On our Central America cruise, there is an opportunity on our Costa Rica extension to ascend the Monteverde Skywalk, a series of suspension bridges, for a bird's-eye view of the rain forest canopy. This is a well-thought-out combination of suspension bridges and walking trails through the Monteverde rainforest that span ravines and drainages, bringing you to eye level with the upper reaches of the forest canopy.
There are six bridges in total, the longest being some 984 feet. The trails extend for slightly over a mile and a half (2.5 km), making this tour doable for anyone in moderate shape. The climb is not strenuous or muddy, as the trails are well-maintained and generally very flat. Our guides accompany you to share their wealth of knowlede about native plant and animal species found here. On our Costa Rica and Panama cruise extension, we form small groups during this exploration, and the visit normally lasts two to three hours.
It is only recently that people have been able to get into this realm about which so little was known. Early explorer-scientists used ropes or ladders carved into tree trunks to make their way up. Today, biologists explore the forest canopy using towers, suspension bridges and construction cranes.
Only 1-2% of the sunlight reaches the forest floor, the canopy and upper regions of the forest receiving the full force of the sun which drives the photosynthesis that is the basis of all life. Most organisms live in the canopy, taking advantage of the leaves, flowers, fruit, and seeds produced here.
The cloud forests of Monteverde are specially adapted to absorb moisture directly from the ever-present mist, and trees are covered in epiphytes (“air plants,” those that live on trees to be closer to the light). However, the epiphytes are not parasites—they feed off water, dust and nutrients that accumulate around their own roots, in addition to adding to the water-gathering ability of their host trees.
Costa Rica has roughly 1,400 species of orchids and close to 200 species of bromeliads (family of the pineapple), almost all of them epiphytes. The epiphytes, treetops, and vines create an interlaced canopy that helps preserve the moisture within the forest and also provides a home for many small animals and insects that live in the canopy.
Rainforests comprise some of the world's most complex ecosystems and our visit to Monteverde's Sky Walk on our Costa Rica and Panama cruise extension gives you the unique chance of seeing this complex web of life up close and personal.
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