Costa Rica rainforest – what’s the significance of “primary”?
There are major differences between a rainforest, a cloud forest, a primary rainforest, and a secondary rainforest.
Most of the thousands or rainforests in Costa Rica are secondary — younger trees, dense undergrowth, and newer vegetation (average tree age of about 40 years). Secondary rainforests grow where the primary rainforest has been destroyed — by man, or by Mother Nature in floods, gravity-induced landslides, wind storms, or (unlikely in the tropics) lightning fires. A secondary rainforest does not feel very different from a Michigan or New England woods, except the species are different.
The primary rainforest is more difficult to find — only a few remains in Costa Rica. The primary rainforest is the classic jungle of Tarzan movies — huge trees, a vast, cavernous canopy, vines hanging from massive branches. The primary forest has remained undisturbed for about 1,000 years. Both the primary and secondary rainforests are habitat for thousands of species of animals, but visibility in the primary rainforest is easier because the canopy is more “vaulting”.
Serendipity has access to a private PRIMARY FOREST, where we have suspended a platform 110 feet above the jungle floor. We use the platform to experience nature in a remarkable place, up with the birds and monkeys, above the canopy surrounding the giant Ceiba tree (we named it “Abraham” in honor of the founder of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, because the builders of the platform were of those three religions, working together).
A Virgin forest simply means that only nature has tampered — no man-created changes. It does not necessarily mean the forest we all picture in our minds from Tarzan movies — tall magnificent trees, vines thick enough to support swinging from branch to branch.
Cloud forest is cool forest that is frequently blanketed in low level clouds. Because it is found only in tropical countries at high elevation (5,000 to 8,000 feet), it is ecologically remote, separated, and even, from other cloud forests in the same area, like islands sticking skywards between lower altitude landscapes. Cloud forests host many animal species not commonly found in lower elevations (think “Gorillas in the Mist” and you think cloud forest). Plant forms in cloud forests are nearly identical to fauna found in the era of dinosaurs — essentially not evolved from the earliest fern plants. These primitive plants, grown to gigantic sizes, combined with the misty air, the waterfalls, the solitude — it is an ethereal experience for nature enthusiasts.