Day 5: Enroute to La Selva
by Megan Cattau -- February 28th, 2010
Our cross-Continental Divide trip to the lowland forest
We left the UGA Ecolodge this morning to make the trip east over the Continental Divide to La Selva Biological Station. As we loaded our bags into the bus, we took one final look at the cloud forest ecosystem around San Luis and caught a glimpse of a keel-billed toucan high in the canopy. It was a beautiful final image of the site.
On the way out of town, we saw a two-toed sloth hanging from the telephone wires right outside of town. As we all gathered around to take pictures, he gave us a slow, casual glance indicating that he had no intention of moving. Sloths have a low-energy diet of leaves, which necessitates this slow lifestyle. In fact they are so slothful, algae even grows on their fur during rainy periods.
We drove around Lake Arenal, a large reservoir in the center of the country that was formed by the construction of a dam in the late 70’s. Although the formation of the reservoir was controversial because it completely inundated two communities, Lake Arenal currently drives a hydroelectric project that provides the majority of the country’s electricity. Water is also drained off of the lake to irrigate the sugarcane and rice plantations near the Palo Verde area.
We arrived in the lowland humid rainforest in time for a short walk before sunset. The flora at La Selva Biological Station is strikingly diverse compared to what we have seen in the dry forest, the cloud forest, and the transitional forest, and this was apparent from the onset. Our walk was rich with sights of heliconias (“birds of paradise” in the banana family), bromeliads, and figs to name only a small portion of what we saw. One of the most striking plants was the walking palm, which uses its stilt roots to literally walk (albeit slowly) across the forest floor. The fauna here is equally diverse, and the station is an excellent place for bird-watching (and sloth-watching, we would come to find out). Pura vida!