Life & Leisure

Palo Verde cloud forest, a hidden treasure of biodiversity in Costa Rica

By María José Brenes

San Jose, Jan 1 (efe-epa).- The Palo Verde cloud forest, a nature reserve in central Costa Rica, is gaining fame slowly as a treasure of biodiversity, offering special trails and treks for sighting more than a hundred types of birds.

A private reserve spread over 692 hectares (1,700 acres) and centered on rural tourism, the forest falls in the area between the Sombrero and Navarro rivers, protected by the environment and energy ministry.

Situated around a one-and-a-half-hour away from the capital by road, the region is also of national importance due to the sizable water reserves it includes.

In Costa Rica, a country that accounts for almost 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity, cloud forests have become synonymous with nature walks, hiking, streams, mist, humidity, and cold, all in the middle of lush green vegetation.

Palo Verde is no exception, situated around 1,750 meters (5,740 feet) above the sea level at its lowest point and 2,100 meters at the highest, tourists are offered an adventure amid the pure mountain air.

The forest offers trekking paths with various difficulty levels and distances of 2, 3, 4, 5, and 11 km depending on the liking and capacity of each person.

Moreover, it also boasts of a single bird-watching path, away from the other activities, so that enthusiasts can look out for different species in complete silence.

“The birds that can be seen right now, (beginning of summer) and have begun to arrive, are the bellbirds, quetzals, tangaras, goldfinches, soterres and many others. In total there are 115 birds in this area, and 85 species have already been sighted,” Jose Masis, one of the owners of the estate, told EFE.

In terms of mammals, one can easily see the white-lipped peccary, goats, coatis, ocelots, olingos, armadillos, and with a little more luck, come across tapirs, jaguars, and pumas. The forest also houses a massive variety of flora.

The Palo Verde cloud forest forms part of the Camino de Costa Rica, a 280 km long hiking trail stretching from the Pacific to the Caribbean coast, passing through villages, small paths, indigenous reserves, primary forests, and cloud forests.

Costa Rica, spread over just 51,000 square kilometers or 0.03 percent of the world’s land area, is home to around 90,000 species or 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity.

The country has a total of 13,030.55 sq km worth of protected nature reserves – including state and privately owned forests – marking around 25.5 percent of the total area. Authorities aim to take this figure to 30 percent.

The private nature reserves are looked after and protected by the owners, as they allow carbon capture, eco-activism, and protection of biodiversity, another step towards stopping climate change.

“We take care of the forest because we have the moral responsibility of saving the place from poachers or bird catchers. (…) We have managed to stop the quads and motorcycles that had invaded the sector because they scare the animals. Our motto is to protect the environment,” Masis said.

Tourism is one of the main driving forces of the Costa Rican economy and has been one of the sectors worst hit by the Covid-19 health crisis.

The Costa Rican Institute of Tourism estimates that tourist receipts in 2020 may have dropped by around 65 percent compared to the year before when tourism generated revenue worth nearly $4 billion. EFE-EPA


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