flash lights !

We stayed at the ranger station to watch the sunset and then entered the “Bajo del Tigre trails” trying to be very quiet. The forest was coming alive. Man, what a beautiful choir !
The light disappeared very quick and the flashlights were very necessary. It was almost impossible to see anything. Good thing our guide knew what to look for. We saw tiny frogs not even the size of the thumbnail on a 10 year old, Tarantulas, sleeping toucans, funnelweb spiders, bats and lots of other big and small insects. Though we did not see the snakes (luckily) nor monkeys, sloths or cats. One of the other groups spotted sloths.

It was an amazing experience to walk through the forest at night. But I must admit I would have been scared to do it by myself… hehe.

We were taken back to the hostel at 7:45pm and barely managed to get into the foodstore that closed at 8pm to get more food to make the sandwitches for tomorrows lunch. I was so tired I had 2 cans of Tuna for dinner and then headed for the room and went to bed before 10pm.

Listen to sounds from the Cloud Forest in this link