If you are a miniature orchid lover, you would be in heaven in Monteverde Orchid Garden (Jardín de Orquídeas) in Costa Rica. The garden has a vast collection of approximately 450 orchid species native to Costa Rica. Most of the orchids are from Moneteverde Cloud Forest, which is 5000 feet above sea level, but some are from higher or lower level of altitude as well.
Our guide was Ricky, the son of the garden owner (yes, it is a private-owned collection), spoke perfect English. Before the tour, he explained to us what makes orchid an orchid. Then armed with magnifying glass, we were led to the growing area. Ninety percent of the orchids were mounted on trees, just like how they naturally grow in the area. I would say about 20% of them where in bloom. Ricky told us that they hardly had to water the plants because of the rainfall and humidity; he only had to water 3 times a year or so. Occasionally, he will spray a mixture of water, garlic, onion and pepper to deter pest – truly an environmentally friendly pesticide.
To be quite honest, I haven’t heard most of orchid genera grown there, so definitely these are not your everyday orchids from the grocery store. The more familiar orchids are Maxillaria, Pleurothallis, lockhartia, Barkeria, Lycaste, Gongora, Epidendrum and Coelogyne. Most are tiny but all are gorgeous. I was lucky enough to catch the bloom of the smallest orchid flower in the world, Platystele jungermannioides.
The word ‘Monteverde’ means green mountain and it describes precisely what Monteverde offers. If you love nature, you will love this lushly beautiful place. It is situated 5000 feet above sea level. It takes about 4.5 hours of driving from Costa Rica’s international airport in San Jose. This drive used to be punishing. The first time we went in 2005, we took a city bus, going through pothole after pothole as big as a monster truck tire. The road was so rough that the ceiling of the bus was padded (so you wouldn’t bump your head to the ceiling!). It took us 8 hours to ride the 90-mile journey. Even so, the destination was so worth the hassle. The natural beautiful and wild life were bursting with abundance. Now even though a portion of the road is still not paved, the condition of the road is great comparatively speaking. Therefore, more and more people are heading up to Monteverde. You definitely should pay a visit before it gets too crowded.
Monteverde was founded in 1951 by Quakers from Alabama in the US. They started life in this country from cheese making. The practice is still very much intact with way higher tech equipments. The guide, Ronald, was extremely animated and offered great information about cheese making as well as the history of Monteverde.
The Bat Jungle
Monteverde has about 65 species of bats. This wildlife exhibit explains the different kinds of bats – their habitat, food and behaviors. You will also get to see some bats behind glass. Thoroughly educational and highly recommended.
Jewels of the Rainforest Bio-Art Exhibition
This exhibit is in a park called Selvatura. It displays a fraction of the 50,000 insects from the Richard Whitten collection. The variations, strangeness and beauty will dazzle you.