More quetzals and cloud forests around San Gerardo de Dota

The “long” four hour birdwatch tour with Carlos

With Carlos, we have booked a long birdwatch tour. We drive some 400m down to the Savegre Lodge, then up again on a rough road (need 4 wheel drive for the first time) and do the round tour “La Roble” through the cloud forest with oak trees, yew trees, fern trees, some few palm trees and many, many bromelias.

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Carlos attracts the birds either by playing the sounds from his birds’ app or by singing the birds’ songs himself. He identifies about 50 birds, from flycatchers, thrushes, warblers, tanagers, parakeets, woodcreepers, woodpeckers, vultures, robins, finches and also hummingbirds. I am happy to see some of these birds, but they are all so high in the trees…

We are walking with a couple from Australia that has routine in bird watching and also carries the right camera. They give me this foto of a scintillant hummingbird – thank you.


The song of one bird is omnipresent. Ursula says, this bird sounds like a garden gate that needs oiling. Right, I can hear that as well. Carlos explains that the bird that sings like a sqeaking garden gate is called black faced solitaire (or Solitario Carinegro in Spanish).


Our new bungalow with the view of the valley 

Today we move to a cabin that is closer to the reception/restaurant area of our Dantica lodge and has a view of the valley. This is the morning from the living room.

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As temperatures are chilly, we have an oven that works with methylated spirit like the fondue rechaud in Switzerland.

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The early morning quetzal tour – so many quetzals in the avocado trees

At half past five, we start the early morning quetzal tour with Carlos. We drive down into the valley and stop on the road between avocado trees. The quetzal loves the small avocado fruit that fits into its beak. We are lucky and see about five quetzal birds, the male with the long tail and the female with the shorter tail. Sometimes I even see them with the naked eye. On this foto there is the double line of the tail on the second bundle of branches from below… this is how you have to spot the birds.

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Not easy to see. But Carlos uses his Swarowsky. And here it is, a male quetzal.


and another male quetzal.


Carlos explains that  Quetzals can live up to twenty years and that the Tucancillo steals his eggs.

Happy we return around seven to have breakfast, and then start with Carlos for another tour to understand more about the cloud forest.


The excursion to the cloud forests – The “normal”, the “premontana” and the “páramo”

Carlos shows us the type of cloud forest that prevails around the Cerro de la Muerte above 3000m. The two types of cloud forests here are called “premontana” or “pre-mountain” (smaller trees and bushes) and “páramo” (more shrubby). Páramo is higher than pre-mountain, but also less humid. On the ridge of the Cerro the Caribbean side is more humid with pre-mountain trees and the Pacific side has the páramo vegetation. They meet on the ridge.

Carlos shows us small gems like the dwarf bamboo, bromelia (on the trees, but also on the ground, where they can survive, when landing upright), Verbena, Hypericum Costarricense (with yellow flowers), Lady’s slippers, “soap plants”, thistles, moss (black) versus lichen (white), Erika plants, relatives of the blueberries, this Bomarea Acutifolia,

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the tiny orichds called Telipogon Storkii

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or this tiny Montbrecia.

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We also see some birds: The volcano junco and the black billed nightingale thrush.

Here we stand on one of the summits on about 3400m. The clouds are coming from both sides today. The plants take the moisture mostly from the clouds, supported by the moss and lichen that retain the water – ths is a symbiotic relationship. Carlos shows us that most plants have stiff leaves to resist to freezing temperatures and some plants with softer leaves are hairy to protect themselves.


On a clear day we could see the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean from here. Now we just see the clouds and start to dream about fantoms that creep and fly along the hills.


The walk to the cataratas near the Savegre Lodge

The steep San Gerardo valley is also full of waterfalls. Near the Savegre Lodge there is the sign “2km to the cataratas”. We expect an easy walk on a cloud forest path that starts here, where the Savegre river looks quite harmless.

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But after one kilometer the path gets rough. Ropes support us and sometimes also metallic ladders that would need to be repaired.

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A slippery climb down to the river leads to this waterfall..

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The cloud forest is now covered with clouds and it is drizzling. Our hair become wet. We feel like lichens in the cloud forest. When we arrive at our car, Ursula sighs: “Well, one and a half hours for 4kms… I had expected an easier path”. After a shower we have our last dinner in the Dantica Lodge, fresh trout with vegetables. Tomorrow we will continue to the Caribbean Sea.

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