Today we visited the tropical rainforest in the middle of the island. There are various tours around the forest including hiking and zip wires, but we took the easy option and went up through the forest on a cable car. We only had time to do either the cable car or the zip wire and we would see more from the car. There were 8 of us in total so we were all in one car with a very knowledgeable guide who talked us through the forest for about 1 and a half hours. Apparently, three of the criteria for a tropical rainforest are, that there are vines growing up the trees, more than 600 species of plant per acre and some form of flowers all year round, also the forest has to be within the latitudes of the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
The forest itself was beautiful, with lots of interesting plants and trees. One of the first the guide pointed out was what they call an Eiffel Tower tree. As you can see from the picture the roots grow around a tree and eventually kill it. When the tree dies & crumbles you are left with vines and an empty space where the tree was, which you can get into, and can see up through which is quite strange.
An Eiffel Tower Tree
When we were walking through the forest later on we saw a tree which had grown onto a rock - what had happened was that a bird had dropped a seed on the rock which was covered in moss and other growth, which meant that the tree could take it's nutrients from the rock. As the tree got larger and need more nutrients the roots grew longer and eventually went into the soil so the tree survived.
Apart from the guys doing the zip wire at the start of the tour the forest was very quiet and peaceful. You could hear the running water from the waterfall at the top of the forest and the cascades as they ran through the forest. Unfortunately, we couldn't see the waterfall itself as it was a bit cloudy in parts. The water was surprisingly murky and cloudy and we were told that was due to the amount of sodium and iron in the water. As we went through the forest it started to rain, the guide had planned for this and handed out a pile of yellow ponchos - we looked like a bunch of bananas!! Lance made Annemarie quite nervous when he pointed out that they were yellow so if the cable snapped and the car fell down, the bodies would be easier to see!!
As there is very little rain which actually reaches the forest floor, vines grow up the tree trunks to get the water and allow it to pass through them down to the ground and the tree roots. There are a lot of instances of the plants and trees maintaining themselves and their environment. Each year there is a census which notes down the trees, plant and animal life in the forest and this is where the information for the tours comes from, this means the tours can vary year after year depending on the life in the forest.The biggest problem in the forest is caused by that Christmas special the mistletoe, which is a parasite that basically attacks all the other trees. The other trees grow large cankers on their trunks to stop the mistletoe damaging them. As well as this there are lots of plants which are used locally for medicinal purposes and also there was a tree, whose name I can't remember, of which the sap is used to make incense for churches etc.
A view from the cable car down into the forest.
There are a variety of birds living in the forest, although we mostly saw hummingbirds. Also there are a lot of parrots, but we missed those as they are real early birds, and tend to come out between 5 and 6am. They also have vipers and boa constrictors which we didn't see either - phew!!
As I said earlier, tropical rain-forests need flowers all year round of some sort or other, the most interesting we saw were the crab claw flowers - can you see why???