On our first free day in La Selva, very close to when we arrived, everyone had the opportunity to go up the canopy tower. I was pretty excited about being able to see the view, and a little nervous about climbing up there, but not enough to let that stop me. We had been told that we could only go up if it was dry since it’s really dangerous when it’s raining, but no one was concerned because it has been unusually dry at La Selva recently. When I woke up the morning of the free day to the sound of rain, I was worried that our trip up the tower would be canceled, but the rain stopped and we were cleared to go.
Walking to the tower with our guide Albert, we first stopped to grab the harnesses and helmets that are required to climb the tower. This seemed to make everything more real – we were actually going to do this! To get to the tower we were climbing, we walked past an old tower that had to be taken down, and I tried not to think about all the possible reasons for its demise.
Once we reached the tower and the first set of people got into their harnesses, Albert showed us how to duck into the tiny entrance and hook our carabineer to the cable that ran all the way to the top. In what seemed like no time at all, three of my group members were on their way up! From the bottom of the tower we could hear them talking for a while, then as they climbed higher and higher it became harder to hear. We stood around the base of the tower, assuming they were still up there and doing well, until we started to hear their decent back down to us.
It was my turn next, and I knew that I would want to take my time climbing up, so I let the other two people head up first. The stairs you climb are a mix between a ladder and stairs. It’s at the angle of very steep stairs, but each step looks very much like a metal ladder rung. The flights of stairs are short, meaning there’s a lot of turning to get very high. As I began my ascent I heard my group members that just returned remark on how the tower looks short from the ground but very tall from halfway up. I understood what they meant when I was sure that I was near the top and looked up to see probably half the tower stretching up above me.
When I finally reached the top, my two friends were enjoying the view. We had been warned that the canopy could be dramatically warmer than the forest, but the cloudy day was keeping away the hot sun. The air seemed fresh at the top and less muggy than the forest floor. The view from the canopy was not what I had expected at all. I was imagining that the trees would look like clouds from above when in an airplane, but instead found that I was a part of the canopy layer. Some trees were taller, some were shorter, and the tower was a part of it all. We stood up there for a while to enjoy the view, as well as take photos and selfies. When we had been up there for a while, a light drizzle started and we headed back down with me in front this time.
As I walked down the steep stairs back to the real world, I thought about how much of the world we are missing by being stuck on the ground. There are so many birds, amphibians, mammals, and plants that make the canopy their home that something really amazing could be right above my head and I would never know. Before coming to Costa Rica I had heard about the immense diversity of the tropics, but it takes actually being here to really understand what that means and how many species humans will never know.